91 Glasgow Royal Hospital For Sick Children Star Wars Day – 4th May 2017

Location
Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, Glasgow 12:00 – 15:00

Mission Report
Going on for a decade after his construction, it’s always a rollercoaster of emotions taking Artoo to an event.  Excitment about getting him out of the house, stress over whether the batteries will charge, worry about whether he’ll actually function and ultimately depression when he invariably fails somehow however this event reached new hights, or more accurately lows, of frustration.

To be honest I should’ve been suspicious fate was setting me up for something when he was loaded into his transport relatively quickly and easily, but having had to purchase a new set of transmitter and receiver batteries at the last minute, hoping against hope that they woud arrive charged, I assumed I had conquered the hurdles to be presented this time round.  There’s hubris for you.  Imagine my surprise and delight then when we unloaded him from his transport platform and his right foot fell off entirely!

Managing to temporarily reaffix it we got off to a literal flying start, the replacement motor fitted after his last event, driving him along the curiously narrow and equipment cluttered corridors of the first two wards-worth of our visit at eye-wincing and toe crushing speeds.
Unfortunately it was not to last as the plucky astromech noticeably began to slow and become more difficult to steer.  With no behind the scenes area to retire to it was difficult to determine where this new fault lay and while we gamely soldiered on for another 15 minutes or so pushing him along to compensate for what appeared to be only half his drive motors working and a vague smell of burning from within his barrel-shaped torso, there appeared to be a very real danger of causing permanant damage from them trying to shift his mass and he needed to be retired for the day.

A huge blow and a personal disapointment to be sure and as much as the others tried to downplay it later by pointing out that the risk of serious damage didn’t warrant trying to continue or how much longer it would have taken to make our way round all the wards had he been fully functional and available for the multitude of photo opportunities the rest of the troop enjoyed during the day, it was small consolation given the effort expounded by everyone involved to get him there…

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61 A1 Toys, Silverburn Black Series Launch – 1st September 2013

Five Years ArtooLocation
Silverburn Shopping Centre, Glasgow 12:00 – 15:00

Mission Report
This was my second “silenced” troop of the weekend and the one that bothered me the most.  While I can laugh the astromechs laryngitis off, or make jokes about him constantly finding new ways to disappoint me with his behaviour at events, having him at a troop with his soundboard out of action was like he was only half there.  The droid can roll about, spin his dome with his lights flashing, but without any way for him to “communicate” with the public his presence is greatly diminished.

I felt it particularly when trying to interact with one particular little girl in a purple GAP sweatshirt that afternoon.  Several times she and her family came past where we stood and on each occasion she stopped to wave to the droid and converse with him, but beyond a shake of his dome he was entirely reticent.  Even when she moved off each time and he made to follow her, gloriously prompting and wagged finger and command to “stay”, the inability to command a well timed sad beep ruined the event for me.  Certainly if it wasn’t already the remote at fault for his failure to perform, it’s a cert that my frustrated, repeated and increasingly hard prodding at the buttons just to try to get a single squeak out at that point has surely busted it too.

Just like Elmo for ruining Sesame Street forever, you’re dead to me now R2.  Dead.

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56 Hamley’s May the 4th Weekend – 5th May 2013

Five Years ArtooLocation
Hamleys Toy Store, Glasgow 10:00 – 15:00

Mission Report
You know you just can’t win with Astromech Droids…
Keen to get the little-barrel shaped buggers Five Year event out-of-the-way, the familiar turf of Hamleys was always going to provide a safe environment; lift access for moving him about, a level floor throughout and if worse came to worse and he failed to perform all that we needed to do was be able to man-handle him to the stage area and (nightmares about him picking up a stray frequency and taking off at speed through the glass barrier surrounding it aside) have him sit at the photo stand in the one spot all day.

On the day though he performed like a champ, with none of the battery problems which have plagued his previous outings, which is slightly unfortunate then that the number of members of the public who attended and the resulting size of the queue to have a photo with him mean that he was pretty much parked in the one spot for the reduced amount of time he was out in-between having to be shuffled into a corner to clear the shop floor lest a rammy break out.

With my single day attendance, being isolated from the other costumers, and even isolated from Sundays centre of attention by dint of standing at a distance with his remotes, I can’t really speak for how the weekend went.

Certainly on the handful of occasions I was free of my charge and could navigate round the snaking 2 hour queue for the prop talk to venture elsewhere in the shop, the crowd was massive for the opportunity to have a photo with Vader, his attendant TKs and Snowy and showed no sign of diminishing, so all credit to the members stood under that greenhouse-like roof for the whole day with the sun glaring through it.

As I say, you can’t win with Astromechs. Clearly he’d have performed happily for a much longer stint, probably even the whole weekend if it’d come down to it, but with his notorious unreliability in the past at events it seemed like a good idea to keep his attendance a minimum levels, but in hindsight it seems a bit of a waste to have spent the best part of three days charging batteries and have his Uncle Ian chauffeur him about for the small amount of hours. Sods law that he’ll get signed up for a full weekend at some point and explode within the first five minutes though!

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50a Collectormania Glasgow – 25th August 2012

Location
Braehead Arena : Braehead Shopping Centre, Glasgow 09:00 – 17:00

Mission Report
Strange to be writing this, not least because of being somewhat superfluous to the event myself by owning but not actually wearing the “costume” concerned but also, because I have consistently maintained that it’s not an event I care for due to a number of factors.  Despite my reticence to take part though larger forces were at work to ensure my participation, willing or not, such as the quasi-mystical significance of reaching a milestone in the arbitrary numbering system I maintain for documenting the events and the fact that someone had been repeatedly nagging me to bring Artoo along to it for months.

Bringing the little fellow along anywhere is a major logistical undertaking at any time, requiring advanced notice to juggle the charging of his sundry battery packs and arranging suitable conveyance.  In fact without the able assistance of his adopted Uncle Ian providing transport it would have been an impossibility on this occasion for him to leave the house.

But damned if the huge grin and wave of relief spreading over me when he trundled out into the main shopping centre without any incidents and proceeded to knock the socks off the collective public with his presence.  So constant and large were the swarms of kids, both big and small, that spotters had to help out in fending them off to create enough room to actually move him closer to where the majority of the troop were standing.  Even then it was like a vision of the Pied Piper with a snaking trail in his wake waiting to see where he’d stop in order to resume their photo opportunities.  Although the battery life for his remotes relegated his appearances to short bursts, being effectively static for sustained periods located next to the C3-PO in attendance kept the need to take him backstage at a minimum.

Just slightly unfortunate that for want of a shifting spanner (which I was positive was the first thing I’d packed for precisely this reason) that he couldn’t do the whole weekend, but then with the number of battery packs that would’ve been charged overnight he’d have had a greatly reduced presence on the Sunday anyway.  Still compared to his first and second outings this weekend has been a tour de force for my little barrel-shaped chum…

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28 Buzz Family Entertainment Centre Star Wars Day – 16-August-2009

Location
Buzz Family Entertainment Centre, Falkirk 12:00 – 16:00

Mission Report
Firstly, “Heroes of the Troop” awards need to go to Ian MacPherson without whom there’d have been a little barrel-shaped hole at the event (plus R2 wouldn’t have got there either) and Colin Robertson for his best Imperial Officer style child wrangling (and sturdy robot stopping boots) in keeping sticky, ice-creamed, pokey, proddy hand contact off of the droid in question.  Your collective efforts were well noted and appreciated gents…

Being somewhat at a distance from the Imperial presence during the first half I can’t speak for the lads, but if their experience was anything like mine this was a great event where our presence was really appreciated.  A wall of kids quickly surrounded the droid when he rolled out of the changing facilities and with the soft play nature of the place he was very nearly rooted to the spot reduced to dome spinning and beeping for the duration lest he damage any of the unshod tiny feet. 
I’m not entirely sure how hygienic a processing of little girls kissing his dome actually is in these Swine Flu rampant times but I’m sure the chocolatey sheen he’s built up can be passed off as ‘simulated Dagobah mud’ if anyone asks.
There were a lot of extremely patient parents around too apparently, because I doubt one of them actually got a photo of their little ones with the droid without three or four random kids hugging him also in the shot.

Speaking of the randoms, just what they imagined they’d see by repeatedly trying to look down his photoreceptor eyes, I don’t know but unfortunately when some of the more… “exuberant”… kids cottoned onto the fact that his dome could be lifted as well as spun, it was time to take him for an early bath prior to lunch.

While the wee chap was resting in his Winnebago between engagements, I got the opportunity to see what the rest of the lads were up to.  No less busy at their end of the venue, there seemed to be a lot of kids with a dangerously geeky amount of knowledge kicking about, presumably because the event had been advertised as a Star Wars day, wanting to hold in-depth conversations with the characters, witness “are you a lambda class shuttle pilot?” or “are you Darth Vader’s elite Stormtrooper guards?”, from articles no taller than Artoo himself, clad in their Clone Wars t-shirts.  Honestly, when I was that age, I just watched the films for the ‘splosions and fighting.

After a terrific lunch provided by the Buzz folks and a little TLC to his castors, R2 and the troopers took to the floor again for an outstandingly fast paced second stint.  More so than their parents, some of the older kids had figured out that there must be someone with a remote hiding nearby controlling things leading to a procession of “make him do this” and “make him do that” requests.  Fortunately the two-floor design of the building allowed me to stand on the landing halfway up the stairs and oversee his function without my presence being obvious, safe in the knowledge that Colin was acting as chaperone, as R2 rolled about to face the relevant camera for each photo opportunity.  When even this arrangement became obvious I was able to retire upstairs and seat myself at one of the cafe tables out of view to further confound the droids’ delighted onlookers.

Some annoying battery failures aside, this was a welcome return troop at the venue, so roll on the next one.   Hopefully next time we’ll get some laser shootin’ done afterwards too…

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