I'd been in contact with one of the organisers beforehand (Willie Borgaerts) to ask about disabled entry arrangements and was told I could jump the queue and go to a different entrance and pick up my wrist band and goodie bag from there. That was great as it was bloody cold outside with a bitter wind blowing in off the Scheldt. And when we got inside we were taken to the information desk and given our stuff, and despite trying to pay, were admitted free of charge as guests of TSA. What a lovely start to the day.
The queue outside was massive, ok maybe not as big as the one at Salute but not far off. Inside the place was soon heaving with a throng of enthusiastic wargamers, with many an English (and Scottish) voice to be heard. We had a slow meander down the right hand side of both halls, stopping at Colonel Bills to pick up some bits that I'd pre-ordered. I don't live that far from Stuart so on the face of it it seemed silly, but we were coming anyway so...... I left the wife Whatsapp'ing with the daughter while I continued my wandering, bumping into any number of familiar faces en route. I had a good natter with Ian of Eagle Figures looking none the worse for his recent marriage, Stuart of Studio Minis who was tempting me with more of his Afghan and Sikh Wars ranges, Barry Hilton, Wayne off the WI stand and Duncan MacFarlane to name but a few. When I spoke to Andy Worsley of the Last Valley at around 11:30 he was looking very happy with an almost completely empty display area and a very full wallet no doubt. At the Flag Dude's stand Rick asked if I spoke French as he was struggling with a customer as they had no common language between them. My French is ok but best used in conjunction with requesting food and drink and so forth, but I offered to call Katherine over as she is pretty fluent. The offer was gratefully accepted and she was able to sort things out and translate. Diplomatic mission complete and the entente cordiale rekindled it would have been poor form not to buy some flags from 'my American cousin' that I didn't need so only bought eight for my 1799 French and Russians.
We were hungry by this time so exchanged some Euros for food/beer tokens and got ourselves a late (2nd) breakfast and some coffee. The food here looked very good (our croissants and stuff were fresh) and the bar, alas, was excellent judging by the number of punters and the range of beer on offer. The tokens system worked well as it saved time dithering around for change and stuff and kept the flow moving at the food and beer counters. The only minor criticism would be that the queues for the food and the queue for the tokens caused a massive pan-European log jam.
I left Katherine in the cafe doing some work (i.e. shopping) on her laptop and ventured back into the maelstrom. The bring and buy (or bring and sell as it was called) was heaving. I became trapped in a seething mass ambling slowly round the one-way circuit. As I had my wheeled 'walker' with me many people made space for me to get through which was nice. Those few who didn't I just ran over! But politely.
There were loads of traders, many from the UK but quite a number from the Continent who you wouldn't normally see at a British show, Schilling Zinfiguren being one example. There were also quite a few 'independent' traders selling second-hand stuff, including entire armies, and there was many a bargain to be had. The games were pretty good overall. Not many that one might class as superb, but many in the 'good' category for certain, although some were only average. There was the usual mix of club games, including several from the UK, and quite a number of games promoting a set of rules, such as Sharp Practice and To the Strongest for example.
So some pictures of the show. I'm know I missed several games and haven't used all the photos taken so apologies for that. Also, I didn't take note of who all the games are by but where I can remember I've said.