Just arrived in sunny Manchester, having discovered en route that I forgot to pack a jumper - two shirts should suffice, it isn't that cold. Journey was fairly painless - train from Euston, then tram from Manchester Picadilly and a short walk to the cheapo Ibis hotel; the actual con hotel is also on the same tram route, and since I have a Freedom Pass (old git's travel card) I can travel free from 9.30 AM until midnight*. Cheap room has no shower gel and reception price will probably be a bit of a rip-off, but I'm going into town anyway so I'll pick some up. It has a comfortable bed and free wifi, so should do me nicely.
Next stop food and a bit of shopping, then the Hilton where I shall check in with friends etc. and probably stay the rest of the afternoon/evening. Tomorrow the actual con.
* Unfortunately this turned out to be untrue, I misread the rules; The Freedom Pass covers buses, underground, trams and trains in the Transport for London area, buses only elsewhere. But I realised this early on and paid for all day tickets, including the first day, so I don't feel too bad about being a bit naughty on the first trip. Ended up costing me about £24 over the whole con, which is still a hell of a lot cheaper per day than staying at the main hotel.