Drowned Rat Mode: Engage

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Keep Calm and Use the Konami Code

So who ordered a whole month’s rain and forgot to space it out over more than one day? I knew I was going to have a busy day, but didn’t anticipate that I’d be spending most of it doing a reasonable impression of a water fowl.

In theory it’s been a day off, but I was up with the larks – or at least Lady M – to get down to the GP for a blood pressure test. Then it was a grind of renewing prescriptions (how is it I can fill a rucksack with my 3 month meds supply?), refuelling the car, and then heading out to get a birthday present for the ex-Lady M.

Now that part was easy, although the expression on the shopkeeper’s face was carefully neutral when I engaged him to ask for advice. The real difficulty was finding a suitable birthday card. I imagine it isn’t something that many people have contemplated, but look at the messages and humour and imagery available on your next pass through a card shop or aisle in the local supermarket.

I was looking for something tasteful but not twee, and a message inside that was either a blank, or generic, rather than a protestation of eternal fluffy gooeyness, or a straight up insult, or accusation of alcoholism. Jokes about old age aren’t my thing either, so that eliminated a whole host of options. As I looked at each option I had a voice in my head going “nope, nope, way inappropriate, nope, hmmm nope”. You get the idea.

Basically there seems to be a default assumption that cards are bought by family members, ardent suitors, or work colleagues with a suspect sense of humour. There’s not really anything for the “We used to think the world of each other, then it went wrong, and now after a few years hard work and tears we can be friendly again but never forget” crowd.

At least, with Charleesi having finished school, I was able to pick her up early for the weekend. It was just as well, because we both made the observation that the heavier the rainfall, the more other drivers’ IQ seems to drop. It was raining very, very hard. Did I mention that?

Apple Stores and Confusions

rednoseCharleesi’s laptop finally died late last week. It was a mid-range Windows machine, bought mostly for homework and that over the years has played many games, accessed the school’s homework and study resources, posted innumerable Facebook entries, processed many, many photos and generally taken the hard battering that a teenage girl’s general usage can provide.

With her GCSE exams fast approaching, this really couldn’t have been a worse time for it to fail, so with her birthday in mind we collectively had a number of conversations among ourselves and then took Charleesi round a few shops to compare laptops to buy as a replacement.

Her photography is stunning, and she wants to make a career from it. A photography A Level is planned, and every conversation about future plans mentions photojournalism, so one of the options we considered for the first time was an Apple Mac. This is largely due to the widespread adoption of Apple technology in media circles, something that sounds largely axiomatic, but was supported by Lady M’s experience while working for her previous employers. So that’s how we came to experience an Apple Store for the first time.

wpid-wp-1427066913510.jpegIt’s entirely possible that our two visits – the first to scope out models, the second to make the purchase – are still being talked about by the survivors. This is mostly because, due to a lack of signage or communication from staff, it took two visits to realise that we needed to talk to the people by the main pillars to get booked in to talk to anyone. Instead on our first visit we relied on Lady M talking louder and louder and waving her hands in the air more and more wildly until someone stopped running away and came to talk to us.

Our second visit was also characterised by a widening circle of staff as Charleesi, Lady M, the ex-Lady M and myself compared laptop models and tried to catch people’s eyes – so this time I stopped and watched the flows of people in the room – which is how I spotted the identically dressed staff with tablets rather than Iphones who seemed to have separate queues loosely assembled in front of them. There were no signs or other indicators of how to get served, and I had to practically grab and interrogate a passing staff member Batman-style to get confirmation that these individuals could book us in to be seen by the seemingly randomly moving staff.

Fortunately nobody called security.

So in the end, Charleesi came away with a brand new 13″ Retina MacBook Pro and the world’s largest grin, and as we sat in the Montezuma’s across the road she was observed to be quietly stroking and patting her new acquisition. Of course, being a Maidment, by the end of the afternoon she had completely jinxed the itunes store so that the passwords needed three levels of tech support escalation to resolve, but that’s pretty much par for the course for our interactions with technology (i.e., it tends to go ‘bang’ pretty often).

So, a successful resolution for her, and an unexpected critical hit on our savings, but she’s worth it.

Valentine’s Day

slide_398308_4904954_freeI’ve been heard to mutter a little over the last month or so that the selection of cards available for Valentine’s Day locally have been a little…fluffy. A little traditionally saccharine and safe perhaps – and not really a great match for the weird and wonderful ongoing whirlwind that is life in our household.  I may even have mused aloud on social media about the lack of cards mentioning concubines as an illustration of how safe and ordinary the usual ranges are.

Huffingon Post did have an article recently on honest or non-traditional cards that I enjoyed, and that seemed to answer my hopes for more interesting, but there wasn’t anywhere locally that carried anything in a similar vein and I didn’t really trust to ordering from Etsy for any of the examples in the article to be delivered on time. I may have been in a somewhat cynical mood, combined with the low shifts I’ve had recently.

I thought about making some custom cards up, and even had suggestions from my ex-wife on someone who might make some for me, but the last few weeks sped by without really allowing much in the way of time to make that happen. Yes, you read that right, suggestions on custom valentine cards from my ex-wife – being able to forge an amicable relationship post-divorce is a wonderful thing, I can’t recommend it enough where practicable – though it’s not suitable for all, I know. In the end, I did get some fairly traditional cards, and devoted the blank space to writing custom messages to light up faces instead. Maybe next year I’ll track things down on Etsy well ahead of time.

The great joy this year though has been the huge explosion of geeky valentine’s e-cards and graphics that I’ve seen online. Pretty much every fandom has produced templates featuring characters and puns based on their names or favourite catchphrases  – a particular favourite was from Frozen, with the words “I want to hold your Hans” and I did chuckle at the sight of a Monsters, Inc one adorned with the legend “You don’t have to put that thing back where you found it”.

Valentines Day itself has been a quiet affair – I took the Charleesi to her riding lesson as usual while Lady M studied, and we had a slow afternoon between games, reading and a session at the local coffee shop before heading home. One homecooked risotto later, we settled down to an evening of films, introducing Charleesi to Beetlejuice and Red2 as examples of great alternative Valentines Day films. There’s nothing like death, ghosts and explosive gun battles to round off a romantic weekend 😉

Here’s hoping you’ve had a great weekend so far, whether it’s been loved up or quiet and in your own space.

Celebratory Sidestep

We fought our way up into London yesterday evening, despite the best efforts of South West Trains, to join G+A for A’s birthday. It’s one of those culturally important birthdays involving a 3 and a zero, and A had resolved to confront this with the application of copious amounts of alcohol. By the time we got there, the assembled miscreants were several rounds of drinks in, so the atmosphere was convivial.

The journey itself was a bit grim. I tend to get a bit anxious about getting to places on time, so I was already a bit antsy before the train rerouted to avoid engineering works and it filled up with people also heading up into town. I had invited Lady P to come join us too, but she hadn’t felt up to it. Right then, I began to think she’d made the sensible decision.

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Bright young things mingled with drunken Scots men talking non-bloody-stop about football and hiring retired professionals to play in Sunday pub league games. There was the traditional idiot sharing his music with the train through his phone without the aid of headphones, and someone had opened a window somewhere to let the sub-zero night air in. Perhaps someone had farted. I found the sheer babble overwhelming and I was relieved when most of them buggered off at Clapham.

A very brisk ten minute walk got us to the pub on Blackfriars Bridge, and I remembered the last time I’d been there: my youngest brother’s legendary stag night pub crawl with him dressed as a dragon and the rest of us in full LARP armour as knights. I was pretty sure we didn’t get barred, and it was a good excuse to reminisce with G as we got drinks sorted. That event, nearly four years ago, had taken us from Waterloo on a meandering course towards the South Bank and Tower Hill and on to a mediaeval banquet. Tonight was far too cold outside, and the food and drink was good – particularly the Wadworths Chilli and Chocolate beer at 5.5%.

As we wound down the evening, there came the traditional moment where the emotional birthday girl got a bit scared of turning 30. The relative youngsters there commiserated with her, and then those of us who have been there, done that and worn the T-shirt so long it fell apart, told her to stop worrying and shared how much fun she was about to have now she was entering her prime – in particular the confidence to be who she was rather than how others may have defined her.

It’s advice I wish on some levels I’d had at her age, though given the depressive spiral I was in at the time I almost certainly wouldn’t have listened. It’s only really been the last four or five years that I’ve been well enough and comfortable enough in my own skin to take life on, so I do have empathy with her moment of existential horror. By way of contrast, I amused myself while waiting for a taxi by reading the Charleesi’s answers on Tumblr to a series of questions. They revealed a young lady who is far more self assured and confident than I ever was at her age

Car Repairs, Christmas Shopping, and Everything

Busy day this week, and no sign of the pace really letting up just at the moment. The library continues to be short-staffed and demoralised ahead of a restructure, so I’m just focusing there on keeping busy and helping to decorate for Christmas. I’m mostly managing to be supportive and positive, except where I have to try and bite my tongue. It certainly hasn’t helped that this week had a major disruption with failures in a data centre move that knocked out all the IT systems for two days.

Today has been more about my time however. We’ve needed to get work done on the car for a few weeks and really couldn’t put it off any longer, so I was in Staines first thing to drop it off and head into town to buy some presents. Some of it was final top-ups for people, and some of it was specifically for Lady M, so it was a good excuse to take my time in various shops and to try out a number of places selling coffee. I’ve been reasonably successful on both counts, with the added bonus that the actual cost of repairs to the car came to less than the quote they’d originally given us. Can’t complain really.

I’ve even managed to get this week’s game written up while I’ve been commiserating with Charleesi, who is in the middle of her GCSE mocks while suffering with an epic head cold. She remains cheerful with a side order of slight exasperation.

I’ve even managed to get some time to play on the XBox – with some time on the Master Chief collection playing through the Halo CE campaign, and a side trip to look at two games I bought at the weekend for the 360 – Injustice and Prototype 2. I think I shall be kept reasonably entertained between these games between now and Christmas..!