Another Rowdy Night

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When you wake up to find your social media feed includes your local landlord ‘liking’ the pictures of the previous night, replete with scorched beermats, carbonised fruit peel, and inventive wax dribbling on all the candles, well, I’m not sure whether to be pleased or concerned.

Our #Tuesdays have become the stuff of legend in some circles, mostly due to the generally unfettered and freerange conversation topics rather than the burgeoning pyromania exhibited last night.

Case in point last night was the unusual experience of hearing the ex-Lady M recount recent issues with one of her exes, surrounded by Ladies G, M, P, and the Charleesi. Once more the cry went up, asking why the one person in her romantic history who had bits of paper saying he was unwell was the most sane and stable person of them all.

Okay, a little close to the knuckle, but being #Tuesday it got a laugh, and then I was directly asked: “so why does she keep attracting these people? Go on Tim, you’re the expert here.”

You know how time can subjectively run like treacle as your brain goes into overdrive? Yeah, try that with the full attention of the assembled Ladies M and your daughter fixed on you. After a subjective aeon, I smiled and reached into my jacket pocket: “Let me just get my notes…”

Oh how we laughed. And changed the subject.

Quotes taken out of context are guaranteed to turn heads, but the staff and locals have at least got used to the sight of us all gathered around a table nearish the musicians. The amount of abuse and applause may vary, as well as the volume, but we keep spending our money so much is forgiven.

After all, as irregular as we and our lives are, we’re Regulars. I don’t think I’ve ever had that before.

A New Map

I’d seen The Discworld Emporium advertised in a few places, both around the wider ‘net and in Terry Pratchett fan groups and been tempted by a few of their offerings. I hadn’t ordered anything until earlier this month though, due to nothing quite leaping off the page until then.

Then they released a colouring map of Ankh-Morpork, and Lady M and I both grinned in anticipation.

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Much of the appeal of the shop is that most of the memorabilia they sell can be seen as items stolen away from within that flat, magical world. There’s a whimsy to their offerings that appeals. Their good reputation in the groups also tipped the balance.

I ordered the map, and then forgot all about it as life threw some extra curveballs and we got earnest about our decoration.

Yesterday I dropped in to the post office to pick up an undelivered parcel. I had no idea what it was until I saw that it was a poster roll, and it had some decidedly Discworld elements to it: namely Ankh-Morpork Post Office Stamps and warning notices about snails, dribbling toads, and alchemist guild-made contents.

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Inside was a glorious map of The Big Wahoonie, and a personalised thank you/non-delivery note from the Ankh-Morpork Postal Service blaming “nae ordinary chicken!” which was why the non-magical Royal Mail had completed the delivery.

The map itself is on large high quality, thick and creamy coloured paper and the printing is clear and unsmudged. Details of the city’s landmarks are easily made out, but without labels so that you can stretch your imagination recognising them from descriptions in the book.

It’s little touches like this that mean I will be a return customer. I think I spent more time yesterday geeking out over the packaging than the actual contents, much to the amusement of colleagues and the staff at the local coffee shop.

Now our only decisions remaining are whether we’ll colour it at all, or only certain elements, before or after we mount it on the wall. I’m tempted to order a spare so we can frame one untouched and play with the new one.

A Writer’s Brain

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Sometimes I struggle to come up with things to say here, and sometimes it feels like I can’t move without tripping over an inspiration. Today has been one of the latter type of days.

I occasionally get asked what inspires me, or how I get ideas. More often than not I’ll mumble something vague in the hope that the inquisitive soul will go away. This is usually not out of rudeness or shyness, but because they’ve derailed my train of thought and there’s coal and memories flying everywhere. What I don’t usually reveal is that I write and get inspired to write because I’m a horrible person.

Now before the spirited debate begins among the Ladies M, and the rousing cheers of agreement from my gamers drown you all out, I’d better quantify that. I mean that I will actively think about the sort of things that cross everyone’s mind but rarely acknowledge, and then try to work out how to describe them. I am, of course, now failing utterly to successfully do that by telling, and must therefore now show you.

These are the thought processes and writing inspirations that came to me as I walked to work this morning:

Bright sun on my face, nice change from the flat, wish I’d opened the curtains before I left to appreciate the warmth. Creak of my leather jacket, squeaky shoulders, noise of an intruder in a dark flat when you think you’re alone.

Dog walker giving me a funny look, worried I’ll try and drop-kick her terrier, or do I remind her of someone? Memorise the body language, the curve of the rounded shoulders and lowered head despite bulkiness of fleece jacket to use for a background character description, or how someone might look if describing indecisiveness.

Bonus points, the dog’s the brains of the operation, a detective with a dim-witted human to serve as mobile opposable thumbs. Unkind, unoriginal. Keep walking, plenty of time. Round the grass in the centre of the estate, anticlockwise, widdershins. Into the shadow, not clockwise in the sunlight.

Why?

Keep going, reflection in window, brief ghost image following a walker, images don’t match. Still not losing weight, walk faster. Almost to the gate, now which way’s that car going? Not running me over today, nice but driver looks incongruous – skinhead in white T-shirt driving a small clean new fiat subcompact. Suspect it’s not his choice as jaw is so clenched he looks like he’s going to burst the vein in his temple. Memorise expression, cross road, through gates, stepping past old vomit stain. Note size and placement, use as scene decoration description somewhere. Walk down to lights.

Could press button for green man and cross this cycle, but battered white van rocking back and forth across the line already. Driver fixed gaze on traffic lights, don’t fancy a broken leg today. What would that feel like and how would I manage stairs for flat. Think about logistics and watch traffic race off as lights change… For two seconds before brake lights flare when they reach back of queue for next set of lights.

Walk between trapped cars to cross road, resist playing a tune on different cars to hear difference in metal. Imagine zombie outbreak, bombing run by aliens, sudden violence and chase sequence in same space during time it takes to cross.

Continue through industrial estate, pick key clothing items on each person encountered to describe, four ways to describe the mulch of mud and decomposition against one drop kerb. Spot traffic cones outside computer chip manufacturer, realise it’s to prevent traffic blocking the regular security lorry arrival and departures. Recall what’s been observed of schedule over last few years, imagine thieves casing by not casing but just living locally for same time period before striking. How innocent of schedule knowledge to plead when police come knocking?

Carry on, swear under breath at cars that cut corner and cause me to stop suddenly. Imagine painful deaths involving unlikely scenarios such as exploding bees, parachuting elephants and a troll protecting his oriental rock garden.

Cross supermarket carpark, tut at bad or illegal parking, smile at fond memories of past food, drink and staff at coffee shop as I pass. Smile at people looking out the windows and enjoy the sudden confusions. How would I describe their experience just then?

Try to avoid cheery over-familiar supermarket trolley gatherer, fail. Remember he’ll be in to use the public computers in the evening. Practice fake professional smile and push on through. See a child running ahead of unconcerned parents. Scenarios in quick succession: child clipped by car, parents pancaked by car and child untouched. Child abducted. How would I do that, what would need to be in place if planned versus opportunistic assault? Imagine parent responses, child responses, kidnapper motivations, driver scenarios and press coverage before stopping myself from walking in front of a moving vehicle myself.

Resist urge to shout at slow-moving pensioners, overtake over footbridge over the aqueduct, walk along pavement making feet follow knight’s move pattern on paving slabs to see if pattern holds in spacing between marked off sections of paving. It does. Cross the road, pedestrian lights green as I arrive, imagine a lucky day of all lights optimal all day. Arrive at work.

Ta da!

This is why it sometimes looks like I’m just waking up when people ask me questions, or I’m interrupted in the middle of something. It can be very hard to switch back into conversation with someone you’ve just described in a scene, or murdered horribly in your head moments ago for that matter.

All these churn round as fragments to be pulled out in the moment when reaching for the next inspiration or story element. Some I write down, and others go back into the whirlwind for polishing or breaking back down.

So in answer to where I get my inspiration? It’s from everywhere and everyone; stitching together facial features and body language, clothing and purpose, humour and horror with turns of phrase and stuttered protestations like Frankenstein’s Character Generator. You’re all in here somewhere, finely shredded and diced and mixed back in so even the oldest friend won’t recognise more that the glint of an eye, an appalled pair of hands over the mouth, or the glimmer of a glow worm.

I probably need to get out more

Redecorations and Rearrangements

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Life’s busy at the moment, proving that something will usually crop up to keep me from having idle hands for too long. Between overtime at the library, commissions, and competition entries, there’s been not too much time to carry on with reorganising the flat until this weekend.

That said, we’ve managed to get a lot done in the last 36 hours. We’ve finished the last paint touch-ups in the hall, sanded and repainted the homemade ottoman retrieved from Lady M’s family home, and rearranged the bedroom to give us more room, more shelves, and a view of bits of the carpet that haven’t seen daylight in about four years.

I’ll admit it’s not been without it’s fair share of groans, grumbles, aches and pains to forge on through. Some of it has been from the exertions of a long week (even with a delightfully diverting lunch with Lady G on Friday as a contrast), or from the succession of ills plaguing Lady M in her exhaustion at the moment. We’ve had moments of snappiness, fits of giggles, long-suffering silences, and contented sighs as things start to take shape.

Hopefully in the next day or so we’ll hear from the people from who we ordered new flooring for the hall and can finally count the first room completed. Then we’ll think about the next room on our hit list. It seems odd to be finally putting our stamp on the place, even though it’s just a lick of paint and moving a few things around. Between that and the ongoing decluttering we’re doing though, the flat is starting to feel brand new again.

I could probably make a pithy comment here about the effort taken to renew and refresh a flat and compare it to the ongoing work we put into being awesome together, but you already thought of that, didn’t you?

Proud Adventuring Father

wp-1456791764867.jpgPretty much the first words the Charleesi said to me this evening were: we had our first D&D session at college and I nearly died already – the elf stuck me in a bag of holding and legged it! The rueful grin on her face and the way she rolled her eyes betrayed the joy in having gaming memories of her own to share at last.

It’s not her first ever game – she’s played in the group I ran on Sundays for a while – but this is the first proper game set up by her peers at college that she’s dived into, and as an inveterate games player and D&D geek I couldn’t be prouder. It’s not just that she’s enjoying a pastime that has brought me so much joy and support over the years but also that it feels like a real pass-the-baton moment.

The GM of her group is her cousin, so she’s inherited as many stories and tricks from her father as the Charleesi has – and so our daughters have picked up the game that we played so ardently at their age (and have by and large continued to ever since). I think this is brilliant, and I look forward to even more wild stories to bounce back and forth between us from here on out.

I have, of course, made all my books and pdfs available to the Charleesi so that she can cause as much trouble as possible – I mean, so that she can explore new options in the game as much as possible.

Things Lady M Says: Gin Night Edition

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Knowing that the Ladies M all read this blog, it was perhaps inevitable that they be on the look out for turns of phrase to inform these posts. Lady M may roll her eyes, but the sparkle in her eyes when she reads them or is asked about them by a certain supplier representative, betrays a joy in the silliness and word play evoked.

In this case we have a classic that was carefully leaked on social media so that Lady M could neither deny it or conveniently forget it. To be fair, with the amount of gin consumed it was almost certainly so that the witnesses wouldn’t forget it either.

Rather appropriately then for #Tuesday, Lady M was heard to venture that: “I only drink when I’ve had a hard day down the pub.”

Now this raises the wonderful image of a hard-drinking dedicated bar-propper putting in some serious overtime in a social context. You could be forgiven for assuming that Lady M worries about getting too much blood in her alcohol stream. However, those who know her will confirm two things: firstly, Lady M can put away a serious amount of alcohol when she puts her mind to it, but secondly she doesn’t tend to actually drink very much on any given occasion.

In part this is down to #Tuesday being a ‘school night’ and she needs to have a clear head for navigating the M25 and beating people over the head with contract clauses. Far more importantly, Lady M does not need alcohol to be the life and soul of the party. Her natural effervesce and lust for life makes her shine forth despite herself.

So in this sentence we have another example of that razor sharp mind adding clarifications as if arguing a contract, even after several drinks. Unfold the sentence into “I only drink when we’re down the pub when I’ve had a hard day” and it’s hardly contentious.

That said, I do like the challenge of treating Lady M’s conversations as legal clauses in real-time. Keeps us all on our toes and keeps the potential for teasing high as well.

Research and Bemusements

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It’s been a busy old week between overtime and commissions. It’s not been horrific, but I do feel stretched, not least because it’s sometimes felt like I needed to be two places at once.

Still, I have posted up another mini Hidden Sunbury piece, and inadvertently inspired another longer piece in the process. Before I can divert energy to do that though, I’ve got paying work to finish. There’s always mixed emotions when that happens, guess I’m as normal as the next person on that front.

Speaking of the next person, Lady M continues to sweep all before her as she strides back into the workplace and lays down the law. She may not be feeling 100%, but there’s sparks of her healthier side when she recounts the day’s victories.

And then there’s gin night tomorrow. I expect her hangover will be truly epic, and hope the night of letting off steam with her best friends does them all good.

The Gin Night Cometh

wpid-wp-1440716187665.jpegThe various Ladies M – former, current, and honorary – have been plotting to have a Gin Night since before Christmas. Life being life, things have got in the way until now. Deaths, illness, holidays, and now redecorations have all been endured and put to one side so that they can get together with a variety of different gins, grab some snacks, and put the world to rights.

Everyone I’ve mentioned this to seems to think that I should be terrified by the concept of these formidable women getting together and letting their hair down, but in doing so they miss a fundamental point. This is not about me. This is about their friendship, the support that they offer each other as friends, and their lives. Why on earth should I try and insert myself into the narrative?

For my part, I’ll be picking up the Charleesi, ordering some pizza, and firing up the XBox so we can play games, make sarcastic comments at each other and generally have a chilled out father-daughter night of geekery.

I may, of course, get some new “Things Lady M Says” ideas out of the whole thing – and some of them may even be repeatable in polite society. The rest will become fodder for our usual riotous evenings down The Plough on #Tuesdays.

Just One More Go

wpid-wp-1441220252426.jpegI don’t know. Have any of you ever had that experience of trying to play a game and just running out of time because the real world has other ideas? I’ve got one of those situations at the moment in Assassin’s Creed Syndicate.

Most of the time when I play open world games like this, I’m able to just dip in and out – and I often get so distracted by the sheer wealth of options that I never end up actually finishing anything. With this game I’ve been actively pushing through the story instead. Admittedly, this is because I’ve completed pretty much every side quest and found every collectible item so there’s admittedly not much else to do on the map. More pressingly it’s also because I have Fallout 4 and FarCry Primal sitting next to my console, glinting prettily and waving to my jackdaw instincts.

acsyndThis week’s irritation has been trying to complete the finale of a series of missions that bring you to Buckingham Palace during a grand ball – having run through a series of challenges to obtain disguises, a carriage, invitations and the location of building plans. Normally I’ve been able to rampage through missions within ten to twenty minutes or so, depending on the complexity of the victory conditions and how interested in all the pretty graphics I’m feeling. The missions typically require you to play one or the other of the twin protagonists, but this one that vexes me is telling the story of a joint mission where each sibling is doing alternating parts of the sequence.

So, it’s already more complicated in structure – but it’s also proving to take longer than expected – and life keeps intruding. If it’s not meal cooking times, it’s people phoning halfway through. If it’s not guests arriving, it’s the need to head out to work. I know, I know – first world problems. Compared to the crises and problems we’ve been dealing with this year though, it’s moderately luxurious to be only worrying about completing a section of a game.

Oh well. I’ll have another crack at it tomorrow. At least I know how to crack the early parts of the mission with maximum style and minimum surprise now…