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.

What A Glorious Wedding

One of my cousins got married on Saturday. My own journey to the church bore more than a passing resemblance to the opening sequence of Four Weddings and a Funeral, up to and including driving past the church, last minute course corrections and getting there just before the bride.

Still, the service was good, the hymns melodic and the bride glowing, and with only a small amount of nervous map reading and navigation of one-way systems we were soon on to the reception. There, good food and drink and an increasing circle of new acquaintances was waiting – and hardly anyone got hurt or their food ruined when everyone realised their place holders were functional card planes and began throwing them everywhere. 

It was a grand evening, and I only had one mild anxiety attack midway through the evening as I became over-saturated with people. A short walk around the gardens, a contemplation of the empty swimming pool and the trampoline next to it, and I was back on track to be able to be sociable again.

It was one of those rare occasions when the whole family was in attendance – a gathering of the clan as it were – and I’ll have fond memories of the day for quite some time.

Edward and Rosie – congratulations, thank you for having us, and see you soon we hope.

Change of Plans

I’ve woken up this morning with, in the words of Mre B, no spoons. 

This is a reference to the imagery of one’s mental reserves being a drawer full of spoons, and as you interact with people or perform tasks you hand those spoons out. When you are out of spoons, you need to rest and recharge.

A geekier version of that theory, now doing the rounds, is based on the magic system in Dungeons and Dragons, and talks of spell slots instead. The idea can be thought of as a straight substitution, or expanded, because in Dungeons & Dragons spell slots can be different levels denoting different complexities.

All this sounds lovely, and does appeal to the geek in me, but it’s far too much effort for daily life – and especially when in a position of having low energy or lacking the capacity to deal with people and situations.

So I’m sticking with spoons, and the lack of them, in my drawer.

Today, this has manifested in our choosing not to drive an eight hour round trip to discuss something relating to our plans for a renewal of vows in five year’s time. 

Instead we’ve slept in and stayed under the covers with the intention of doing very little this morning. The people we were going to meet will call us back about midday and so we can meet that plan with less spoon expenditure, and possibly even some fresh ones back in the drawer 

It’s also why this morning’s story was not a continuation of the steampunk extravaganza. More bits of that will come, but I needed a break for a moment. 

The whole thing will get edited and compiled into a longer piece once the fragments are on the table – and hopefully will help demonstrate some of my writing process for longer pieces.
Right, back to my cuppa and book – currently reading The Copper Promise by Jen Williams, and enjoying it immensely.

Trying Something New

The last few weeks have been a fairly non-stop rollercoaster, both physically and emotionally. Even just factoring my life into things, its been hectic. My grandfather’s death was sudden but peaceful – he’d just reached the end of his journey – but the four days of his decline were made worse by the sheer distance between where we lived, and I wasn’t able to say a final goodbye. At the same time, the library restructure has been rumbling along during one of our busiest times of year. I’d contend that either of these stresses would be manageable although difficult on their own. Together, well then things start to creak.

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While the funeral arrangements were being made, we were on holiday. Although Disneyland Paris was an amazing place and we had a great time, the relative stress of engaging multiple languages and generally being around many, many people with different ideas of what constitutes personal space was very draining. At least the train journeys were relatively calm and easy, except where TFL were involved.

And then we have last week. We drove up to Blackpool for the funeral to keep some flexibility of movement, and straight into the water contamination problems they’re still experiencing in the area. The funeral and aftermath were as emotionally charged as you might expect – though fortunately my family are genial drunks when they get together, so other than rambling stories and the occasional bout of falling over things were pleasant enough. You know: for a funeral.

We drove back gently enough, stopping in on the way to visit our favourite Pixie at PhoenixxRising. That was a lovely moment of calm, despite the Blackburn roadworks, and much needed. Once we were home, there was a quick turnaround, a brief morning of getting the Charleesi’s exam results (even though we knew she’d do well, there was still the stress of waiting for them), and we were back on the road.

Now, while there weren’t any water restrictions in Hartlepool, we did find pretty much every roadwork between there and London. Exhaustion was already beckoning. I was the sole usher at the church (the other usher having been promoted to Best Man at the last moment, for reasons that were never explained and from the unspoken grumblings I’m probably better off not knowing). Lady M was chief bridesmaid, and walked her sister down the aisle so that her father (who has mobility issues following a major road traffic incident a few years back) could be involved at the front without risking a fall.

Lady M’s sister has Type 2 Neurofibromitosis, and has also recently been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. The two conditions are interacting with each other aggressively, so she has recently had to start using a walking stick as well. The church made plenty of adaptations (chairs, getting the bride and groom to sit as much as possible during the service) so this wasn’t a huge problem in terms of the flow of the day, but it was still hard for Lady M to see her sister, and by extension it was upsetting for me too. We made the absolute best of it, and steered my parents through some cultural aspects as we went “No mother, don’t start calling everyone ‘pet'”.

We found all the roadworks and the rain on the way back South the next morning. We got home and things started to fall apart. We both suffer, to greater or lesser degrees, from mood swings as part of our respective condition, as does Lady P – and normally one or more of us is in a reasonably good place when someone else is down, and so is able to support, cajole or otherwise kick the appropriate person up the rear end when they’re on a low mood swing. This week, between travel, exhaustion, grief, work and everything else, we all hit a low point at the same time.

So, we’re all retreating a bit, and trying to look out for each other while also fighting our demons and getting our heads straight, oh and getting back to work too. I’ve likened the experience to running along a building, turning a corner and going smack bang into scaffolding. It has hurt, but we’re picking our way through to get back on our feet.

And now it’s payday, I can afford a couple of treats, and I’ve just replaced Lady M’s Hudl with a Hudl2. My gift to myself has been a Bluetooth keyboard and case for my own tablet – and I’ve just written this blog on it. It seems to be working perfectly, which is nice. A new month beckons, with new prospects, options, and hope. What’s the worst that could happen?

I’m Tired

There’s a bone deep lethargy making everything just that little bit too difficult right now, and it is mostly a result of travel and grief. (It was my Grandfather’s funeral on Monday.) As a result I’ve not been blogging, writing, or doing much except travel up and down the country and drive Ladies M and P to distraction. They’ve only occasionally growled back, being themselves busy people, but to them, and anyone else I’ve breezed past or barged through over the last week or so, I’m sorry.

We have had good news this week, most notably in the Charleesi’s results. Her GCSE results came through on Thursday morning, and with an A* in Geography, 6 more As including triple science, and a B in Maths ( her least favourite subject), she’s romped off to enrol at college for A levels in Photography, English Literature, Biology and Geography. Being the perfectionist that she is, she was more irked at missing out on an A* for her English by a couple of points than anything else, but is ecstatic that she’ll never have to study Mathematics again.

Today is my sister-in-law’s wedding, so I’m trying to rest up so that I can be on top form to be an usher, and be a more gracious and outgoing person. I’m sure it’ll be a fantastic day, even if my anxieties are playing merry havoc right now. I’m currently looking out over the Hartlepool Marina, listening to gulls and the gentle lap of water against the dock. It’s quite a gentle way to spend a morning, so there’s a bonus

Happy Anniversary

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And now to play...

You know, as opposed to an unhappy one. Three years ago, as I write this, I think I was in a Starbucks with my father, getting drinks before cramming into his car to drive to Rowton Castle for my wedding to the redoubtable Lady M-to be. The nervousness was rising, but manifesting in my appearing more distant and reserved as the project manager in me picked off the possible problems and matched them to the contingencies we’d arranged.

In the end, there’s whole swathes of the day itself that I just don’t remember because it all went by so quickly. There are just some key moments: the panic on people’s faces when the doors stayed shut at the beginning of the bridal march; being piped to our first dance to the Halo theme; making the PA system virtually explode when I made my speech, and the sheer glorious expression of joy on Lady M’s face as we exchanged vows and rings.

I regret not seeing the Combat Morris Dance-off, which sounded awesome, but that’s about the only regret I have about the last few years.

We have an amazing, joyous life together. We face everything together, but give each other the space and freedom to be ourselves. We recognise that the flaws and oddities in each other are as part of who we fell in love with as beauty, humour and simple awesomeness.

That acceptance and wholehearted openness to explore life together and support and encourage each other through ups and downs only begins to scratch the surface of how rich and beautiful this marriage is.

We’ve a quiet night planned. I have steak and chips planned for a meal, and just sometimes that’s enough. Love you Lady M.

The Homemade Wedding Album

Its something of a work in progress but while we continue to try and get everyone else’s photos so that we can do something interesting with them, I’ve been taking a kind of scrap-booking approach to the book that we had everyone sign on the day. In between the various messages of congratulations, goodwill and downright whimsy, I’ve been pasting copies of the readings, photographs of people and other items connected to the whole event.

The Invitation
The Invitation, and some wedding favours

As a result, something quite odd and yet very…us… is coming into being. Its full of lovely snippets and memories, and the texts of things like ‘The Invitation’ by Oriah Mountain Dreamer, which was our first reading – but then I’ve also been drawing all over it, which as anyone who’s known me for any length of time knows means that there’s some pretty surreal imagery floating around in there. Not that there’s anything inappropriate – this is our book of memories of the day, after all – but this homemade wedding album is turning into something of a labour of love that I can keep working on in small increments through the weeks as new bits and pieces present themselves.

Pictures from before the wedding, and mention of the stag night
Scenes Before A Wedding

I’m also making sure to leave plenty of space for the honeymoon – whenever we manage to get round to that – so airplane stubs will no doubt get put in it at some point.

There’s a card from the Stag-Night-That-Wasn’t-Really-A-Stag-Night-Honest-Its-A-Birthday-Party Party, and shots of the Bride and Groom with appropriate attendants before the event itself (as seen to the left here), and an incredible amount of gold, silver and white pigment ink all across the black heavy grain paper pages. We’ve started threatening to bring it round to people so they can see it evolve, but I suspect this is very much going to keep growing and changing for quite some time.

The Meanings of Flowers and the Bridesmaids Assembled
The Meanings of Flowers and the Bridesmaids Assembled

And I think that’s a good thing, because it reflects the ongoing dance and evolution of our relationship and life. We’ve never really managed to do things in a traditional manner, what with living in different countries for a while and adopting a lifestyle that in some ways could be seen as a reversal of many of the gender stereotypes. Jo is currently the major breadwinner in our household, while I stay at home, cook, clean and earn some pin money with the writing while forcing myself to keep an eye on the endgame of getting the book finished and published – and for preference to start training for a counselling diploma. For now though, we have a homemade and evolving wedding album, to match the homemade and evolving marriage, and the symmetry of that pleases me.

(Re)Married a Week

This time last week I was driving home from Rowton in a car completely stuffed full of cakes, table decorations, overnight bags, suits, dresses, bridesmaids and, of course, Jo.

Lined up outside the castle with sword-hilted umbrellas
The Boys With Toys

We drove home through wind, rain and on one occasion just south of Oxford, snow, and kept bumping into fellow travellers from the castle at various service stations along the way. I even made security at Starbucks nervous by turning up with one of the sword-hilted umbrellas in hand from sheltering my daughter from the downpour outside.

And then we were home and we’ve got on with the general business of getting on with life, and sorting out all the other bits of paperwork that are needed after events like this – banks are currently processing name changes and jo’s passport and dvla registration are all lined up for updating too. Work for both of us has been steady, and I suppose its only now a week on that we’re starting to pick up with people just how cool last week was. For me, its been pretty much a blur – I can remember talking to a few people, and a lot of photos being taken but from the stories that are starting to emerge it seems to be being reckoned as a pretty epic event.

Somewhat reassuring after all the work that went into planning it… More to follow…

The Wedding Speech

I got married again on Saturday – you may have noticed me posting a few things about the preparations earlier…

It was amazing, even if before it started I got to that point of nervousness where I forgot how to fasten buttons or do a tie up. Loads more posts to come, but for starters, here’s the text of my wedding speech – minus the exploding microphone and the quip about breaking peoples’ daughters.

Wow… Thank you all for coming, I know it’s been a bit of a trek for some. Part of the reason we picked Rowton was that if we all had to travel, then it would be difficult for anyone to legitimately complain, but thank you all for making the effort, we really do appreciate it.

Thanks is a word I’ll be using a lot as it’s what I’m meant to be using this speech for. I’ll keep it brief.

One of the pitfalls of being a professional writer is that it’s easy to forget to write things for yourself rather than for an articles deadline. Warren asked me weeks ago for a copy of this speech so we wouldn’t talk about the same things.

The text I sent him last night was along the lines of: “wow, what a party! We’re having a great time, hope you are too. Thanks to everyone who’s helped, especially the castle. Aren’t the bridesmaids beautiful?”

I know I have my moments, but giving my Best Man such a short time to write his speech is pretty poor, so warren: sorry… But thanks for putting up with me. Again.

Biggest thanks of the day go to Jo of course. Several people have commented on how happy and relaxed I am. I couldn’t do it without her. So I’d like to thank her for a few things:

For being forthright and determined
For her patience
For her laughter
For her taking no nonsense from me
For making me smile
For letting me make her the centre of attention today
For agreeing to be my wife…

I’d like to finish by thanking the bridesmaids – for their charm and their poise – and for all their help and support. You’re awesome. So I’d like everyone here to raise your glasses and join me in a toast : to the bridesmaids!
Thank you

Valentines

Warning – there is likely to be some mushy stuff here, so if this offends or irritates – well there’s a big old inter-webs out there to go search for whatever combination of philosoraptors, porn or dysfunctional mocking floats your boat (seriously, I need to trim my various feeds to cut back on the number of photoshopped sarcasm posts hitting my inbox and facebook feeds)

Its Valentine’s Day – and its now only a little over two weeks to my wedding. T’other half had already decreed that I shouldn’t do anything for the day as I’d already done so much and was already giving her a wedding in a castle, but of course I recognised this as the trap that such pronouncements are (despite her strenuous objections) and have arranged for flowers to be delivered to her at work where she has been doing a sterling job of convincing people that she’s a hard-hearted slave-driver who isn’t really all that fussed about the upcoming nuptials – unless you count the excited daily countdowns and wide grins.

There are days where I do wonder what she sees in me, and similarly where she needs reassurance as to why I’m with her. Such reasons can vary from day to day and mood to mood, but some common themes recur and today of all days I think they bear repeating in public: I love Jo and am marrying her for her wit, her humour, her beauty, her stubbornness and outspoken bluntness. I love her simultaneous sensuousness and naivety in the face of innuendo; her geekiness and the cunningly disguised girliness that manifests in hiding this morning’s flowers in the car so that she wouldn’t start crying at her desk. Without her support I wouldn’t be as happy and relaxed and self-confident as I even pretend to be, and at the same time I deeply appreciate that we can both sit and play on laptops or consoles or read alongside each other without a need to be in each other’s pockets. Loving her, and being with her is easy – even with her knowing all my peculiarities, oddities, quirks and bloodymindedness – possibly even because she knows and accepts my many flaws.

Right – back to prepping for supper and a quiet evening in. In the meantime, I leave you with a short video prepared by a couple of the dark figures waiting to ambush me on the celebration that will be both my stag night and my fortieth birthday…