Geeky Parenting


I was going to save this until the actual day, but the present arrived early and the Charleesi couldn’t wait to open it. My daughter got her invitation to Hogwarts today.

According to the Ministry of Magic it was sent by regular post because muggles had started noticing the owls, and this would put them off the scent a while.

Included in the parcel was a wand, a deathly hallows pendant, a marauders’ map, and a few other odds and ends – and I have rarely seen the Charleesi so excited by a present (early or otherwise). She now knows why we put a Harry Potter film on when she visited this weekend, and why I mentioned how she was in the age group of muggleborn whose records were destroyed by Voldemort.

I’ve had a stream of messages from her about it, and I’m so glad our geekeries are compatible. It’s particularly timely as she’s in the middle of her AS exams and starting to look at which university she wants to go to. I suspect Hogwarts would not be the easy option.

A Weekend of Celebrations

meWell – an extended weekend really – with a wedding on the Friday and a christening on the Sunday, and now an attempt to take things quietly that I suspect may be slightly doomed. Rather appropriately, the wedding took place in Ashford Library – the one in Kent rather the one just round the corner – and so we braved the bizarre road layouts of that lovely Kent town in search of the B&B.

By far the most confusing element of that journey was trying to find somewhere to park for the B&B. According to it’s address it was meant to be on the High Street, and claimed to have off-street parking. In the event that  actually proved to be a small ramp out the back of the Mecca Bingo, next to a public car park that seemed to have no entrance. Finding our way in to that car park seemed to involve driving widdershins around the block three times, sacrificing a small goat and watching a hidden portal open from behind some trees. Well, perhaps it wasn’t quite that bad; but pretty much every guest we talked to had similarly bemused anecdotes of trying to find a way in – or of encounters with local drivers for whom the Highway Code and road markings were more aspirations than rules.

That hilarity aside, it was a joy to be able to celebrate Matt and Laura’s wedding with them and catch up with friends and family who were also in attendance. A hog roast in a riverside pub: what a fantastic way to spend an early summer afternoon and evening. Returning to our B&B entailed a simple walk along the river and past the station, which was a pleasant stroll in the warm evening air. Despite the town’s clock chiming every quarter hour, we slept well ahead of the journey home.

The christening was also a chance to reconnect with friends – and was in our local Ashford, making it a weekend of two towns if not cities. A quieter affair, it was a nice cap to the weekend, with the added bonus that while holding the baby of honour I didn’t get covered in milky vomit.

That almost sounds like a life goal


Drabble: An Earnest Debate

The end of the argument was neither polished nor eloquent. It ended rather in punches and gasps, cries and moans. It wasn’t clean or simple, and blood fell on the dusty floor.

The shaky victor still felt as though they had lost, while the battered loser felt vindicated in their martyrdom.

To the jaded onlookers, it seemed barbaric: the once refined and distinguished garb and demeanour of their presumptive leaders now wrenched and torn in vicious disarray.

All was well however; both sides reassured their captive audience that this was all merely part of the rough and tumble of politics.

The Importance of I Love Yous

I’m having a hard time of things at the moment, and have been for most of this week gone. It’s mostly come from being super-saturated with caring for those around me. With my mental reserves running low, my mood dropped and the lies my brain feeds me daily rose up with a vengeance.

These lies are that I am not worthy of love and care. That I will be rejected by everyone and that the people who haven’t yet done so are after something. Acknowledging people’s concern while I am in this state is doubly hard because on the one hand my brain rejects those concerns, but at the same time craves them. Worse, to acknowledge those expressions of concern feels a huge expenditure of emotional effort. It requires unlocking the very same emotional armour that is holding me together, just at a time when I’m not sure there’s anything more than undifferentiated gore inside the suit.

And yet six people this week have recognised the horrible head space I’d tripped into, and they reached out to express their love, care, and support for me. That needs acknowledgement and thanks to each of them, even though I’m still sure I’m not worth it.

So thank you to the Ladies M (past, present, and future), Lady P, Lord S, and my counsellor Lady V. Between you you’ve helped me remember to keep fighting and start on out the other side. I haven’t been in a safe place, but you’ve reminded me of things to live for, and how good it is to be bloody minded in my stubbornness.

The Future Is Here

For many people, that phrase usually appears in close proximity to musings about jet packs or flying cars. Occasionally it gets used in conjunction with reviews of 3D printers being used to make food of some description. For me, this weekend, it came with successfully using my Android phone to pay for my groceries in the local supermarket.


Yes, I’m aware that Apple got to market first. This isn’t about hardware or operating system preferences. This is about the memories evoked of playing Shadowrun and Cyberpunk 2020 back in the late eighties and early nineties. Amid all the guns and tech and imagery of sunglasses worn at night was a concept that was almost a throwaway line.

Cash was obsolete, and everyone had tech of some description to wirelessly transfer sums by touching devices. It even had the concept of prepaid throwaway “cred sticks” that weren’t tied to a bank account and were therefore relatively untraceable. Prepaid credit cards ring any bells for anyone?

It’s always stuck with me, with my antennae twitching when Oyster travel cards were introduced. I was interviewed for the job of project managing the introduction of Oyster across all London buses. I remember being told that the elimination of cash from public transport was a high priority. I didn’t get the job, but the statement stuck in my memory.

Fast forward a few years, and you now can’t use cash on London buses, but in addition to Oyster cards you can now use wireless transfer from your visa and debit cards, and now your phones. That strange Cyberpunk prediction is front and centre in millions of people’s lives now.

I’m actually a big enough geek to love the concept, despite everything. Will I be investing in an RFC-blocking phone case? Probably not as there’s not as yet been an issue with the cards in my wallet, but a sensible eye on the news may change that over time.

Encouraging People

wp-1462445086552.jpgAmong the wonderful things that happen in my life (whether or not I appreciate them) are the opportunities to encourage other people’s writing, or to engage in collaborations. This last week has rather unexpectedly provided two opportunities for collaboration and an unexpected person to encourage.

The latter was a person on a placement with us at the library. He’s been working with us over the last few months, and has always been reserved – in no small part due to his being on the autistic spectrum. Still we were able to help him find his comfort zones in working in a public environment and along the way we found that he is working on a novel. He was just feeling stuck on how to progress from basic narrative to flesh out descriptions. This culminated in the pair of us taking advantage of a failed IT system to discuss block-breaking techniques, and some exercises he could try to work on descriptive elements as separate bits of work divorced from his story to get used to how he could find working patterns he was happy with, and then apply the insight to his narrative pieces. We discussed competitions and places to look online and in print for advice and opportunities.

On the collaborative side, I’ve been approached by two people for feedback and input on two very different projects. Both are way outside my comfort zone and have the potential to be both fun and very different. One is to help work on a pitch for a TV show and pilot, while the other is to collaborate as an illustrator for a children’s book. They’re both in very early stages as projects, and I’m excited to have the opportunity to be part of them. It’s going to be an interesting ride.

Now, if I could just summon up some self-belief in my own work and talents… Yes, I am aware of the silliness of that comment..!

So I’ve Joined A Gym

inspiredI’ve bitten the bullet and signed up for the gym run by the local authority just round the corner. I’d love to say that it stems from a deep-seated love of health and exercise and a desire to craft the body beautiful, but no – I’d be lying. Ever since my doctor put me on blood pressure pills my weight has started to pile back on again – and having had my back in spasm the last fortnight has reinforced my dislike of being unwell. I’m not saying the two things are connected, but I’d be silly to not consider the possibility.

Secondly my usage of Bydureon to manage my diabetes is dependent on managing to keep the weight off. If my weight hasn’t begun to go down again before my next check up in a few months then I’ll be put back on to daily injections of insulin and all the hassle and calculation that goes with that. That’s before we even get to the whole ‘stabbing myself with sharp metal every day’ element of that which I don’t want to get back to for a variety of historical reasons.

I already home cook most of my food, and I know that calorie counting alone isn’t going to cut it. I need to kickstart my metabolism, so a change in routine is called for. As I already wake when Lady M gets up to go to work, I plan to get up at the same time and go round to the gym to start my day. Even 30-45 minutes a day each day will give me some structure and get me started – and it’ll be early enough that I won’t be stressing about fitting it around work. I’ll be able to get on with my day.

So, a decision driven by fear and irritation rather than aspiration – but sometimes that’s what’s needed, especially as I know how lazy I can be. Oh well, what’s the worst that could happen? I just need to remember not to Google gym-based injury anecdotes or videos…

Things Lady M Says: Working From Home Edition

I always try to be a little circumspect about what I hear when Lady M is working from home – largely because of business confidentiality. I grew up in a vicarage, so instantly forgetting other people’s conversations is pretty much second nature, but every now and then Lady M uses some fantastic turns of phrase that I can’t help but grin to.

One of those was recently overheard while she was joining a teleconference call. I only heard her side of the conversation, but I’m guessing she was running a couple of minutes late because her opening words were: “Hi, I know, sorry about that, I was just so ingrained looking at a contract I lost track of time a bit.”

wp-1457738961251.jpgThe thought of being so engrossed in the material of a contract that you are physically entwined and mired in it’s very substance is a rather scary image – one worthy of almost Lovecraftian imagery of being swallowed up whole by arcane tomes written by giggling prophets of elder gods. It’s the sort of thing that Terry Pratchett would mention when writing about the Library at Unseen University, where unwary students would be overpowered by the magical books they were browsing. All that would be heard would be a brief scream and one of the books would be found looking smug and perhaps with a few extra pages between its covers.

Lady M has legal training, so she does pore over her documentation with a keen eye. She regularly confounds retail staff by actually reading all the terms and conditions before actually signing anything, and so this image of being utterly ingrained in a document… actually works – even if I suspect she meant a combination of other words like immersed or engrossed. Now, as long as she doesn’t start getting text randomly appearing on her forehead, I’m sure it’ll be fine. I’ll just be keeping a close eye on the books around us to be on the safe side…

Updates, Updates

Another chunk of the Wartorn Chapter Five write-up has just gone live. Large bits of this section of the campaign are inspired by the old Temple of Elemental Evil supermodule and it’s follow-up Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil. I’ve been adapting material to the Eberron setting and adjusting the actual menaces to try and match the extremely large party of experienced adventurers currently assaulting it.

When you have seven players and their average level is higher than the original material was aimed at it leads to a number of challenges. Most published material assumes the groups will be smaller and so scale accordingly. Part of what I’ve been doing is adjusting the numbers and difficulties of encounters – or replacing them wholesale – to create a challenge that still keeps the players engaged.

To some degree the relatively easy level of some of the initial bits of this section has served to dull the paranoias of the group, so that when the rug is pulled, or encounters are tricker than expected, it grips their attention more. There’s also a deeper level of reworking going on that a couple of the players have started to notice – a recurring set of villains with unknown motivations that suit the otherworldly threats. Some have noticed the ongoing Lovecraftian nods and drawn their own conclusions. As ever, I shall enjoy listening to them panic and make up their own scenarios so that I can cherry-pick ideas…

Nothing to See Hear…

I’m still a little restrained in my ability to get around, but it’s definitely less awkward  and I’m hoping to reappear to my desperate library fandom on Saturday. No doubt I will be met by paperwork and indifference and experience plenty of opportunities to wreck my recovery all over again. Still, it’s better than being confined to the flat, engaged in stretching exercises.

Okay, I’ll admit it’s been a little easier than that – I even managed to get out to #Tuesday under my own steam, which has been a good measure of recovery. Lord S was continuing his epic exploration of different things to have with his Guinness, and this formed a major set of talking points and attempts to steal his drink. So far he’s tried his pints of Guinness with blackcurrant, a shot of gin, a glass of port, and a shot of amaretto. I’ll keep you informed of his progress and any requests for a replacement liver. If you have any suggestions for me to pass on, then either leave a comment or suggest it in person…

Following a number of conversations, I may be extending the Things Lady M says to the rather cheekier Things the Ladies M say. I’m pretty sure that puts a honking great target on the back of my head, but I’m sure it’ll be worth it when I remember to make a note of the wonderful things they all say in the heat of the moment…

Oh, and we’re up to the third bit of the Chapter Five game write-ups now with The Ruined Port – so that’s there if you fancy a look.