I had a chunk of memory fall out of the sky this afternoon and smack me in the back of the neck – which was already feeling stressed with my brain being in a weird space as it was. The chunk of memory was of being in hospital when I was first diagnosed with diabetes – or rather it was from a swathe of time early in the weekend that I just have not been able to reliably recall or reconstruct since all the excitement hit. This may be a bit graphic for medical type stuff, so if that upsets you please miss the next paragraph as it makes me squirm thinking about it. The chunk of memory seems to have been dislodged by reading an article today about a DJ who ended up in hospital with necrotising fasciitis.
I remember the fever and flu-like symptoms and my legs ballooning and turning red – I vaguely remember friends rallying round late night while waiting for an emergency appointment in the morning – I think? I don’t remember much beyond snatches of conversation, a blink of an eye and talking with a GP, then being sent straight to A&E. I do remember having at least one set of drips in – and my parents were there, and my being very concerned that something was even more wrong than the doctors knew. I remember that my legs were bound and wrapped in bandages, and yet as soon as I put my foot on the ground I was leaving wet dark yellow viscous residues on the floor in the shape of my feet – and I’m pretty sure the only reason I wasn’t shrieking was whatever painkillers were already in me. There was a sweet smell of rot – and I remember grabbing my dad as he was the nearest and saying – “All I can smell is rot, and I’m pretty sure its me.” And that’s the last I remember – at least until I opened my eyes with two surgeons standing over me and telling me they’d got my kidneys and liver working again, and did I know I had diabetes.
Sixteen years later, I still have very visibly dark scarring on my legs. I don’t know the details of what they had to do, but apparently they did it on the ward because there wasn’t any time left. We only really found out about what particular bug had decided to complicate the number of things that had all decided to go wrong at once by reading the charts and asking pointed questions. Apparently its the type of bacteria that lives for years in the body waiting for an opportunity to wreak havoc and could have been with me since my many bouts of tonsillitis as a child. No one knows, and frankly its not worth tracing back to find out.
My brain being what it is, I can feel and smell it all over again – even as a memory – as well as echoes of the pain, though that could just be the aches of being fifty years old joining in to spread the love. As I look down at my legs, it makes me ever more grateful both for the extra years I’ve had because of the swift actions of doctors, but also for the ongoing care of the NHS – even if it does sometimes feel like gentle bullying for my own good to keep me on the straight and narrow.
My brain has obviously decided that I can cope with this memory now – and perhaps its a timely reminder to not take anything for granted. I’m pretty sure my loved ones will say there’s little chance of my doing that – and that alone is something I’m grateful for.
My body has decided that I need to stop doing things today so other than a quick trip to Tesco to get essential supplies in (accompanying Lady M who had far too much energy today) I shall not be doing much of anything other than this blog, some reading, and possibly some Destiny to finish off the Seasonal Event Armour and Seal. As the only thing outstanding on that is finishing another five vanguard operations that’s a fairly low impact goal.
Tomorrow is the anniversary of the Portsmouth Geek Retreat opening, which we were there for, so we’ve cobbled together a plan to descend there in the afternoon for our D&D session – or as much of one as we can assemble. As I write this I am idly working out the ratio of physical books to laptop and phone digital resources to comfortably transport – and of course all the dice so they can have a proper outing.
I’m not sure everyone’s quite cottoned on that’s the plan yet, but even if I just do a cut down side-bar one-shot it’ll be a good day out and something to treasure. Either way, the write-up will be entertaining as a huge amount of winging it is on the cards.
I’ve tried twice to throw this encounter in to the adventures of the last few years, but its never quite managed to either quite fit the action, or has been overtaken by events. The first try was during the goblin one-shot last Christmas where this aeronautic pirate crew were going to be the main villain of the action. We ran out of time on that one, so I kept the encounter loaded up in D&D Beyond as a spare. The second go was during the DDC’s trip on their own flying ship while in pursuit of a mad alchemist who had gone missing, presumed kidnapped. I ended up attacking them with barbarian halflings riding pterosaurs instead, because it fit the flavour of what they were up to at the time and hitting them with a second ship after that felt a bit crowded.
So – the scenario sits in my back pocket and now that the group’s levels have gone up I’ll need to retweak aspects of it. You may find the following entertaining though.
In essence there is a bunch of pirate/slavers with a flying ship. It’s pilot is a swashbuckler from House Lyrandar who works with a wizard, several toughs, a group of warforged, and a big net full of semi-tame mimics. Their method of attack is to fly over isolated settlements and dump out the mimics disguised as gifts which then capture and restrain prisoners so that the crew can descend and carry away their victims. The warforged work as a team to man a large ballista on the ship, only stepping away if needing to defend the deck – so typically all that victims and survivors see is a large shadow overhead, presents dropping from the sky, and then elves descending to steal people away.
This was unashamedly designed as a Christmas encounter. The other switch that wouldn’t necessarily come to light is that the crew is one big polyamorous polycule based on our player group – so the names were similar and the existing relationships and interconnections could be dropped into conversation or hinted at depending on the type of encounter being run. The option was to make this an extended running battle, or a group to be tracked on behalf of devastated communities. In writing this I’ve just thought of another way that this could be used, building on the origins of one lone kobold called Odif.
Anyway, hope this inspires you, let me know what chaos you unleash!
We had a dance company in at one of my libraries yesterday performing a series of 10 minute pieces based around the interactions of people on the doorstep – inspired by lockdown among other things it features love blooming between a shopper and a delivery person. Fast, funny, suitable for all ages, and a great way of opening up library spaces and the way people think about them. The series is called “Doorstep Duets” and its presented by New/Adventures – they’re touring all over the place so keep an eye out for them.
Libraries are being used more and more for creative purposes, and its wonderful to see new people coming in to experience them. We did a recent survey of the sort of activities people would like to see, and a striking number wanted to see performances and music more often. Between that and a resurgent interest in local history we’ve got some good places to start in reimagining how we grab people’s imaginations. There were certainly a lot of smiles at the performances yesterday, so that’s a good start.
One of the ways that I keep ahead of the players in my games is to design skeleton encounters that can then be slotted in more or less any order depending on where they go or how they choose to deal with a set of situations. For any given arc there will occasionally be bits I end up not using – and in this case due to the utter chaos of the assassination attempt on Thorin in the last few weeks I decided not to use the following scenario that was aimed more at a murder-mystery feel. Its a bit more Agatha Christie meets Dr Who with a side of murderhobo. It felt like it would be a bit too jarring on top of what they had already encountered.
So the unused scenario in this case would have had a series of mysterious deaths through the train – locked room mysteries where the victims all mysteriously died of a wasting disease overnight despite no previous signs of illness. Two of the passengers would begin to look suspicious – a distinguished elven general and his Undying wife – as it was worked out that they had all recently been seen talking with each of the victims.
In the end it would be revealed that one of the luxury suites was retained by a guest who has not been seen – a Deathlock Mastermind transporting three Mummies in a portable hole and using dimension door to access locked rooms. The Mummies under the creature’s control acted as muscle, rotting the victims while they were paralysed with fear and the Deathlock ransacked the room for an artifact wanted by its patron in the Emerald Claw. In the end the common thread of the murdered people would be that they had all adventured together years ago and it was rumoured they split in an argument over something they found.
With only one Mummy seen at a time, having three in the hole would allow for some misdirections and strategic scares with attention on the shambling horrors rather than the fallen warlock flitting around in the shadows.
Ah well – I’m sure its something I can properly develop for another time, but feel free to use and tweak the concept for yourselves.
We had a good transitional session on Sunday with the DDC. There were no battles, but we had a lot of opportunities for people to roleplay gently and develop their characters while they sorted out provisions and transport for the next portion of their journey to Thorin’s homelands. The lightning rail had deposited them at the town of Marketplace, not far from the border to Breland, and the beginning of the road to Cragwar to the South.
Farewells were made to travelling companions – passionately so in Valenia’s case – and tables outside a pub by one of the main market squares became an impromptu staging point for the group. Caeluma had their first chance to really stretch their new wings, and so took to the skies before finding a group of aarakocra merchants to seek their advice on the care and maintenance of wings and feathers. They learned the importance of dustbaths, and were sold some high grade dust for a luxury experience.
Meanwhile, Valenia and Arwan went in search of transport – observing various drovers and cart sellers before settling on one selling a range of draft and riding dinosaurs. The sights and sounds brought back fond memories of the Talenta Plains for Arwan, and it tipped the balance towards buying something called a Wideback with heavy plating on its back and a balled tip to its tail to pull the cart, and some clawfoot mounts for Arwan and Thorin so they could act as outriders.
Thorin, after a few drinks, went wandering looking for books – and after a little effort found that the mysterious lurid novels named after him had made their way here too. He signed a copy for the bookseller, who was a fan, and promised to come back and sign the new ones due for delivery soon.
Caeluma, perhaps unsurprisingly, found a new pet. In this case it was a mechanical mastiff known as an Iron Defender – a twin in design to the one they had fallen head over heels with when first meeting the Dean of the Faculty of Goblin History. He dug deep into his pockets, and secured it for himself, much to the bemusement of the rest of the group.
Kerne sat at the table all the while, with a mug of minted tea, and looked after everyone’s coats while they studied and reviewed their adventures.
Valenia also found a postcard to send home to her parents:
Last week was heavy going, for a variety of reasons that I won’t bore you with at the moment; and the tail end of the weekend was spent being anxious and tired and generally overwhelmed with life. It wasn’t until the early hours of this morning though that I decided I needed to have a time out. I had enough accrued time, no meetings booked in, and as far as I could tell nothing looming that couldn’t survive waiting another twenty four hours or so for my direct attention.
Eleven year old children, however, are no respecters of mental health time. I already knew the cub was coming over today, but I reckoned without the bright cheeriness and inquisitive soul popping his head round the door every half hour or so with some bon mot or repetition of a school in-joke that had him chortling and myself considering whether he actually needed both legs.
So I’m partially rested, and have done small household odds and ends and some grocery shopping without being tempted to look at my phone or log in to work email – so in the grand scheme of things it’ll do.
I’ve just had a text from Lady M to say she’s on her way home too. With the cub ensconced back with his favourite YouTuber streams and some chocolate milk I think the odds are good she’ll arrive back to a fairly intact flat. If I can just get this anxiety to give it a rest, that will be a great bonus.
It has felt a bit of a close-run thing, but the feeling of living in a blast furnace has retreated somewhat – and as I write this with the door open to the balcony I have a strong breeze ebbing and flowing in. I think there may be a storm on the way – or at least some bursts of rain. It has been interesting to point out to the cub that this evening’s temperature of 23C is nearly half what it was on Tuesday and before this week he would have been complaining that it was hot. He is still trying to wrap his imagination around the fact that Monday and Tuesday are the hottest that the United Kingdom has ever been since they started recording such things. I think he’s more used to reading about history than living through significant moments of it.
The cub has been staying the last couple of days as his school term finished yesterday about lunchtime, and boy s is working. With Lady M off the other side of London for work, I’ve therefore been balancing work with having a young lad around the house. He’s not quite old enough to be home alone, but the difference just this last term has made in how he’s growing up tells me he’ll be fine. For now he’s sat in the other room eating his supper before he goes to run around the estate a bit more to burn off some energy from being cooped up.
On the work front I’ve been getting more engaged with the new co-chair role for the LGBTQ+ Staff Network and meeting a number of stakeholders in the EDI work being developed by Surrey County Council. I’ve begun work drafting some training slides for an Allyship program we hope to roll out next year – on the basis that we need a starting point and I have the capacity and expertise to create some copy to begin the conversation. What has struck me is the enthusiasm and understanding of the importance of this work by so many people. It has been heartening to have level-headed positivity mixed with the pragmatic acknowledgement that there is no simple fix and there are a lot of hard conversations that need to take place.
I’m cautiously optimistic – and I hope that the need to be kind is something that can be nurtured and brought to bloom.
So, here in the UK we’re having a heatwave with temperatures pushing 30C as I write and warnings of 40 tomorrow. As I’m diabetic I’m keeping an extra eye on myself and keeping hydrated and as in the shade as I can so I don’t burn my shaved head and boil my own brain. Perhaps I’m not particularly exercised at the moment though because of my relative memories of visiting Florida a few years back during one of their heatwaves. You could tell it was hot because even the native Floridians were commenting on it and I lost track of the number of overworked air conditioning units I saw leaking everywhere.
Thinking more close to home however, I was reminded today that the last time we had weather like this was in the summer of 1976 – which for me remains the high bar of the perfect summer (at least judged through the eyes of four year old me) – the days were long, we ran around in very little. We had a paddling pool pretty much permanently up or being refilled. The garden paving slabs were too hot to walk barefoot on – but of course being me I made a game of how long I could run on them before either hopping into shadow or onto the dry crinkled grass beside it. I don’t remember burning my feet but I’m sure my parents despaired.
We had a dog – a dalmation – who very sensibly stayed indoors, or stretched out in the shade with a expression of “touch me and die”. He was a vicious brute, but he was our vicious brute, and he would greatly enjoy accompanying dad into the church to lie on the cool flagstones inside and keep him company.
Thinking about it, I’m pretty sure I’m mixing up memories of being older in a similar hot summer a few years later while living at a different vicarage but the basics remain the same. I can’t remember very much from my childhood – but hot summers definitely made their mark.
Is there a point to this? Not really, just sharing reminiscences born of the heat and how this weekend is largely spent doing very little, or appreciating the shade as I do things like take the recycling out or do battle in tesco to take advantage of their air conditioning. At least with no children in the house I can enjoy walking round naked in the flat while the water from my most recent cool shower evaporates. Now there’s an image…
There’s a project close to my heart that I’ve been slowly pushing forward over the last four to six months, and that started to gain traction today. I’m aiming to improve access to items helpful for people with sensory processing issues in both schools and libraries – essentially a range of tactile, audio, and visual objects that can help or ground people with Autism or Alzheimer’s. The idea is that loaning these items will enable people, their families, schools, and carers to identify what best works for them at a reasonable price.
Today we agreed a project brief, and proposed some time scales to put a pilot together with some partner groups. It feels like a very concrete first step towards something quite special.
I also dropped in to the Pride In Surrey hub in Woking to introduce myself with my co-Chair hat on, and had some brief conversations around the upcoming Pride event at Camberley. I may also have bought a new mug and a snap fan in the colours of the Progress Pride flag.
Various other operational irons were stirred in the proverbial fire, but I’m mostly glad that today actually felt like I was moving with purpose again.