The Best of 2021

That title seems like a bit of misnomer, doesn’t it? “The Best of 2021“. Following the unprecedented nonsense of 2020, last year we were all anticipating returning to normal, or as close as possible. Small victories were made during that time, but here we are again: a pandemic that seems to loom ever worse; the threat of lockdown and restrictions still a possibility; working from home if you can; vaccination after vaccination; and the same bumbling charlatans in charge of it all.

Hopefully it will all get better. It can’t get much worse (at least in terms of the virus, the post apocalyptic hell of Brexit is still to be reckoned with).

During 2021, Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub still aimed to entertain and inform. Sometimes we made it, sometimes we ballsed it up. But much of the blog content shone through regardless.

In the spirit of sharing success – and smiling in the face of adversity – here are the blog posts from 2021 that were most successful, in terms of views.

10. The Halloween Horror Fest Don’t Die

Halloween Horror Fest was another October highlight this year; this review featured The Dead Don’t Die and Hammer’s The Mummy.

9. Platinum Al’s Top 10 Rock & Metal Albums of 2020

My other gig is writing reviews for Ever Metal – many of my reviews cropped up on this 2020 album list of favourites.

8. The Plague of Halloween Horror Fest

The last mini horror mvie reviews of 2021 featured The Plague of the Zombies and The Crow.

7. Bucket of Halloween Horror Fest

Another Hammer classic, with this review of The Gorgon.

6. Ryuko Interview

Published back in January 2021, this interview with alt rock band Ryuko at last years Pentre Fest originally appeared on Ever Metal, before it graced the Virtual Hot Tub.

5. Sci-Fi Weekender – Back to the Future

SFW was sadly destroyed like Alderaan due to the pandemic – but I dug up a few unseen pics from previous years to ease the pain.

4. Liverpool Comic Con 2021

As the year progressed and we appeared to be making a tentative return to events, I filed this report from Comic Con in Liverpool.

3. How Do Fossils Form? by Eloise Jones

The third most popular blog of the year was written by my super talented daughter. I might just hand the whole thing over to her…

2. Hawarden Limerick

A silly limerick about a local village, it proved popular for some bizarre reason.

And the number one, most popular blog of the year was…

  1. Millennium Falcon – The Greatest Toy Ever

Photos and memories of my vintage Star Wars Millennium Falcon toy, I think this blog is a justified winner! A fantastic toy and something I’m very proud of.

With a lack of events again in 2021, it’s no surprise that other blog subjects rose to prominence. Maybe the escapism of movie and toy reviews appealed to our audience this troublesome year.

We don’t know what will happen in 2022. Fingers crossed, the future looks brighter. But rest assured, Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub will be here for you. If you need a friend, or just some heavy metal reviews and photos of old toys, we’re never far away.

Liverpool Comic Con 2021

Exhibition Centre, Liverpool

13/14 November 2021

How long is it since the last time I went to a Comic Con? Any Comic Con? It must be pretty much exactly two years. The pandemic ruled out mass gatherings of this type completely over that time. Now, we’re back – a long overdue visit to the wonderful city of Liverpool and it’s excellent convention.

Our only initial bad luck was arriving to find massive queues snaking back for what seemed like miles. We had purchased early bird tickets for a 9am start, however arriving on schedule at nine left us in a long line with hundreds of other punters. It took an hour before we were finally inside the exhibition centre, which wasn’t a great start.

This was a case of Queue Hard, with several sequels including Queue Hard 2: Queue Harder – and finally, Queue Hard with a Vengeance.

When we were in the building, however, all was swiftly forgiven. I think we can accept some teething troubles in getting this event back up and running. It was great to finally be indoors at a Comic Con, and we gleefully threw ourselves into the experience with enthusiasm.

There were many guests signing on the day, but none that were of particular interest to myself. So, I braved the throngs of convention goers to view the treasures on sale at the stalls, purveying all type of nerdy goodness. As always at Comic Cons, there was far too much merch for me to buy it all – though I made some fine purchases, there were oodles more a timely lottery win would’ve made mine.

I picked up a couple of Star Wars The Vintage Collection figures that I needed, and a Mego Wolfman action figure that I couldn’t resist. Plus, the Christmas shopping commenced with some unusual items I wouldn’t have been able to pick up elsewhere. The only disappointment was a total lack of ReAction figures.

Of course, the main highlight of the day was the varied and spectacular costumes worn the attendees. Cosplay was alive and well, which was great to see. Hopefully these photos will give you some idea of the skill and splendour that was on show.

Despite a dodgy start, Liverpool Comic Con was a great day out. We came, we saw, we took photos and bought tat – a fine time was had by all. I’d recommend this convention as one to visit, and I’ll definitely be back.

Have a look at the Liverpool Comic Con webnet here.

Liverpool Comic Con 2019 – Part 1

Liverpool Comic Con

Friday 8th March – Sunday 10th March 2019

Exhibition Centre Liverpool

 

The Albert Dock was under ferocious attack from strong winds as I made my way to the Exhibition Centre for Liverpool Comic Con.  It was bitterly cold, the sky was grim – I wondered how the American guests would enjoy the weather on this visit?

Not to worry though, inside the event all was transformed into a safe refuge.  Getting in seemed very straight forward and hassle free, and as with all things Liverpool, there was a great atmosphere from the start.

This was my first visit to Liverpool Comic Con, though I’m very familiar with the city from numerous gigs, nights out and shopping trips.  Great place.  My buddy Adam was going to the convention and I tagged along to check it out.

Inside, my first impression of the huge event hall was of the life size X-Wing fighter on display – smack bang in the middle.  Sadly it was a pretend X-Wing from the new films, not a proper Episode IV to VI Incom T-65 – but it was impressive none the less.

Also on display were the A-Team van, a Back to the Future DeLorean and KITT from Knightrider (amongst various other replica vehicles and props).  It was a real thrill to see all of the cool items and grab some photos.

I’m always a big fan of investigating the merchandise stalls at a Con, and this was no exception.  There was plenty to see and spend some cash on.  Sadly there’s never enough cash, otherwise I’d have spent a fortune.  As it was I picked up some Masters of the Universe figures and Marvel comic books, so all good.

The guests were interesting, though none of them particularly appealed to me so my wallet stayed closed there.  Top of the bill were Teri Hatcher (Lois Lane), Dean Cain (Superman) and Burt Young (Paulie from Rocky) – so an impressive calibre of stars.

The real stars however were the Cosplayers.  There were some fantastic Cosplayers of all types and ages, displaying amazingly talented creations.  I tried to get as many photos as I could, which you can see here.  Thanks to everyone who posed for a photo!

All in all, Liverpool Comic Con was a great day out with enough entertainment for everyone.  I’ll definitely try to visit again next time.

In Part 2, I’ll share some pics of the props that I photographed.  In the meantime, enjoy these shots of the awesome cosplayers.

Visit the Liverpool Comic Con Website here.

MCM Birmingham Comic Con 2018 – Part 1

NEC Birmingham

24/25 November 2018

Regular readers will know that a visit to the NEC in Birmingham for MCM Comic Con is on the cards at least once a year.  I missed the earlier event as the gang and I were at Sci Fi Weekender, however we were able to make the November Con.

My intrepid companions and I arrived at the massive site and after parking up, wandered down to the event hall.  Already there were dozens of cosplayers around, showing their awesome costumes.

After a chill in Wetherspoons, we made our way towards the hall.  Thankfully we didn’t have long to wait before we could enter.  This year we had regular tickets rather than early bird, so although this gave us later entry we had no problems.

Inside Comic Con, the aisles were busy and we formulated a plan of attack on how best to navigate our way around the stalls.  There were hundreds of people there, so not always easy to get to see some of the merchandise.  With a little patience and a bit of skill we were able to get a good look around.

The guests this time weren’t particularly inspiring – it seemed like all the best stars would be at Wales Comic Con the following week!  We were happy to spend the day viewing the displays and stalls to see what amazing paraphernalia we could afford.

Sadly, despite buying some fantastic items, there’s never enough money.  Oh, the damage I could do with a lottery win.  Seriously, there were dozens of action figures (for a start) that I could have give a home to.

Besides the joys of spending hard earned cash, there were of course the magnificent cosplayers out in full force.  A mind boggling array of characters, some well known and some more obscure, were to be seen.

Due to various organisational issues, I had forgotten to bring along my trusty Canon camera.  There’s always something, right?  Forgetting to bring the camera was a new low though!  Never mind, I was able to take photos with my phone – and the cosplay superstars were just as friendly and happy to pose as ever.

My thanks to all those who posed for a pic, much appreciated!  You were all great.

After hours on our feet wandering round, wishing for the cash to buy more stuff, the day was finally over.  After another Wetherspoons break, it was back in the car for the long drive home.  Another great day out – looking forward to the next one.

Thanks to Adam for driving and Greeny and Kurt for the company.

There are numerous pics of cosplayers here, feel free to let me know your favourites,  Or if you know the people in the [pics, please let them know.

Finally, i any one in the pics would rather they didn’t appear here, just let me know.

That’s all for Part 1 – stay tuned for Part 2.

Sci Fi Weekender 2018 – Part 1

Sci Fi Weekender 23th – 24th March 2018

Hafan Y Mor Holiday Park, Pwllheli

2017 saw my intrepid crew and I sucked into a black hole, from which we were very lucky to escape.  Following numerous trials and tribulations within the void, we emerged eventually into a bizarre parallel dimension.  This strange new plane was warped beyond any fathomable reason; the UK was no longer in Europe and Donald Trump was President.

I know – unbelievable, right?  I was expecting apes to be in charge maybe, but not Trump.

Utilising all the skill and resource we could muster, we managed to reverse thrusters and reset our course for Pwllheli, North Wales, for Sci Fi Weekender.  The crew had missed one event, but in 2018 we would return.

The engines groaned and strained, but we were back on track.  We arrived at our destination and set up camp in our static exploration cabin.

Scouts across the galaxy had informed us that this was the ninth cycle of Sci Fi Weekender.  SFW9 would be full of the usual entertainments: VIP signings; Q&A panels; cosplay; films; games; live music and other acts.

Throw in a few decidedly lethal Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters and there would, indeed, be exceptional joviality.

Alas, many VIP guests had apparently missed their trasport shuttles to reach us.  Caught in the same black hole as we had been, perhaps?  This was a bit of a blow, as I was particularly looking forward to hearing from Hugh Quarshie of Highlander (and others) fame.

Never mind, “There can be only one” – and that guest was the deviilishly delectable Emily Booth, actress and Horror Channel star.  Ms Booth’s Q&A was the first event I witnessed of the weekend and she was great.  Although the interview amounted to just a run through of her IMDB credits, Emily came across very well as both a cult star and confirmed fan.  I even asked a question myself, which is a SFW first for me!

The interview did get a bit saucy at times, but the audience was well warned in advance what to expect.  To be honest, I’d love to see much more of Emily Booth’s talents.  By which I mean, of course, more of the various movies she has starred in.  Of course.

It was then time to lurk about and peruse the merchandise stalls.  There were many more this year than I’ve seen previously.  Excellent news for me, bad news for my galactic credit balance.  I did get some rad stuff though.

This was also a great time to start taking some photos.  Armed with three cameras this year (!), I took quite a few pictures but as always missed so many great cosplayers.  There were dozens that I glimpsed briefly but lost in the crowd, never to be seen again.

It was like when I watched the Cantina scene in Star Wars when I was a kid, before we had a VHS player (yes, I’m THAT old).  An amazing creation was spotted only briefly, to be replaced by yet another, and I had no rewind function.

As you can probably imagine, Friday evening was somewhat of a blur.  I do remember a couple of things that must be mentioned though.

Professor Elemental was an absolute joy to behold, as always.  The Prof dropped tongue twisting chap-hop rhymes over DJ Nick Maxwell’s funky beats.  He expertly rallied the troops and took us on a tea stained tour of the British Empire.  It was brilliantly engaging stuff, with the Professor uniting all the tribes of geekdom in a pulsating party of steampunk excitement.

Darth Elvis & the Imperials performed what I consider the best set I’ve seen them deliver, despite it being cut short.  There were favourites old and new, including “Burning Sith” and a raging cover of the Beastie Boys classic, “Sabotage” – reworked in honour of Kylo Ren.  I was down the front for a fair part of the set and I loved every second.

This band never get old.  May they live as long as Master Yoda and forever be as musically talented at Max Rebo.  Sheer fun from beginning to end!

The evening ended with some spectacular Cosplay Karaoke, which I would’ve loved to have a go of!  No idea who the winner was, all the entrants were winners in my eyes!

Day one at SFW9 was truly stellar.  My only complaint was too much Welsh bashing from several presenters over the course of events.  In this day and age that’s a bit poor.

However Sci Fi Weekender is a success because of the people.  The camaraderie amongst attendees is the true strength, regardless of what VIP interview guests are there or not.  It’s a real pleasure to catch up with old faces – and meet some new ones – in a friendly, welcoming environment like this.

That’ll do for Part One.  Beam me up!

In Part 2: we lose a red shirt, and more pics.  Stay tuned!

MCM Birmingham Comic Con 2017 – The Director’s Cut

NEC Birmingham

18/19 November 2017

Over the course of 2017, I’ve visited quite a few Comic Conventions.  MCM at the NEC, Birmingham was, as always, fantastic.  I’ve already published two big, chunky blogs about my visit in November – however I had a few pics left over.

I’d like to present the final part of MCM Birmingham, with a few extra photos, for your enjoyment.

No waffle from me, just superstars doing what they do best. Just one last time to finish the year off…

There you go, all over for another year.

All the best for 2018 from Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub!

Big Balls

Adventures in Zorbing/Sphereing

Some call it Sphereing.  Some call it Zorbing.  Either way, it’s certainly not a load of old balls.

What this activity involves is being strapped inside a huge inflatable ball, which then rolls down a hill.  Something like being inside a huge hamster ball.   Although it doesn’t take much skill, it’s actually a lot of fun.  It’s like those times as a kid when your mates/local bullies rolled you down a hill in the park inside a dustbin, but more hygienic.  zorb

I tried Zorbing a few years back in Newquay.  The first couple of times were great fun – rolling down a huge hill, wondering if you’ll stop, gazing giddily as the sky rotates around your head.  The third time made my head start to thump.  The fourth time was definitely too much.

So I can definitely recommend at least two runs down the hill inside a sphere.  Crazy fun that will make you laugh out loud!

For those who are interested, there is apparently a reason for the change in name from Zorbing to Sphereing.

When I did my Zorb – sorry, Sphereing experience, the owner told us off for using the “z” word.  The reason, apparently, was because the fun term “Zorbing” had been corrupted by some unscrupulous bounder making the first ever Zorb porn film.  Henceforth, the activity was to be known as Sphereing, and Sphereing only.

I cannot confirm if this is true.  I’ve never Googled “zorb porn”.  I’ll leave that up to you.

Check out some deals on Zorbing/Sphereing on the Treatme website here.

Inside the Zorb

Inside the Zorb

Disclaimer: Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub is not responsible for any injuries you receive whilst participating in any of our featured activities.  You silly so and so.

Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub receives no remuneration/compensation from featured venues.  Unfortunately.

Platinum Lounge Rocks!

On Friday 6th September 2013, I was at the Platinum Lounge as part of a leaving do for my great friend and colleague, Ben the Swede.  He was going off to be a hobo on the streets of London, begging for loose change off commuters.  No doubt he would hitch down there, then spend his nights sleeping in a cardboard box with only a stray dog for company.

To celebrate Ben’s move to pastures new, we were all out and about painting the town red as only us filthy tramps know how.  There was a rumour that the Platinum Lounge was having a rock weekend.  The rumours were true.

Rock night at the Platinum Lounge featured the best music I have ever heard in any establishment in Chester.  It left other venues in the dust as the Lounge dared to play the tunes that would rock other clubs to their foundations.

It was a truly legendary night.  Here’s the playlist – or at least, what my compadres and I remember.

  1. Run DMC & Aerosmith – “Walk This Way”
  2. Ugly Kid Joe – “I Hate Everything About You”
  3. Soundgarden – “Black Hole Sun”
  4. Fleetwood Mac – “Go Your Own Way”
  5. ZZ Top – “Legs”
  6. Def Leppard – “Pour Some Sugar On Me”
  7. Motley Crue – “Girls Girls Girls”
  8. Metallica – “Enter Sandman”
  9. Black Sabbath – “Paranoid”
  10. AC/DC – “Whole Lotta Rosie”
  11. Aerosmith – “Janie’s Got a Gun”
  12. The Cult – “She Sells Sanctuary”
  13. Rainbow – “Since You Been Gone”
  14. Alice Cooper – “Poison”
  15. Def Leppard – “Animal”
  16. Guns’n’Roses – “Sweet Child O’ Mine”
  17. AC/DC – “Back in Black”
  18. Jimi Hendrix Experience – “Foxy Lady”
  19. Fleetwood Mac – “The Chain”
  20. Bon Jovi – “Livin’ On a Prayer”
  21. Skid Row – “Youth Gone Wild”
  22. Dire Straits – “Money For Nothing”
  23. U2 – “Pride (In the Name of Love)”
  24. Bryan Adams – “Run to You”
  25. Billy Idol – “White Wedding”
  26. Pink Floyd – “Another Brick in the Wall”
  27. Rolling Stones – “Paint It Black”
  28. Santana – “Smooth”
  29. Whitesnake – “Here I Go Again”
  30. George Thorogood & the Destroyers – “Bad to the Bone”

OK, so I know the Ugly Kid Joe song sucks, but how many top tunes are there on that playlist?  I mean Soundgarden – you never hear Soundgarden played anywhere!  Especially not in Chester, where that sort of thing is punishable by whipping with a designer handbag.

Thanks to all at the Platinum Lounge for a great night.

The Best Man’s Speech

Cathryn & Jarrod’s Wedding

9th November 2013

A few weeks ago, I was honoured to be Best Man for my friend Jarrod at his wedding to Cathryn.  For the sake of posterity, I thought I would publish my speech on this blog.

What follows is the final draft of the speech, though some parts were embellished or ad libbed on the day.  In particular, there was no script for the Generation Game section towards the end.  I rehearsed this part solo and winged it on the day.  Thanks to superb support it worked well.

The concept of the game was to replicate the conveyor belt memory game from the television show, using various items that would have some sort of recognition for the groom.  Obviously there was no real conveyor belt…

Feedback was very positive, for which I was grateful.  The whole day was a real success and all the guests enjoyed it – a truly memorable occasion.

So thanks again Jaz and Cathryn – and all the best for your future together.

The Speech

Hi, I’m Al, and it’s my great honour to be Best Man for Jarrod at his wedding to Cathryn.

It’s a great privilege to be chosen for this role.  I’ve know both the Bride and Groom for many years – in fact, it was me who introduced them!

Jarrod and I went to school together, and have had lots of laughs over the years with an array of comedy geniuses and ne’er do wells – many of whom are here today.

There have been Posse Nights in Chester; a 24 hour Carry On Filmathon; and trips to Berlin and Barmouth.  We’ve been car surfing at 60 miles an hour down country lanes, and created a very popular magazine to embarrass and ridicule our friends.  There have been nights out at the Tiv in Buckley to see Voulez Vouz – an Abba tribute band; Barry Coppack’s stag do in Amsterdam and Jarrod’s own stag do at Rewind Festival.

Also, for a time we did live together.  But not in that way.  No offence, Baz!

Yes, Jarrod was my lodger at my home in Ewloe.  So I think I’ve got to know Jaz fairly well over the years.  The obsession with all things 1980’s, his sense of humour – he even got me to go and watch his beloved Wrexham FC.

I met Cathryn sometime around 1999, working at TMB in Chester.  A few years later we were working in the same team again.  I’ve always got on well with Cathryn as she’s great fun.  One afternoon, a group of us were returning from a works outing when Cathryn asked the fateful question: “Have any of you lads got any nice, single mates?”

At this point, two names sprang to my mind.  One was, of course, Jarrod.  The other option was a certain silver tongued cavalier who shall remain nameless.  Believe me, that would have been a VERY different wedding, if that had happened…

Luckily for Cathryn she went for Option Number 1, and the rest, as they say, is history.  Cilla Black’s got nothing on me!

At this point I really should thank Cathryn and Jarrod’s parents for all they’ve one to make this day possible.  It’s been fantastic. IMG_2613

And I should also mention the bridesmaids, who look wonderful.  Vanessa and I would like to thank the bride and groom for asking our daughter Eloise to be a bridesmaid.  She looks fantastic as a Princess Bridesmaid, we’re very proud of her!

So here’s a toast to the bridesmaids, thank you for everything you do to make the day special.

Now I really must tell you a story about the groom.  As I mentioned earlier,  there have been numerous adventures I’ve had with Jarrod over the years.  Deciding on one story to tell you hasn’t been easy.  Especially when Cathryn heard about some of the material I was going to use for this speech…

Doing my research for this speech, I happened upon a guide which recommended that stories about the groom should show him in a positive light.  It should be funny, but not derogatory, and add a nice personal touch.

But none of those stories were really all that good, so here’s my favourite:

This takes place back when Jarrod and I were students.  He was in Hull, and I was in Sheffield.  We arranged for Jaz to come to Sheffield for a visit and meet up with a couple of other local lads, Hughey and Neil “The Player” Edwards.

So we all went out for a few drinks round the pubs in Sheffield, before we ended up at the notorious Sheff 1 night club.  I say notorious as it was considered a bit of a meat market.  It was the sort of place that made Desperate & Easy look like Hawarden Women’s Institute.

As the night wore on, the dance floor was busy and we had a few more pints.  We noticed after a while that the group of four had dwindled to three: Jaz was no longer with us.  He didn’t return after half an hour, or even after a full hour.  When he hadn’t returned by the end of the night, we thought he must have got lucky…

The three of us who were left were very happy for him, “Well done Jaz!  Get in, son!”.

Eventually we all went home, still no sign of Jarrod.  It had been a late night and I got home about 3.30 in the morning.  Just as I was getting ready to turn in for the night, the phone rang.  Who was that phoning at four in the morning?  Ridiculous!

I picked up the receiver.  “Al?”  It was Jaz!

“Where did you get to, eh?”  I asked.

“I fell asleep in the toilets.  I’ve just woken up.”

So that was it.  No amorous adventures, Jarrod had just had a few too many and fallen asleep in a filthy nightclub toilet.

Now that story doesn’t say much about Jarrod’s character, but I will say this:

It’s been a pleasure to know Jarrod over the years.  He’s been a great friend and voice of reason in my life.  Jarrod is not only a decent fellow, he’s also intelligent and successful.  His greatest attribute is his sense of humour – as long as I’ve known him Jarrod has always made me laugh.  Sentiments that I’m sure his many other friends gathered here would echo.

Cathryn, you definitely picked the right guy with Jarrod.  He’s a great bloke and I know the two of you have a great future together.

GAME

Please everybody, raise your glasses and join me in a toast to the bride and groom…