Tuesday, 27 January 2015

I'm under the weather, Dug.

How sick was I? As sick as this guy. You don't
think this particular parrot looks that sick? You
try being hunted close to extinction on a false
accusation of sheep worrying and see how you
Well, that was a fun weekend.

I've not been well - presumably a gift Arya brought back from nursery - and I've been on my own. Hanna and Arya have been in Leeds with her parents and are now decorating the nursery and spare room in Martlesham. I sat on my sofa, got a bit of writing done, and watched a lot of shit on Netflix (for which thanks are due to my friend Sally; I would return the favour, but conveniently linked logins mean that anyone logging into my Amazon Instant Video account can also order books in my name.)

My somewhat dreary time was enlivened by video calls from Hanna and Arya, one of which was apparently demanded by Arya, which suggests not only that she misses me, but that she knows that the weekend is our usual time together. She's growing so fast!

Anyway, I have rewatched and reviewed Van Helsing and The Last Airbender, watched and reviewed Red: Werewolf Hunter, Daybreakers and Chimera vs. Pegasus, and churned through a whole bunch of Continuum and Warehouse 13. I started watching Lost Girl, but can't get over the creep factor, and have also got back to Stargate Universe, which was interrupted when they took it off Prime Video.

It's not exactly being 'busy', but it keeps me sane.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Final demands and other bullshit

"This is a final demand," the letter said. "If you fail to pay this amount within 10 days of the date of this letter, we will take court action."

The letter was from npower, who are not my energy supplier. They were when I moved in, but I switched almost a year ago now, received and paid my final bill from them and heard nothing more until they sent this final demand for £150 I do not have.

So I called them up and I said: "This is bullshit."

To their credit, they checked their records and said: "Yeah; that is bullshit. Sorry about that."

So, not the best ever, but still npower 1: TalkTalk 0.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Measuring Spoons

So, you all know how spoons work, right?
Most alcoholics have fewer than average spoons. The
absinthe drinker has plenty, but they all have holes in.

For any who don't, spoons are the hypothetical measure of the level of cope required to undertake everyday tasks. The point of the model is that your workaday 'normal' human being has a near-infinite number of spoons, but that any level of disability rapidly reduces one to a strictly limited spondular* budget.

Now, as these things go, I am not exactly short on spoons, but neither am I the happy-go-lucky man of a thousand spoons that I used to be (in my head at least,) and my spondular commitments are many. In particular at the moment, there is caring for Arya at the weekends and helping Hanna to make up her spondular deficit, which is profound. Hanna has fewer** spoons than most to begin with, and of late has been splitting them between a daughter, a husband, a boyfriend and a demanding course of study requiring a four hour a day commute. The news that her transfer from Greenwich to Suffolk had been approved was a wonder of wonders.

This weekend, we had a clear plan and I budgeted my spoons - already depleted by post-Christmas lurgy - accordingly. By 11 o'clock on Sunday I had spent the day with my daughter (which included scraping her off the kitchen floor when she went into complete meltdown) and taken her swimming (driven by mummy) and was pretty much done for the day. Hanna and I went to see Into the Woods while Arya's other daddy took her for a stroll and a nap. I had perhaps one spoon left with which to tidy up when I got home and the others took off for Martlesham. I had planned to have a few more, but a bad night's sleep on Friday punctuated by weird dreams, the last of which involved me trying to prevent social services from taking Arya away before Hanna could get home, put paid to that.

For the benefit of younger readers, Uri Geller is a celebrity
psychic who made a fortune persuading people that even if he
could bend a spoon with his brain, that would mean something.
Unfortunately, part of Hanna's deficit derives from the fact that her ME and CFS not only cap her spoon levels, they also make it near-impossible for her to accurately estimate her remaining spondic reserve. She brought Arya to me, went to an Empire player event, came back, took us swimming and came to the cinema with me, and only on the drive back to Littleport did it really come home to her that she was not merely down to her last spoons, but had suffered an unexpected visit from Uri Geller.

I mention this not to complain, but to note that Andrew - whose birthday it is today - was a star, covering the washing up and Arya's bathtime so that I could eek out my last spoon to cook dinner and get Arya to bed. I don't know how families with only two parents cope, let alone one.

Until next time, may all your spoons be runcible.

* Spondular (adj.) - Of or referring to spoons. Also, of the back or of medical complaints of the back. I only made one of these definitions up.
** But not slotty

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Unclean! Unclean!

This is my fifth day back at work after Christmas, but three of them have been spent either working from home with mild flu or sick with serious flu.


Still, I feel all right today, so I'm going to try to get into work. Aside from anything else, I should have a birthday present waiting in the post room.

Monday, 5 January 2015

That was 2014, This is 2015

The dominant feature of the past year for me has been that I own a house. It's exciting, and expensive, and exciting. I have some damp issues, and some loud neighbours, but overall it feels good to not be paying £700 a month to a landlord who stiffs me on basic maintenance.

I have also been a dad for a full year (I hit the one year mark with her birthday in March and this has been the first full calendar year) which is even more exciting and possibly more expensive in the long run.

Money has been tight this year and will continue to be so, I suspect (see above,) but I am determined not to let it get me down. The fact that Littleport is slightly out of the way is a bigger problem, and I'm not seeing people as often as I would like. Most of my vaguely local friends have busy schedules already and don't have cars, and most of the ones further out game at weekends and so can't commit to a weekender.

Not-a-Resolution* #1: See people more this year than last

My birthday yesterday brought it home to me that, aside from my awesome family, I have been feeling pretty isolated. It's not usually a problem, I'm kinda self-contained in a lot of ways, but the lack of human contact does leave me feeling detached and unloved sometimes. Yesterday my brain weasels were obsessing over the fact that most of the people who had sent me birthday greetings on G+ sent them only to me rather than to a circle as well, so clearly they didn't want to be seen associating with me. I know this is insane, by the way, but brain weasels, yeah.

Not-a-Resolution #2: Fuck you, brain weasels.

My weight is down, and staying down. At the end of the Christmas excess, after cooking (and helping to eat) two fine hams (I briefly considered adopting the moniker 'Cool Ham Luke', before deciding that was ridiculous) and the magnificent tagine that Hanna cooked for my birthday (lamb with figs, apricots and honey, and lashings of maize couscous,) I weighed in this morning at a shade under 104kg and I fit snuggly but comfortably in a 38" waist (in the summer I was 117kg and straining 42".)

Not-a-Resolution #3: Keep the weight down (and spend less money on snacks.)

Part of #1 is going to be a little thing called No Rest for the Wicked, a live-action Warhammer 40K game run by some friends in Scotland. This will be my first serious field LARP experience, and a chance to meet new people. The kit is looking daunting, but also exciting. I have vague plans to buy some electronic parts and a pair of clip-on sunglasses to bash into removable furnishings to make my glasses look less contemporary.

I may also try to get back to the local board games night, although I don't think I know anyone there anymore. Still...

Not-a-Resolution #4: Play more games (and make cool kit without feeling overawed at the work involved.)

In 2014 my pub LARPing has died back almost to nil, in large part because the society I have been an active member of for years took an active opposition to the presence of my daughter at games.

Now, I entirely understand that people don't want a small child underfoot, especially around a horror-themed game where they are playing foul-mouthed arseholes. I'm not wild to have her surrounded by that sort of influence, and I don't want to ruin anyone's game. What I object to is the underhanded and mealy-mouthed way in which this was handled. No-one actually addressed us directly on the subject at any point; instead, complaints were raised at the top-level of the society and we were handed an inflexible dictat that ignored the fact that pretty much 100% of the people we actually gamed with were fine with Arya being around. My faith in humanity in general and gamers in particular was only saved by the active and vocal support we received from said people we gamed with, ranging from 'I never had a problem with her being there' to 'damn the man; we love seeing her here.'

Partly as a result of this, and of the fact that she is older and more active, but we are no more able to afford childcare while we go to games, I am not going to be renewing my membership of the Isles of Darkness. It's a shame, because I met a lot of good friends through the society and had a lot of good times, and I was excited to see what this year's reset would bring. Most importantly, those people who stuck by us are people I both like personally and enjoy roleplaying with, so:

Not-a-Resolution #5: Continue to hang out with cool Ioddies.

It sort of combines aspects of #1 and #4, but bears singling out.

Another of the big successes of 2014 for me has been my blogging (he blogged,) and in particular the growth of my media blogs, My Life as a Doge and Bad Movie Marathon. I've found that I have become a better critical thinker for putting my thoughts in written form, and the BMM in particular is garnering a large (by my standards) audience.

Not-a-Resolution #6: Keep blogging.

So far so good then.

I have also started putting some of my writing out there, if without success so far. I still plan to get a compilation of my short writing out for sale this year, and I'm aiming to work on some of my longer pieces with a view to epublishing and journal submissions. Watch this space for my inevitable JK Rowling-like triumph!

Not-a-Resolution #7: Write like the wind!

Finally, and in line with my blogging in many ways, I got back into reading in a big way, thanks to the Kindle app on my phone and not having to lug hardbacks around on the train. I want to keep that up.

Not-a-Resolution #8: Keep reading.

So, that was 2014 and this is 2015. I hope it treats you well.

* I see resolutions as a means to disappoint yourself, so these are guidelines, not fixed goals.

Buzzapalooza and other Christmas Adventures

Oh dear gods I am tired.

Good news! Even after Christmas, I fit into a 38" waist and weight a mere 104kg (down from about 117kg in the summer.) Bad news! I am pretty much broken after Christmas, with all its running around and New Year late nights and inevitable emotional turmoil.

To sum up my experience of Christmas with a small child (as opposed to last year's Christmas with a baby,) it's a rollercoaster. Take one small child, ply with (modest, but still unprecedented quantities of) sugar and surround with the Sisyphean dilemma of more cool stuff than she has hands.

Christmas at home was an almost unalloyed success, and I only say almost because Arya got bored of opening presents halfway through and we left the lights on and a bag of rubbish in the middle of kitchen when we left. My Christmas ham (with a honey-mustard glaze and a recipe from the Hairy Bikers) was a great success, and if I almost murdered my metamour over prep then the lesson not to try and partner up over something as time critical as eggs benedict was one well learned and there was no actual harm done.

A selection of top gifts include a beautiful tagine and a Moomin with a nerf gun. Okay, I got a Moomin and a nerf gun, but I insist on my right to arm Finnish troll creatures (to defend against the bears, yo.) Also a TARDIS cookie jar with light and sound (from Hanna's brother) which Arya absolutely loves.

Christmas Day at my parents' was also pretty good, and I think that Andrew overcame his nerves at spending time with my family in his abject wonder in the Mill. My parents live in a converted steam mill in the Norfolk countryside, and it's basically the foundation of Andrew's dream smallholding; veg garden, chickens, loads of space. We might need to buy out the neighbours to fit the pigs.

We then spent a couple of nights at Hanna's parents' place in Leeds. En route we saw maybe half a dozen large birds of prey, mostly buzzards but Hanna thought one might be an actual eagle. I dubbed this peculiar density of raptors 'Buzzapalooza', a phrase that Hanna insisted should be blogged.

For the record the next time I suggest sleeping on the sofa at Hanna's parents' house, I deserve to be kicked. It wasn't so much that it was cramped as the air freshener which periodically wheezed and rattled into life; not that that would have been so bad if I hadn't been listening to The Call of Cthulhu on my phone...
My flat is now a den of vice.

Then we had a few days back in Martlesham, including New Years Eve, which was marked by four games of Pandemic (Andrew's Christmas present from Hanna,) in which the world was consumed by plague each time. In game one we were three cures down when the deck ran out; in game four we timed out with half the plagues cured. Games two and three were more unfortunate and we witnessed catastrophic early-game outbreaks of the Red Death and North African Zombie Plague respectively (although Hanna insists we probably gave up too early on the latter having lost a cube and thus not actually emptied the box.)

In retrospect, I probably should have gone to bed early on the 1st, but I find it hard to regret sitting up with Hannah watching MASH (which gave us the vocabulary to be properly outraged when Andrew asked Arya to pass him his slippers the next day.)

On the 3rd I spent the day with Arya while Hanna and Andrew went off to sit in traffic (not the plan,) which was stressful, but good.

The 4th was my birthday and... In all honesty, it could have gone better. The brain weasels were out in force (in part because, having not opted for the early night on the 1st/2nd, being awake with Arya half the night on the 3rd left me completely trollied) and I ended up going to bed early because I felt completely isolated.

Note to self for future reference: When you feel isolated, cutting yourself off from the people you love and who love you is dumb. I spent almost an hour feeling sorry for myself before deciding to man up and go back out to spend time with Hanna while I could, and just a few minutes in her company had me smiling and feeling loved again (if a little guilty for letting her go through the trauma of a Call the Midwife Christmas special on her own.)