Decorations and Celebrations

A busy weekend this week. Lady M was at the first of what seems to be a string of office parties last night, and made her own skirt and top to wear to the occasion. As she was still working on final details late Thursday night, I was driven to observe that only she could have a con-crunch for a party.

Nevertheless she had a stunning outfit ready for the event, and I spent a quiet evening wrapping a mountain of Christmas presents, drinking wine, decorating the Christnas tree, and binging episodes of Luther on Netflix.

Today I’m off to see Lady S for a couple of days, so I had time for breakfast and pain au chocolate with Lady M before leaving her to tackle her own small hillock of presents and recover from the party.

I normally travel light, but I’m delivering birthday presents for the cub and a couple of early Christmas presents, so I have a suitcase nearly as big as I am. We may have gone a little overboard this year…

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Giving HIV the finger

I know there’s a general stigma about talking about sexual health and testing, but it’s hugely important and affects a huge swathe of the population. Just like (until relatively recently) mental health issues, the prospect of talking about sexual health can prompt intakes of breath and moralistic judgement that threatens to ride roughshod over the very real human cost that comes when it is ignored.

I’m a little late to the party, but the end of November saw an initiative in the UK looking to raise awareness of HIV testing (alongside other tests). It cropped up just as I’ve been talking with my partners about condom use and ceasing to use them in our triad.

Although we’re all pretty sure we don’t have anything lurking in our systems, it seemed a good idea to look at testing – and it has been difficukt to schedule all going at the same time with our busy lives and the distance between us.

I was surprised to find out just how easy it was to get a free home-testing kit arranged, so in the spirit of raising awareness, I’m talking about my experience of using one.

The parcel came through within three days of ordering it, and I’ll admit it sat on the table for a few more days as I summoned up the nerve to do it. I’d answered some questions online about sexual activity and it came down to a simple urine sample, and a blood test. I opted for the blood test for HIV as I’ve never been tested for it before (to my knowledge unless it was done as a general screen while in hospital).

The idea is that you take the samples, package them securely in the materials provided and send them back in a sealed Freepost prepaid plastic envelope.

The urine test was simple enough, but the blood test package specifically included for testing for HIV came with automatic lancets, alcohol wipes, plasters and a long set of instructions that I had to read and re-read several times.

They essentially boiled down to washing your hands in warm water both to clean and encourage good blood circulation. Then dry your hands on a clean towel as blood drops are harder to form on wet skin.

Alcohol wipes are provided, so one last clean with those was needed before I went any further.

The next step is to press the lancet (which looked like a key fob) firmly against the side of your little finger and squeeze it to trigger it. It feels like a rubber band flicking the skin and theres an initial small spot of blood that the instructions said to wipe away.

Then, for lack of a better description, I had to milk my little finger to fill the small tube with blood drops. It didn’t hurt, beyond a little bruising this morning, but it did feel odd to see the drops slowly growing and dropping.

Plasters are provided, and it took moments for the blood drops to stop forming when I’d done enough. The cap for the vial clicked shut when pushed on and then all that remained was to gently shake it a few times and check all the labels were correct before sealing everything away and putting the package by the door to drop into a postbox in the morning.

So, in theory, in a week or so I’ll have the test results back. I’ll keep you posted.

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Bugs and ughs

Tis certainly the season, as they say, but if it could manage to not come accompanied by colds, muscle aches, migraines and barking black dogs that would be a huge bonus.

Still, we soldier on, and at least in our household a lot of the gift buying is complete and giving way to thoughts of decorations. I’ve already overseen the assembly and decoration at two of my libraries of the carefully packed away artificial trees and as of last night I even have an undecorated tree up in the flat.

Now begins the perennial fight to summon up enthusiasm and joy while wearing the customer services Christmas cheer mask. With any luck the black dog will mostly stay in his kennel.

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Wait, where’s November going?

I swear sometimes it’s like I blink and I’ve time travelled, or fallen through a crack in the space-time continuum, and it’s suddenly halfway through the month.

Admittedly we spent the week after MCM London largely recuperating and sleeping – and then celebrating Lady M’s birthday. Going back to work after that felt like standing at the bottom of a steep set of stairs, but I think that’s fairly normal.

I think the time has slipped past simply by dint of it being one of those periods of time where you just need to get your head down and plough on.

We’ve had some nice little highlights: we’ve more or less finished our Christmas shopping for example – and we had Lady S come by for a surprise weekend visit with the cub. We’d plotted this as a surprise so she and Lady M could have a proper date night as a delayed birthday treat.

(I had a boys night in with the cub on the xbox – and there was hardly any rage quitting on either side.)

So, a quick and quiet update post for you all 🙂 and here’s a recent photo of my sketch pad, because getting me to stop sketching is always an issue…

Picture of intricate inkpen artwork taken over the artist's shoulder, showing the page, his arm, and fine pen

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Inktober – The Final Picture

It’s here, at last – the final picture of Inktober – and I’m particularly proud that I managed to wait and do this image actually on the 31st October. It has felt sometimes like a breeze and others like a chore, but it has certainly kept me engaged and interested the whole way through.

Someone asked if it was something I’d feel able to complete, and my answer at the time was that it was usually more difficult to get me to stop drawing. I think if this month has proved anything to me, it’s that it can be very easy to get stuck in a rut, and that challenges like this are a great help in shifting me out of my comfort zone.

The final prompt for this month was ‘slice’ – and I’ll admit I initially groaned at how similar it was to the Chop prompt for day 24.

I was determined to use some of the practice this month had given me on perspective for this image. I saw a couple of other images online that wet with a variant on things being sliced with a blade of some description, so that got me thinking about the number of YouTube shows around forging blades I’ve seen, and their propensity to showcase the sharpness of their projects on various objects.

A watermelon seemed a good simple object to start with, and the rest of the image flowed from there.

So, there we have it – thirty-one images in thirty-one days to a preset prompt list.

I’d say I need a rest, but then I seem to have carried on regardless…

In this case I’ve already started reusing and updating the page my original ‘jolt’ image was on, using a mix of inks and coloured pencils and my usual mix of aliens and ugly monsters. I’ve been using a 0.05 size inkpen to do these particular creatures, and it’s a different approach to filling space to many other sizes of pen. I’ll see where it leads…

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Inktober Twenty-Nine to Thirty

So this was the last big push, back from MCM, determined to get back on track to actually complete Inktober within the month itself.

These two did make me think about how to represent them within my framework of not over-working things as far as possible.

Number twenty-nine was definitely me trying to be clever with the prompt of ‘double’, and no one has escaped seeing it as something else entirely. The concept was to represent cellular fission – one cell becoming two.

Instead, everyone who has commented on it has said they thought it was a pair of boobs, possibly on someone being bounced around. While that technically still covers the prompt, it’s just shown me I should probably look at reference pictures more often. Oh well. Oh, and I wrote the wrong day number on it as well, for good measure.

By contrast, day thirty started as a simple image and then kind of grew in size and complexity. It’s still a simple enough composition – someone leaping in the air as they are jolted by electric current.

I should probably have started with the plug and the spark of electricity, but instead I did my usual start with the eyes and found the picture getting bigger and bigger to fit the whole thing in.

Still, if you’ll pardon the pun, there’s an energy to it so it works for me, and it’s a posture I don’t often depict, so new ground again.

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Inktober Twenty-Seven and Twenty-Eight

These are another two that didn’t get done in their respective days because we were at MCM London Comiccon

Fortunately they were both really simple as inspirations go, so sitting down to do them when the dust has settled was the start of a couple of days of renewed energy and drawing.

Day twenty-seven was inspired of course by my love of comics – and with having already depicted a thunderstorm of sorts back with ‘spell’, I wanted to do something different. So with memories of recent Marvel films and a number of cosplayers fresh in my mind, I decided to draw the tunic of a certain god of thunder, complete with sparkles.

While not “screen accurate” I like this interpretation of this particular item of clothing.

Day twenty-eight was inspired very simply by Lady M’s upcoming birthday. As usual I’ve been giving her little presents in the days leading up to the actual date, so creating a simple drawing of one to represent ‘gift’ seemed only natural.

It was also a good exercise in practicing perspective, and has highlighted that I really need to do more work when it comes to ribbons and knots – because those elements seem weak to me in this.

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