Out and About

After a long day of work as one of the senior staff on duty, followed by my regular biweekly Saturday evening counselling session, I eventually made it up to the Novotel Excel for a little before midnight to join the rest of the household. It meant that I could be with them for day two of the Social In The City event – and while it just isn’t my thing, it was a delight to see how excited boy s, the niece and nephew, and the cub were. I did the coat holding and bag-carrying thing as my brain weasels were in revolt, and my stomach decided to flare up – but that didn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the people watching. If nothing else, seeing the hero worship reactions was both delightful and entertaining.

For her part, Lady M went into shameless networking mode with the youtubers and podcasters in attendance. Her positivity and directness looks to have nabbed a number of high profile LGBTQIA commentators to participate in future discussions, and I can’t wait to see what comes of those contacts. It was a rare chance to see her at work in that aspect of her passion project: namely, the identification and planning of future content, and ways to widen conversations and discussion. Her Two Women In Tech podcast (available all over the place but start with Spotify and Apple) and her wider TWITT projects are deeply personal, and related to her belief in building people up and opening opportunities. That’s why it was lovely to see and hear the enthusiasm on various people’s faces as she told them about what she was doing and invited them to take part. I shall await the results with interest

For my part, to settle my nerves and rest my aged aching body, I settled near the coffee stall and edited up an old sketch on the laptop in between retrieving lost children as they disappeared and reappeared without telling anyone where they were off too.

Yes, there will be a tshirt

Its one I did with a variety of metallic ink pigment ink pens a few years ago on black craft paper. I tried an edit at the time but could quite make the colours pop, but this time with some filter layers and light rendering on the filter layers I was able to bring more a vivid flame flicker to match the lines. I also resampled it in slightly different proportions as it originally didn’t quite work in my eyes. I’m much happier with the new proportions and resulting better clarity of facial features that have resolved while working on it.

I might not be feeling great, but I can take some measure of satisfaction in being able to create and produce images that catch the eye. It’s particularly enjoyable as a reclamation of skills I’ve not felt able to use in a while – and is especially warming when the act of revisiting an old piece I’ve discarded creates something better than it was when I started.

But I digress – we all got home and my body decided it wasn’t going to cooperate any more, so I’ve spent the best part of the late afternoon asleep and trying to settle after a broken night. I’m getting very tired of being ill so regularly. Hopefully the various investigations under way will pinpoint what the problem is so we can deal with it.

Well, That Was Amazing

Somehow we managed to get not only the polycule but some friends and acquaintances all together at Pride In Surrey in Godalming yesterday. What a day!

I made sure to find appropriate flags, a Pride gamers tshirt, and went to town on the beard with coloured hairspray to match the bi-flag. I got a lot of compliments, and I thanked my stars for the experience of creating my Obadiah Stane cosplay and the beard dyeing required for that.

We had to get there early as I was in the Parade, so we split and arranged a meetup point for later. I eventually found the way to the assembly area, chatting with various random people along the way. It wasn’t the most precise staging and organisation in the world but it felt appropriately anarchic for Pride’s origins – and soon enough we were winding our way up along Godalming’s High Street

It was my first Parade, and it felt good to be in good company and an atmosphere mixing joy, protest, and representation. Surrounded by work colleagues, associated organisations, and family groups, we brought colour and noise and cheering to a normally very sleepy small Surrey town.

What was heartwarming was the support along the high street from families and businesses alike. People of all ages and backgrounds wanting to see what was going on, and cheering along. It was all a very strange, as in unfamiliar, experience – and one that I want to be part of again – with extra performance next time.

Even slightly grey and misty weather didn’t dampen anyone’s mood, and in the polycule we spent a good few hours taking turns to venture out in small groups from our blankets and bags base to explore and meet people.

We may have bought more gin.

What was also wonderful was that there was a quiet section set away for young families which included stalls for support services and advice on health. The library was well represented, as were a number of other areas of both the County and Local Government organisations, staffed by volunteers.

I’d love to see more participation by other areas and teams, so I plan to advocate for that for next time – even off duty my brain keeps looking for improvements.

Long day short, a great day, especially coming out the other side of lockdown and pandemic, and especially with so many other Pride events cancelled. As I said to one of our Councillors: its a good start.

Mobile Anarchist Librarians

I’ve just finished the second of two days hosting the amazing Mobile Anarchist Librarian show which is touring with us this month. Created by Tessa Bide Productions the show encourages young guests to join in a theatrical exploration of stories and encourages them to take an active part in choosing how those stories develop and end up.

We’ve had two days filled with joy and imagination and the sound of families having fun – and it has made all the difference in raising the mood of everyone. The actors and crew worked incredibly hard in collaboration with staff at the sites on each day and I’m so pleased and proud of them all.

They’ve been long days, but a great example of working with partners. I even got adopted and given a badge of my own.

Back To It

I’m more or less recovered from tweaking my back, and so today was very much a heads down get the work done day. The wrinkle towards the end was stepping in to help close up an event at one of my libraries. I learned a couple of new skills in the process too:

Namely, how to fold up a gazebo; and how to fold up a caravan – as you do – the latter being the staging and inspiration area for the event that now moves to another of my libraries tomorrow. I’ll be overseeing that too.

The adventurers don’t stop.

A Day Out?

Lady M and I met up with the ex-Lady M, the Charleesi, and J today to visit the Richmond Gin and Food Festival – a last minute decision taken yesterday after the Charleesi spotted an advert.

Being a total extravert, I was champing at the bit to see some life, while Lady M was concerned about being out among people. Despite the nerves though we got to Richmond by bus and had our first real gathering of the clan in the open air setting of the Old Deer Park.

For me, the biggest excitement was that for the first time in over a decade I was able to afford to do more than just window shop. The reason for this is that my first wage from the new job came through this week. Between working full time and a significant uplift in pay grade it is a lot more than I’m used to seeing in my account.

So, rather than batting my eyelashes at Lady M, there was a lot more parity and confidence in being able to indulge in trying and buying the various wares on display. Money has been a major cause of worry over the years, so the knowledge that I had a budget that would give me room to breath was… unusual. As a result there was a lack of underlying tension to the day, at least as far as my brain and gut feelings were concerned.

And oh my, the food and drink were amazing. We have bought a number of new gins for the shelves, and I discovered that I love a good moonshine, or at least the wheat-based ones on sale today as opposed to the usual corn base. All in all, a really good haul, some nice memories, and I was well fed into the bargain.

Unexpected Sale

I sold my first original yesterday – I was on a Discord server chatting to people and posted a recent sketch I’d done to illustrate to the channel the sort of things I do. This led to an enquiry about sales, so I linked to my RedBubble site, assuming they might find something they liked up there. Instead I got a direct message asking to buy the original sketch.

This was an absolute first. I’ve sold tshirts and some artboard prints through the shop, but a physical artifact? I had to make sure they understood that this was in an ordinary notebook, and posted a picture with my fingers and the rest of the page for scale. This was deemed acceptable, and a price was agreed.

Me, worried?

So I bought a card on the way home to protect the piece of paper, and this morning sent my first physical sale off to its new home by recorded delivery.

I’m somewhat blown away. It’s one thing to hear people admire the things I scribble, but for someone to put their hand in their pocket for something I’ve made – well that’s kicked my imposter syndrome between the legs and no mistake.

I may even have included a free mini addition on the card, mostly because getting me to stop drawing is the hard part…

The Great Cosplay Punch-Up

One of the things I am taking encouragement from is that large numbers of my fellow geeks and cosplayers aren’t letting the lockdown get in the way of community, support, or even common sense. There are increasing numbers of videos doing the rounds of showing people’s makeup, or cosplays, and even stuntwork – and so we decided to pick up on it and combine all three. Its by no means a unique challenge – as of the time of writing I know of at least one other group who have released on – but with 46 different cosplayers presenting 51 different costumes, we think this is the biggest one so far. The original facebook post by TJC Cosplays can be found here, but I’ve uploaded a high definition copy here too:

Hope you enjoy, if only for the sight of me getting punched in the face to start it all off.

The full list of cosplayers and their instagram pages is at the end of the video – and here’s a copy to save you scrolling through – go have fun looking these people up as they’re an amazing bunch of people and I’m very proud to have been able to join in on all this together with them:

We’re also planning a follow up with new characters and extra faces, and I’ll post updates and results here as that takes off

Christmas Eve

“They read your site you know” I was warned – albeit a couple of days ago – of a vicar joining us for a family Christmas Eve meal at a favourite restaurant. I never know quite what to make of comments like that. The site is here to be read: it’s kind of the point of it really.

Today’s grand meal at The Italian Orchard has been a set piece of gathering together to enjoy fine food, good wine, and good company. Even with my mother deciding to stay home as a winter cold triggered her asthma there were eight of us around the table and we all enjoyed the little bubble of relative luxury and pampering that such a setting allows.

Writing and drawing? That’ll be me then.

The warning – such as it was – came of the other family joining us, the vicar of the parish that my parents are part of and her husband and son. Quite what this warning was meant to highlight is something if which I’m unsure: I’m told that my writing was found enjoyable, even if the route by which my blog was directed to her attention is as yet unclear.

“I love your drawings” I was told – and so we went from there. As the afternoon drew on my fingers began twitching for paper, so Lady M provided a notebook and I doodled away to let the daemons out – but quite why a warning was required in the first place I’m still not entirely sure. Perhaps there was a concern that I would be taken aback by someone knowing something of me – and of all the many things I talk about here it was nice to have it just be about my need to draw and illustrate.

My biggest frustrations come from having to throttle my creative impulses, so talking about my process, both conscious and unconscious, was relatively relaxing and eased us then into our respective small huddles if conversation as we indulged in the food and atmosphere before us.

All in all, talking about my artwork rather than my stories, or my relationships was probably the least contentious approach for all concerned. Perhaps the warning was more one to me of keeping the conversation to safer waters than delving into polyamory, mental health, or any other aspects of life around the dinner table.

Who knows – it was an odd injunction but a lovely meal and set of conversations where grand nonsense flowed and a great time was had.

And now for a quiet chill out and companionable silence as Lady M and I nurse our cuppas and collapse a while.

Community Event

One of the libraries I manage is right in the heart of its community’s high street, and so when an opportunity arises to be part of a wider event we’re very pleased to be able to help however we can. Last night was a Christmas Fair, and following the success of an impromptu involvement this year, staff volunteered to be more engaged and make a bigger contribution.

To that end we agreed to host Santa’s Grotto in the children’s library, and had a number of characters available for people to take photos with. We ran a crafts table, ran a lucky dip, had computers available for STEM software activities, and also just kept the library systems up and running for anyone who just fancied using the library.

We have a penguin called Pebble as our mascot

It went incredibly well, and I’ve been making sure to let the managers of the various staff involved know just how valued and valuable the volunteers’ time and efforts were.

It was a late evening, and everyone is back to work again this morning with various degrees of tired shellshocked impressions in their faces, but also with a huge morale boost for just being able to do something fun as part of the wider local community.

It was a good night

On a Boomerang

We had a lovely time at my cousin’s wedding on Saturday at a grand gathering of family. Readings were delivered by actors, music by string quartets, and the food was stunning. After the wedding, the day was spent celebrating at Hoghton Tower – and it was one of the grandest celebrations it has been my pleasure to attend.

It was also the Charleesi’s chance to introduce everyone to her boyfriend, Sir B and, you know what? He did well. They survived being plied with many many drinks without going over their limits, and given they’d had very little sleep due to train disruption that had got them in to Preston at about 1am, they were reasonably clued up and alert.

Being full time students in their third year, I’d expect nothing less.

It was good to see them properly as a couple too, rather than the hurried crossing of paths we’d had back in May at Comiccon. They’re good together, they’ve my nod of approval. It’s so easy to see how much they care for each other and are comfortable with themselves and each other at the same time. A true delight to observe.

Sunday we drove back home, dropping the kids back at university on the way, and today we just chilled until a few hours ago when we headed down to catch up with lady s.

We’re making good use of our holiday.