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I wondered if I should perhaps cancel my trip to Fetishcon, but the idea of letting so many people down in one fell swoop felt impossibly horrible – I’d never be able to explain to every fan attending the event why I couldn’t come; they’d think I was a big flake. Also, the event had been extensively advertised and I felt it was probably a chance in a lifetime; I imagined that if I cancelled the trip at short notice I might not be re-invited.
So I packed my bags and physio equipment and off I went to the airport, excited despite all the worrying – I always love international travel. And then something went right, rather surprisingly so. When I got to the front of the check-in queue, the clerk checked my ticket and told me I could use the priority check in. Puzzled, I did so; my luggage was checked in and I was ushered through the priority security screening and straight into the British Airways business class lounge. I was baffled; my ticket had been for ‘Economy Plus’; a normal economy seat with extra leg room. Maybe the ‘Plus’ customers were allowed to use the lounge but I expected to be ushered out again at any moment. In the meantime, I poured myself a pot of tea and helped myself to a bowl of lovely fruit salad. I relaxed in a comfy seat, resting my sore knee and feeling sure that this peaceful start to my journey would help me endure the long and probably uncomfortable flight.
When the flight was called, I found that it had been no mistake, I really was flying business class. My seat was in a gorgeous pod; it elongated to a totally flat bed when required, and screens came down to shield me in a private cocoon. I very rarely drink, but accepted a glass of champagne since I decided it’d anesthetize me. As I drank it, I toasted my mysterious benefactor if he or she existed – if you upgraded me and are reading this, then thank you thank you thank you. The 8 hour flight was over too soon; I extended and retracted the seat as many times as possible, ate everything I was offered, watched a documentary about ballet dancers (and sympathised since naturally all of them had injuries) and had a go at living in the moment. I’m awful at this.
Once I arrived in Tampa, more fun was to come. I’ve been corresponding with my friend Joe for several years, as well as exchanging Christmas presents. But till this trip, I’d never had a chance to meet him. We’d decided to have a go at converting our friendship to real life, and he’d come to the airport to meet me. It was wonderful to see him; he’s just as thoughtful, kind and good natured as I’d guessed from his mails. We went out to dinner (yum, American food. I had a massive dessert with cream and pineapples) and then back to his neat condo. And we did our physio exercises together – we both have the same foot problem and it was nice to exchange notes. Joe lent me a helpful book about it.
I slept beautifully despite my sore knee, and when I woke up we went and bought two different flavours of cookie dough and then ate it raw, greedily, for breakfast. We’d promised each other we’d do this some day, and it was great to do so in his sunny kitchen, whilst talking things over and finding out more about each other.
Then, via a quick lunch out, Joe took me back to Tampa airport to board a flight for Las Vegas. The plane was cramped, and changing flights in Atlanta involved a long walk across the terminal. By the time I arrived in Las Vegas I was very, very sore, and worried about managing to be a good model.
The following day, I drove over to Tomiko’s beautiful house and had The Most Fun In The World being eaten by her giant pet worm, as well as dressing as a super-heroine with her. It was fantastic to meet her; she’s an inspiring a model who’s built her own brand and fetish empire with a combination of beauty, talent and sheer hard work as far as I can see. She’s a fantastic entrepreneur; she made me feel rather lazy. I was happy to realise I’d be seeing her at Fetishcon the following week.
And once our shoot was over, I drove across the desert to Los Angeles. I’d never done this on my own before and I loved it. The desert looks magical to me, having grown up in the green, leafy and rainy England. I wound the windows of my hire car down so I could feel the wind in my hair and smell the desert heat. I felt that the trip had been worth it now it even if I couldn’t do the rest of my shoots.
Actually, via lots of physio, I managed more or less ok; people kindly kept me sitting and lying down a lot because I’d warned them; only one person accepted my offer to cancel as a result, which was completely understandable because of the style of pictures we normally do together. And being in California is always lovely for me, even whilst in pain. I ate Mexican food, looked at the ocean, and enjoyed the exceptionally courteous service that seems to be standard in Los Angeles.
Urgh, I dreaded taking my first genuine ‘Red Eye’ flight back across the USA to Florida, especially given that my knee was still sore. Everyone had been very careful and considerate through my shoots in California, but nevertheless, being active after my month off had stirred it up rather. Actually the flight worked out more or less ok and I arrived back in Tampa to find my lovely new-to-real-life friend Joe waiting for me. He took me back to his place for a few hours sleep before we headed to Downtown Tampa for my very first Fetishcon….
…Wow, what to say about Fetishcon. Lots of people had tried to describe it to me, but still I had no idea of what to expect. It feels inconceivable until you get there that a whole, corporate, downtown hotel can genuinely become a 3+ day fetish party, with play sessions happening downstairs whilst upstairs the world’s top fetish models rush from shoot to shoot in the hotels numerous rooms and suites. But as soon as I walked through the hotel’s doors, I was plunged into a new world. I was shy about explaining who I was when the check-in staff couldn’t find my booking. ‘I’m here for the, errrrr, convention’ I stammered rather foolishly. The clerk gave me a kind but slightly pitying look and found me a room.
And on the 14th floor, overlooking the city’s towerblocks and the hotel’s pool, I found the room I’d be sharing with Hywel for the next 6 days. It was beautiful. I didn’t have long to appreciate it though – I had a shoot to get to.
After returning from 3 fun hours of bondage with a gentlemanly photographer who turned out also to be from the UK (he’d done a fantastic job of turning his room into a studio, with ropes and restraints hanging all over the place) I got back to my room to find my husband waiting for me.
Gosh, it was good to see him. We’d both been anxious on parting, I’d been particularly concerned that by the time I saw him again I’d have got myself into an even worse physical mess and that he’d feel he had to pick up the pieces. And I really wanted both of us to have fun if we possibly could; being here felt like a chance in a lifetime and I didn’t want to wreck it. I was so happy to be able to reassure him that yes I was in pain, and yes I was still anxious, and frightened about the future; but I hadn’t done myself any further damage since everyone had adapted their shoots to my limitations. It gave me some hope that I’d still be able to shoot for Restrained Elegance if we were careful and maybe did part-day shoots rather than full weeks. It felt marvelous to be the USA together, ready to experience Fetishcon.
The next day, we both woke up before 6am because Hywel’s jetlag had mysteriously infected me. We decided to get up and go to the pool to watch the sun come up. It was beautiful with the sunrise’s pinkish light reflecting off the mirrored glass surfaces of the surrounding tower blocks. And, at risk of sounding a bit (massively) sentimental, I felt safer with Hywel there, as though I’d be more likely to be able to get through the rest of the trip ok now that he was with me.
That night we went out for a splendid dinner (with massive desserts) with my friend Joe and with Isobel Wren, an American model I’d never had the chance to meet before. We met in the bar which was by now filling up with the most fabulous assortment of glamourous people who weren’t yet dressed in full fetish wear since the event hadn’t officially started yet, but who were most certainly not the typical clientele for this downtown hotel. I started seeing faces I recognised and felt the beginning of real excitement for the opening ‘meet and greet’ party the next day.
We watched dusk falling over the bay, and I felt a bit more peaceful than I had in a couple of months.
The next evening, Joe arrived for the Meet and Greet and we also met up with our British friends @fantasydabblers They kindly admired my see-through glittery dress which I’d made especially for the convention; out of EXTRA kindness Joe had also brought me a box of Hostess cupcakes which I love beyond almost anything and which I was absolutely sure would have medicinal, knee-mending qualities.
Once the convention started, I was stationed at a booth (with a chair, I was extremely grateful to discover) with other models/producers as neighbours. A quietly spoken, courteous gentleman next to me introduced himself as ‘Jim’ and after a ghastly moment in which I said nothing but peered at his name badge, I realised that he was the great Jim Weathers of Bondagecafe.com, whose work both Hywel and I have been fans of for a decade plus. I became rather puce and spluttery through admiration; how awkward. Poor me, this kept happening. Lew Rubens appeared, as did Candle Boxx, Jewel Marceau, Sandra Silvers, Vivian Irene Pierce… it was all rather overwhelming, but in a thoroughly splendid way. I couldn’t stand up much, which feels ghastly and rude when being introduced to people you respect, but everyone was kind about it, and Hywel kept me company for much of the time and kindly explained my limitations (well, not all of them thankfully) to people.
And meeting fans was absolutely awesome. Not all of them were fans of me, I hasten to add; some of them didn’t know who I was of course, but almost all of them were polite, interested, and interesting to talk to. I certainly feel as though I’ve learned more about what people who buy our work appreciate most about it, which is a valuable insight. And signing photographs of myself was also illuminating – seeing which pictures were the most popular gave me more knowledge about where my future as a model should maybe go (if I can get back to something approximating fitness that is).
I got to join in with the annual Superheroine Showdown (fantastic) and the Fan Photoshoot (also great fun) and hid in my room with Hywel and ordered room service in the evenings – talking is tiring even when one’s in the best of health, and eating dessert in bed is always a good idea I think.
On the last morning we watched the sunrise from the pool again, packed our cases, had a final massive American breakfast, and prepared to get a taxi to the airport. At which point our amazing new real-life friend Joe arrived and insisted that he’d take us there. Which was a wonderful end to our trip; Joe and I talked ALL the way to the airport (Hywel rolled his eyes and let us get on with it) and I was very sorry to leave him, especially since he’d promised me that there are dolphins in Florida but hadn’t made any actually appear yet.
We’re home now; Fetishcon is a happy memory I’m extremely grateful to have, especially cos I could share it with Hywel, and I’m grateful to have met many new friends as well as being able to catch up with old ones.
I don’t know what my immediate future’s going to hold; I know I have to get back to physio and resist the temptation to book any shoots over the next couple of months. It was great to discover that I could limp through a few without any dramatic ill effects, but I don’t want to make a career of doing that – if I can I want to heal fully because in the long run I’ll do better modelling that way, but more importantly I’m pretty sure that it’s easier to enjoy life when you’re not in bad pain. If I can I’d like to get to a state where I’m not having to take codeine and paracetamol to get through my shoots; I hope that if I work hard at physio, and equally hard at relaxing (which is probably going to be a great deal more difficult) that I can maybe achieve this. My arms are still painful but I’ve managed to type this by taking plenty of breaks, so I hope that I’ll be useful to Hywel for office work while I wait to be able to take up my role as a model again properly.
Thank you for the support from photographers, fans, friends and family alike. It’s an awful cliche but I’m grateful to discover for myself that at bad times you realise that some of the people in your life are prepared to put themselves out far above any call of duty to help you. I’ll be forever grateful to those of you who’ve kept texting when I’ve stopped returning messages, who’ve carried on emailing even when I said I couldn’t email back. Those of you who’ve phoned, who’ve offered to visit, who’ve sent cards, flowers, and chocolates which helped me feel I hadn’t been forgotten while I was home alone and feeling like the world was ending for me. Thank you, thank you. I’ve been in a bit of a crisis; work has taken over my life too much over the last few years and I’ve been deaf to friends (and Hywel, who’s been sending out distress signals about it for half a decade now) who’ve tried to suggest that I stop insisting on leaping round the world in pointe shoes without cessation. If this experience is teaching me anything, it’s made me realise that health and friendship is worth protecting, even if it means working less. I just hope I’m not learning this too late.
Thanks to everyone who’s helped me over the last few months, and I’ll be trying to be a less absent friend in future. And when I come back to modelling I’m going to try to make the best pictures in my life.
Thanks for reading,
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