Family Weekend

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not always the most comfortable with social situations – at least until I’ve people watched enough to at least get a high level Cliff Notes view of the people around me – so at parties I’m usually a bit of a wallflower. Lady M is, in many way, exactly the same, but will then usually hold court and engage a more active set of information-gathering skills that entertain as well as deflect attention.

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So an invitation to a double birthday celebration by my youngest brother and his wife – popularly known by their gestalt identity as The MegaNick – was in equal measure a joy and a moment of uncertainty as I cast about for thoughts of who in their friends circle I might already know. With Lady P off at another convention, and Charleesi decorating her bedroom with her mum, we got ready to launch ourselves into the fray.

I first had to convince Lady M to go at all. This wasn’t entirely down to social anxiety, but in large part down to the imminent date of her next CIPS exam. I convinced her to bring a subset of revision material with her so that she could sit in a corner with it before things got really busy, and with that notional armour to hand we were ready.

Does this sound as if I’m over-thinking these things? You’re probably right. In the event itself, we had a great time, despite my getting stung by a bee. Some ice and a forced smile dealt with it, with beer a wonderful distraction. At least I’m not allergic, and to be fair I’ve inflicted worse things on myself when unwell, so I can’t really make a huge fuss.

The celebration took the form of a barbecue, and the weather was kind. We were home before any spots of British Summer rain troubled us. The next day, with most of the Sunday gaming group unavailable for various reasons, we took Charleesi to Thorpe Park for the afternoon.

An afternoon of adrenaline, soaking, and high speed inversions in glorious sunshine was yet another great family day and distraction for Lady M. We’ve wound up the day curled up with Netflix, finishing season one of Person of Interest. Really can’t complain…

A lovely moment

I was leading the library Rhymetime this morning and had one of those lovely transcendent moments that suddenly make all the pre-performance anxieties worth it. The session was full to the brim. If any more people had tried to get in to the Children’s library, we’d have had to think about elasticating the walls. If everyone had breathed in at the same time, the windows would have collapsed inwards.

I’d had to pretty much bellow at the top of my voice to be heard over the chattering, and I started by telling them I hadn’t had any coffee so my voice was likely to be a bit odd. They would therefore need to actually sing along in this session.

And they did.

About halfway through the very active session, with preschool kids running and dancing and clambering over the furniture and each other, I stopped singing, just for a couple of seconds. In that moment, I heard a perfectly in tune and on key rendition of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star from the mums, dads and children that was a sheer thing of beauty.

It was enough to make me grin and ignore the small child trying to eat my shoelaces. It’s not every day you can say that.

Bleah

As anyone who has ever been any type of loving relationship will tell you, sometimes you’ll get on each other’s last nerve and the anger will snap forth. Sometimes it’s someone being oblivious and wrapped up in their own head (usually me), sometimes it’s someone bottling up life’s anger and looking for a lightning bolt. Sometimes it’s a lack of communication, or it’s too much communication and you just need some time in your own head.

Arguments are normal, healthy, but still sting like antiseptic on an open wound so no wonder we all hate them, and the sometimes slow processing needed after. My post argument processing usually starts with a “well I probably deserved that” moment or three of feeling crap, followed by an evaluating “did I actually deserve that?” thought, and then either how to fix it, or make sure as best as possible not to do it again in the immediately imaginable future.

Sometimes the explosion is of the “I love you deeply, but this one element of your personality bugs the hell out of me, but don’t you dare change” variety. These are more tricky to process through as it often feels like an emotional vent to which you are then barred from responding.

I don’t know about you, but I hate those. I also try to live by the maxim of not going to bed angry, so I’m just spooling stuff out here so I can pick it over and then move on. There are a number of reasons I’m out of sorts tonight, but at least I can witter about one tonight and hopefully put it to bed before I turn in.

Humph.

Your regular awesomeness will return, but please pardon tonight’s slightly insecure gibbering.

Added some more Game Maps

I started to write up some game sessions, but couldn’t concentrate on those and talk with Charleesi at the same time (multitasking fail), so I’ve uploaded some more of the maps I’ve used in the Roll20 sessions.

Specifically I’ve put in there the Airdocks, a beach in the jungle, and the Rose Quarry ruins (which are absolutely enormous) – if you’re using the maps, have fun…

Mid-Week Grumpiness

The short sleeps and long days of the last week or so have definitely caught up with me today – not with an exhausted crash, but in a low-grade grumpiness that has dogged my efforts today. It’s not been helped by the heat and humidity, especially when that humidity turned into rain when I went for a walk to clear my head.

It’s fine, I can take a hint, no – really – don’t worry about it. Today is not to be a productive day, and that’s okay. Plenty of time for awesomeness tomorrow when I head out with Charleesi and Lady P to try and get some photos for the 150th Anniversary of Alice in Wonderland.

I shall endeavour to keep a lid on my grumpiness today – and shall be apologising to Lady M when I get home for being less than effusive in my happiness at her triumphant return from a boozy business lunch up in town that sounds like she’s managed to conquer half the world’s woes and frighten a load of chauvinists at the same time. I may even write in shorter sentences.

Right – I suppose I’d better get on with writing up the week before last’s Monday game…

Weekend of Whut?

Well that was an intense weekend! Saturday was the first day of the 2015 Summer Reading Challenge at the library and I’m glad to report it was busy all day. I even had children queuing up for the doors tonopen so that they could register before heading on to Brownies, sports activities and a variety of Saturday clubs.

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It didn’t let up all day, so the offer of joining Danger for a barbecue after work was enticing on a number of levels – including not having to cook. Lady M and Charleesi met me from work and we stocked up on beers before walking over. We got there eventually (I may have misread the text and walked us to the wrong place first), and a very, very long evening began. It included Moshi Monster throwing, a sprinkler for younger kids, drunken yoga by Lady M, and the realisation that 2.30 am was probably a good time to stop telling stories and walk home.

The Sunday game was marred by hangovers and exhaustion, so we introduced Lady P to the game of Munchkin (which Charleesi eventually won), and then went to a charity concert. The concert was in support of Born Too Soon and featured Sir S, one of our Sunday Hooligans, as he performed three solo operatic pieces (2 in German, 1 in Italian) that just blew us away.

A broken night’s sleep brought me to Monday, with a staffing snafu that had me single-manning the library for the first hour and my increasing reliance on coffee to see me through the day. Only the thought of my Monday gamers pulled me out the other side, and they didn’t disappoint. We ended the session with a confusing number of unicorns within the foul ghoul warrens. I’ll enjoy writing these last two weeks up…

And now, to sleep… Honest…

Contented

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I like to mark these occasional days where there hasn’t been drama or angst, irritations or more than the usual insanities of life. Given the twists and turns of the last few years, I’ve come to appreciate the quiet days, and between Lady M working from home, my having some spare time, and the sun being out, it’s felt a really good day.

There was time to change bed linen and grocery shop, to insist Lady M took a lunch break with me at the local Harris+Hoole, and for a gentle round of messaging through the day between us and Lady P as she went about her day and organised her next cosplay.

Even the horrendous traffic between here and the Charleesi as I went to pick her up for the weekend did little more than raise the occasional eyebrow and elicit a surprised tutting noise.

I expect tomorrow, as the first day of the Summer Reading Challenge, will be a lot more intense.

Measuring Manhood

There are hours, days, even weeks, or months where the concept of defining who or what I am against some arbitrary measure of manhood doesn’t even flicker across my senses. Even the phrase “measuring manhood” is loaded with the humour of the playground and the imagery of testosterone-addled youths looking for any excuse to prove dominance or alleged maturity.

And yet, in the introspection of counselling, and especially in darker moments, concepts of masculinity and perceived worth have often spun round in ever decreasing circles and given me pause for thought. Our household is one where I am not the biggest financial provider at this moment, and I contribute with cooking and cleaning and a thousand small touches instead. The desire to provide for those I love can feel thwarted if I only acknowledge the financial aspect of support, forgetting the value of just being there and running the household, cracking awful jokes and picking people up when they need a hand.

I like to tell myself I’m an intelligent, educated and reasonably self-aware individual who sidesteps stereotypes of masculinity; and yet I can and do derive a certain caveman-like satisfaction in barbecues, beer, uncomplicated visceral humour involving bodily functions and sex. Not necessarily all at the same time, but also not necessarily as entirely mutually exclusive activities.

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This is probably why I had no problem picking up this book in the library, enjoying the joke, and taking it home to flip through with Lady M. We duly spent a good half hour or so curled up and giggling at the categories and descriptions of different “manly” and “anti-manly” activities and the points associated with them.

Activities such as starting fires, getting a table in a restaurant without booking, flying a plane in an emergency, unblocking a toilet, or investigating strange noises in the night are all defined, rated, and embellished in a strange cod hyper macho sarcastic tone that is a sheer subversive joy. The anti-manly penalties to your manliness total include sleepovers, cocktails, rom-coms, and watching The Notebook.

Lady M joked we could use the book to work out who the bitch is in our house, but we gave up scoring in favour of acknowledging Lady P’s contention that we’re already awesome, and that if you need a book to tell you how manly you are, you’ve already surrendered your man card whatever gender you identify as.

Leading People Astray

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Oh dear, I’ve done it again. I’ve been enthusiastic about something geeky and someone’s gone and spent money based on my recommendation. Have they learned nothing? In this case Sir S, one of my Sunday Hooligans, was over last week and as we got chatting I mentioned a couple of the games I’ve been playing on the XBox One. Off the top of my head I think I mentioned Witcher3, The Master Chief Collection, Forza, and Destiny.

As a longtime Bungie fan, I could see his eyes light up, so I fired up Destiny, went online and got my arse kicked merrily by all comers in the Crucible matches. I even had my American ex-editor’s husband turn up in-game to join in the fun (on my team, to be fair).

Between seeing the games and technology, as well as the simplicity of how the box sits in the middle of everything,  he got that gleam in his eye, and a wistful tone about whether he could talk his girlfriend round to letting him install one. So of course, being a bad, bad man I showed him the beginning of Batman Arkham Knight.

This week, I dropped in to see M where he works at the local Harris+Hoole and he was still trying to convince himself which hardware and software bundle was best. One brief conversation later, he went for a bundle that included the MCC, Destiny, and Batman.

I’m either a very bad man, or a very good friend. Either way, I’m pretty sure he’s not going to regret his decision.

Atmospheric Descriptions

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The current Monday Roll20-based D&D games are proving just how effective some atmospheric descriptive text and the hint of things happening just out of sight can be. On paper, the current area being investigated by the players should be a pushover, with the majority of foes in the area being barely able to touch them. The reality of their game experience however is one where they are three weeks in, and have barely covered half the tunnels in the area they are investigating.

The slow and careful pace has been prompted by a number of factors: thin, winding, branching tunnels with few extended lines of sight; many, many low level but intelligent opponents capable of setting traps and ambushes, that use tactics such as hit and run to distract the players; and unrelentingly awful descriptions of the foul tunnels and their inhabitants. There are also audible clues about what else is there in the tunnels with them.

A creature known as a wheep, owing more than a little of its description to Clive Barker’s Cenobites, is in the tunnels, and its constant bubbling crying is echoing at all times. I’ve considered¬† playing a very low volume loop of someone crying in the background of the game – so low that it’s pretty subliminal – but the players are good enough at terrifying themselves without my adding that to the mix.

The characters can also hear drums, and fluting music, from the depths, and they know that wheeps are usually guardians of more powerful creatures. There’s an awful lot of conjecture going on about what is in the warrens with them.

There’s even a theory that these ghouls are not actually evil, and are merely defending their homes and shrines from this murdering invasive force that is slaughtering all before it. Now, would I actually pull a reverse like that on my players?