Happy Easter

Growing up in a vicarage, Easter was always a busy time. It sounds fairly self evident, but a lot of people, especially if they aren’t regular church goers, don’t realise that Easter is far more important to the Church calendar than Christmas. Of course, being a typical child I was far more interested in the chocolate – being a vicar’s son didn’t make the slightest dent in that.

While my own faith and spirituality ebbs and flows and twists and turns on a regular basis, the one thing I miss from those days is the sense of anticipation and excitement that there always was in the vicarage. There were so many things at Easter to anticipate. It might be for the planning and logistics of the running of the parish and who would be on duty for which services (clue: no one wanted to do the eight am service after the dawn or midnight service). More selfishly for me it could be the desire for chocolate confections or the arrival of family for holidays.

Even more loaded with tension and anticipation were the various parties thrown for the congregation – which might range from pot-luck picnics if the weather was good or wine and cheese nibbles if it wasn’t. These were ‘all hands to the pumps’ affairs, with myself and all my brothers pressed into service taking coats, distributing drinks and circulating snacks to all and sundry – it’s probably why I always have time for anyone performing a similar job at any events I end up at.

These days though, it’s usually me doing the plotting and planning, and so tend to get wrapped up in organising things for other people rather than being able to enjoy them. If you ever see me at something I’ve organised, I’ll usually be the one looking slightly glum because I’m holding myself to an impossibly high standard. I’ll be worrying about balancing people and personalities, making sure the costs are covered and that things are going as smoothly as possible.

Contingency plans and alternative ways of doing something will be buzzing and competing for space in my brain and so I’ll be somewhat introspective, or distracted, or grumpy or a combination of all of the above. When I forgot how to button my own shirt while dressing for my wedding last year, it wasn’t nerves about getting married, it was a state of pure distraction from dealing with last minute cancellations, people not turning up at all, getting cravats issued to people and waiting for something to go wrong that I hadn’t anticipated. And that’s just from what I can consciously recall off the top of my head.

Thankfully my Best Man was on hand to dress me and remind me that there wasn’t anything else I could do now – the hotel staff would have it all in hand or would deal with it. It didn’t stop me worrying all evening though.

How is all this relevant to Easter? Well, it’s only by way of illustration of the sort of nineteen to the dozen things that run through my head, and probably goes some way to explaining why I’ve been so grumpy today. T’other half and I have had a bit of a grouchy start to the day – and it’s just been over something small, like not getting an Easter egg this year.

Adult me has spoken and grumped and we’ve batted it back and forth in our usual brutal and loving way, but the little kid in me is still looking round and feeling somewhat discombobulated, having made sure to get one for everyone else. And of course, being Easter Sunday morning, the local Tesco is shut which is entirely right and proper. It’s all just a bit of a ‘humph’.

Right – whinging done – roast beef dinner with all the trimmings is about to be served up to me, I have a glass of stout in hand, and the second series of Game of Thrones to watch with a very long suffering wife.

See you later, and Happy Easter.

Spring is coming

It might be hard to believe, with snow and Siberian winds thrashing large parts of the country, but I’m quietly positive the season is changing.

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We decided to go walkabout today, resisting the urge to hide under the duvet. We’ve not been to Bushy Park for a while, so it seemed as good a time as any.

Bundling ourselves up against the biting wind coming across from the Thames then, we went in from a slightly different angle than usual, so we didn’t get caught up in the hordes of visitors we saw off in the distance.

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It was a great contrast to the rushed and crowded week we’ve otherwise dealt with. We were half expecting a wilderness even in the more formal parts in the garden, but instead were pleasantly surprised to find buds on the trees beginning to blossom, and spring bulbs starting to explode with colour.

So, come on Spring, you’re nearly here!

Party Preparations

In a little over a week, the Maidment clan will be gathering again to party and play in celebration – and I’ve been running around making it all happen. Perhaps a career in event planning should be something I need to develop next. The event in question is a joint birthday bash for my parents, who both have significant dates to celebrate this year.

In years gone by, we would always take our holidays together around the country, even as we married and began our own family units. Our long summers were always spent in Scotland, or other similarly largely rural areas around the British Isles. Mum and dad would hire a large cottage, which we would then use as a base to get out and about and explore the area. When we were young, this would largely entail all four of us boys being crammed into the back of the car while we travelled. As more of us learned to drive, or as we were joined by grandparents with their car as well, the model of the holiday would often come to resemble a mass expansion and exploration, followed by gathering together in the evening for a shared meal.

We’ve all got good memories of it, but with our wider distribution around the country these days, as well as jobs and other demands on our time, it’s not been practical to try and recreate it as a celebration. Inspired by a number of conversations though, I’ve tried to capture some of the feel of those slightly rambling and eclectic holidays and couple it to a slightly more grand celebration.

To that end, we’re going to be meeting at a hotel which has a cottage in its grounds. I’ve arranged for us to take that cottage over for the weekend, and for us to have a grand meal on the Saturday night. The most important thing about this gathering though is that our parents are not going to be allowed to pay for anything. Through a combination of negotiation with the hotel and my brothers we’ve managed to apportion out the costs of the weekend fairly so that people can pay for their portions in advance while I handle the little extra details – like birthday cakes, wine, champagne…

It’s had it’s ups and downs, but I think we’re nearly there. Now I just need to stop and take a quick breather before finishing off the last details. Hmmm, sounds familiar.

23 Things

At the library, there’s something of a sea change underway. The use of new media, blogging and other Web technologies is slowly being introduced as part of the wider fabric of how we provide services.

The fun and hilarity comes in trying to explain and introduce things like blogging, twittering and Flickring to people with varying levels of enthusiasm, experience and investment in the process and technology of it all.

The scheme is being promoted under the title ’23 Things’

The idea of course is to be able to help people using our public terminals in much the same way that we can point people at how to set up Web based email or Facebook accounts, but I’ll be interested to see what further adoption occurs within the service over time, as well as how it is driven.

It’s early days, and I’ll be keeping a weather eye on it.

A low week

As much as I sometimes mutter and moan about the writing, there’s no doubt that I wouldn’t miss it for the world. This is especially true when feeling down and in need of distraction.

This week is a prime example, with material coming up in counselling that had me very introspective and actually feeling decidedly low. The distraction of writing came to the rescue.

How so? Well it gave me something to focus in on, and a persona or two to slip into for the blogging articles that I write on others’ behalf. Precisely what I needed to pull me out of myself.

Instead of struggling to get out of bed, I write about food and travel, dating and encounters with trolls. When that did not suffice, I fired up the XBox and lost myself in virtual worlds.

As the week rolls to a close, I’m informed there’s a twinkle back in my eye and more of a spring in my step, so I must be doing something right.

Monday Yuck

I can tell it’s a Monday, my eyes feel gritty and I really want to be curled up in bed. It is a phenomenon I’m well familiar with, as I’m sure many of you are too.

Having had a relatively quiet weekend, I cannot blame the tiredness on anything physical, and apart from a slightly runny nose I don’t appear to be hosting more than the usual viral and germ related infestations and infections we all barely notice on a daily basis.

I can only put it down to selfish laziness on a subconscious level. This means I can either torment myself uselessly about it or kick myself up the backside and force myself to get on with working and pretending to be a productive member of society.

Can I go back to being a self involved, unaware slug please?

No?

Bugger.

International Women’s Day

I’m not normally particularly good at mornings. In part this is due to being an avowed night owl to the point where I’m pretty sure my biology is fixed in a nocturnal set of cycles. Even when I have slept long and well, like last night, the act of opening my eyes and becoming a productive member of society – or at least a writer – can be something of an uphill struggle.

“Does this belt look ok?”

I may have grunted an initial response. Anyone who knows me will confirm that I am hardly the world’s foremost authority on matters of fashion – though I can scrub up reasonably well I’m told. T’Other Half was securing a belt to gather in the dress she’d chosen for the day. Now, for many people, a question like that from his wife will typically be perceived as a trap – but when I’m still semi-comatose, things like that just don’t register. It looked good, it made the dress flatter her even more, especially with the successful weight battle against the weight that she put on when she was ill – so I said so.

“Good, I want to look good for the Women’s Day event thing today and it’s a tight enough belt it’ll help hold my tights up.”

Now, T’Other Half is many things, but a vain fashionista isn’t one of them. She’s a tomboy at heart and will quite happily grab a game controller or down pints with the best of them. For there to be a concern about appearance usually signifies that she’s preparing for something that means a lot to her.

In this case it is an event today as part of International Women’s Day – which is celebrating and showcasing successful women in business and IT. With her new job at Reuters, she has found herself front and centre in being a role model, whether she likes it or not. Being a fairly shy and retiring sort at heart, this is filling her with dread. A perfectionist and driven to succeed, T’Other Half has been amazing people with her ability to take her job and the complex negotiations involved in it’s execution and shaking it by the scruff of the neck until it turns over and begs her to rub it’s belly.

Somehow, she seems rather bemused to note that people are finding this no-prisoners, matter of fact and low drama approach to be both notable and refreshing. Her boss’ insistence therefore that she step up and be involved in the event today, and another next week, has come as a bit of a shock.

Perhaps that is part of what she will be able to bring to the event, even as she wishes she could just fade into the wallpaper. Her ability to project confidence and beat misogynists and lazy layabouts with their own preconceptions really is amazing to watch – but not because she’s a woman. It’s an amazing set of abilities and aptitudes and approaches to have for anyone. That is why I think it’s so important that she shines at showcases like this.

My entire family is notable for an air of eccentricity, wilfulness and sheer bloodymindedness that can and does drive saints to distraction and sinners to drink. The secret to the success of all these remarkable men? The women. It’s a saying among the various wives and sisters that “you need to be strong to put up with a Maidment man. If you’re not, they’ll run roughshod over everyone”. Strong matriarchs, whether they recognise it or not, every one of them.

I guess what I’m saying is that while there’s a lot to fight for and recognise, let’s not forget to celebrate just how amazing women are anyway, and not just today. Somehow it seems that if we’re celebrating someone’s success as a woman, that we’re fighting the wrong fight – why should it be so odd that a woman has succeeded?

The AnniBirthary Weekend

So the plotting and planning was eventually revealed to be a grand gathering on Saturday at the Addlestone TopGolf range, and a grand gathering it was indeed. In a feat somewhat akin to the herding of cats, T’Other Half managed to assemble all the Maidment Brothers and a selection of good friends all in one place without triggering either a rogue meteor strike or any long-term damage to the space-time continuum.

conversation in a TopGolf bay
Stay well away from the back-swing…

TopGolf is a bit of an odd beast, but one that works surprisingly well. A traditional driving range has colour-coded targets dotted around the range, each studded with RFID readers. Each golf ball is chipped and encoded with a player’s name, so that each successful strike of a target allocated a player a number of points. The highest score after twenty balls wins the game.

With refreshments served at each bay, it’s a game I used to play regularly while doing project management work a few years back – finding it a great way to reduce stress after fraught days. With T’Other Half’s back injury and associated health issues alongside a shaky financial, we’ve not really been back much in the last couple of years. This weekend served as a good reminder that this is actually something I really enjoy – so it’s going back on the list of things to start doing again.

The day itself kind of blew me away a bit, eliciting a whole slew of emotions that I’m still picking through. The overwhelming memory is one of shocked ‘wow’ that so many people came along – both for the games and for the pub drinks afterwards. It didn’t quite turn into the mass meal that we’d sort of envisioned afterwards, but that was more due to people needing to get smaller relatives back home at a reasonable time than any lack of interest.

I’ve been thinking around where this sense of bemusement comes from – and I suspect it will continue to nag at me for a while. At it’s heart I think it comes from not feeling as if I deserve the friendships that this has shown. For all my bluster and stubbornness I still have a huge difficulty in believing my own self-worth, much to T’Other Half’s amusement – and that’s something I cherish her for greatly.

It was also our first Anniversary this weekend – so we made sure to make some time just for ourselves. Being the Paper Anniversary, my present to her was all the DLC for Skyrim on the PS3 – said game being in the Elder Scrolls series, and one of her all-time favourite games. Her present to me was a subscription to a writer’s magazine that we’ve been picking up the last few months.

We also managed to get a booking with our local GP for talking about vaccinations required for our Honeymoon, which we’ll be finally getting to later this year…

Wow… it’s really all starting to accelerate isn’t it?

First Anniversary Weekend

We’re nearly there – almost a whole year since Rowton 2012 and the glorious chaos that was our wedding. One of the ways we know people enjoyed it has been how people are still talking about it. The only downside, if you can call it that, from all the rush and activity was that it did somewhat overshadow my birthday – I vaguely remember rolling it all up into my Stag Night or something.

This year, t’other half has something planned for this weekend for my birthday, and we’ve both booked the actual anniversary off work to recover from the weekend. Should I be afraid?