Birthday Gathering

We managed to get most of the DDC together this afternoon in East Brighton Park to celebrate the birthdays of Mre B and myr s – despite the best efforts of my satnav to take us along every B road between us and there rather than using the motorways.

I chose to treat lightly its choice to direct us through the village of Faygate, or to keep telling us to “stay straight” along the road.

I managed to dissuade Lady M from buying the complete stock of our local Tesco too, as she went into mother hen “feed everybody” mode. I’m not saying that her anxiety was becoming infectious, but I swear I saw people hurrying to buy what we’d left on the shelves like it was toilet paper at the beginning of lockdown.

There was a play park for the cub, a tree to partially shelter from the elements under, and cupcakes and a cupcake cake that ended up being served into cups for distribution. All par for the course really.

We’re home now, tired and glad of having had a quiet time together, enjoying each other’s company without feeling a need to perform or fuss. Nice.

Cat Herding for Beginners

We’ve got two people in the DDC with birthdays next week: myr s and Mre B so we’re trying to organise a joint socially distanced gathering to distribute gifts and just have a catch up. We’ve not managed to snag or kidnap absolutely everyone, but we’ll have most of us. Just not quite enough for me to produce dice and books and tell everyone to roll for initiative.

I’m not sure whether scheduling a game or a gathering is more tricky – its feeling about level odds at the moment.

A Wizard Weekend

We seem to have a growing tradition round here of not doing birthdays per se, but more birth weeks. It seems to match everyone’s busy lives and schedules, and is a great excuse for extended celebrations.

This week is my ex-wife’s birthday – the Former Lady M – and we decided to lay on a bit of a surprise for her – namely a visit to the Harry Potter Studio Tour just outside Watford. She thought we were meeting for a Sunday pub lunch, so the arrival of a few friends at the venue was her first clue that we were up to something.

Particular thanks has to go to the Charleesi, who steadfastly headed off enquiries about where the pub was, or suggestions that they drive themselves to meet us. Only the fact that she was ready before we got to the house raised the slightest suspicion.

In the end we had a lovely wander round. The Former Lady M started off with an attempt to look cool and collected and not at all geeky – but fortunately that didn’t last.

As things always seem to be developed or changed every time we go, there’s usually something new every time. This time there was a special focus on fashions and design in various smaller displays throughout the tour – leading to more than one cosplay-related conversation along the way. They’ve also just opened the Forbidden Forest, complete with weather and lighting effects, and one or two animatronic moments.

Along with the Platform 9 3/4 section, this demonstrates what I hope continues to be a continuing immersive and interactive flavour to the tour’s development. I shall observe future expansions with interest.

Celebration Time

Even in the middle of crapness, people keep insisting on having parties and celebrations of significant life events. It’s almost as if the universe doesn’t give two figs and insists on proceeding on its way. How depressing must that be for people trying to ruin things for everyone else…

So, two nice things in my microcosm today: Lady M and I were able to go out to the local Harris+Hoole so that she could have her old favourite breakfast: eggs benedict. Her diet while healing her ulcer has prevented her from having most of the ingredients of the dish, so the look of joy at the prospect lit the room.

Secondly, it was a friend’s 40th birthday today, so I went to fly the flag and we had a lovely barbecue under bright cloudless skies. I met some great new people, and reconnected with old friends, and basically had an afternoon of chatter and nonsense. Great fun.

Just thought, after an extended period of grimness, that celebrating fun was a good thing.

Birthday Season

If there’s one thing guaranteed to make you do a double-take and wonder where the time went its the realisation that your children are all grown up – or at least have hit eighteen. 

We’re right in the middle of a short cluster of them with one of my neices, my daughter and my daughter’s best friend all reaching their majority within the space of a few short weeks of each other. The Charleesi is yet to have hers, but this weekend we had a gathering to celebrate her cousin’s birthday.

Surrounded by the extended family, she endured us with good grace, and it was a pleasant few hours on a gloriously sunny day.

And of course it’s a wonderful thing, but for myself and my brother B there was one short moment of looking at each other at the bar with a shared bemusement of “how did this happen?” There was self-conscious eye rolling, and a bit of shoulder shrugging, and then we got the drinks in to return to everyone else. 

I’d love to report that I was a sparkling addition to the party, but between the various strains going on and my perennial feeling of being the outsider I mostly people-watched and blended into the background. My neice seemed to be having a good time, and that was more important.

Another few weeks and, right in the middle of her A-Levels, it’s the turn of the Charleesi. We’ll see then if I’m any more used to the concept

Birthday Girl

“She’s how old? Bloody hell…” I was in a bar with W yesterday, catching up and chewing the fat – generally putting the worlds to rights.

“Yeah, 16. Can’t quite believe it.”

“16? Daaaaamn. Really? I remember you coming out and getting wasted with us when you first heard your missus was pregnant.”

“Hmm, sounds about right. But yeah, it’s her birthday, and we’re off to her mum’s for a barbecue tonight.”

“Yeah, that’s really good how that’s all come together, really pleased for you all.”

“Thanks, yeah, lucky I know.”

“I mean my little one’s just starting school and I’m like ‘how did that happen?’ but sixteen! Man…”

“She’s a formidable young lady; proud of her. She’s more focused on her GCSEs than partying right now, and considering the scrapes I’d been getting into by the time I was her age I’m damn pleased about that.”

“Hah… Yeah… It’s been what… nearly twenty years since we first met?” I’d love to say that the rest of the conversation was about my wonderful daughter who today is celebrating her sixteenth birthday, but we then wandered on through to all sorts of other things before we went our separate ways.

The Charleesi is universally acknowledged by all who know her as having inherited the best from both parents: beauty, brains, steely determination, creativity, empathy, and a tendency to roll her eyes at the gormlessness of people who should know better. The calm snark and quiet will to just get on with what she has decided to be the optimum course of action bely a gentleness of spirit that some mistake for docility, until they look into her steely eyes.

Proud father? Absolutely. Happy Birthday Charleesi, now let’s get the exams out the way and get ready to celebrate!


Weekend Chaos

Well, I’ve managed to write up last Monday’s game, so I guess I’ve managed to achieve something this weekend! A busy day of work at the library, unexpected hiccups in getting us all to Lady P’s birthday bash and then a slew of people being ill/unexpectedly tied up with family meaning we cancelled today’s game has at least given me some time with the Charleesi while she revises for her upcoming exams. We’ve had some lovely Harris and Hoole coffees, people watched and traded quips with various staff as they’ve popped their heads round to say hi and see how we are.

On the console front, I’ve been enjoying getting to grips with Neverwinter on the XBox One – I’m running around as a half-orc warrior, enjoying laying about me with a huge sword and soaking up the atmosphere. Charleesi has created a warlock, and last I saw was running around zapping zombies, and later this evening I’m provisionally booked in to spend some time with an ex-editor of mine as we test the multiplayer elements and see what carnage we can unlock. If that works properly, I’ll be suggesting a team up Twitch stream with Lady P or something, see how the MMORPG elements work.

So, all in all, a bit of a weird few days where things haven’t quite gone to plan, but where I’ve been able to make the best of the rapidly changing options available. Unsettling but fun enough I guess.

Oh, a special shout out to Warren – whose 40th birthday it is today – someone who has stuck with me on my weird and winding journey for far longer than is probably safe, wise or intelligent; been my Best Man, and a very tolerant landlord. Anyone who manages all that and still calls me up to come over for a Chinese takeout with his family deserves all the applause and good wishes we can give him 😉

Birthday Discordance


It was Lady P’s birthday today, so we had to indulge a family tradition and phone her at a very early hour to sing Happy Birthday as badly as possible to her voicemail. She’d popped round briefly the night before to have a chin wag, so we’d taken the opportunity to give her a card and her present, a beautifully striking pair of ear cuffs sourced from our great friends at Ollie Noble. The back of one of them is shown here. They’ll apparently be worn at her party on Saturday night, so I’ll try and remember to get a shot of them in action then.

The rest of my day was fairly routine, though we were upset to hear that one of Lady M’s relatives had been laid to rest today without our being told when or where the funeral service was going to be. We’ll make our own way up to pay respects now, but the assumption that we wouldn’t be able, or intend to be there is painful. Deep breaths and a reminder that the assumption likely comes from knowing how hard Lady M works and the distances involved in attending. This is the positive interpretation.

On a more engaging note, I was also modding for this evening’s Artyfakes stream, and a lively time was had by all. The events of #tabbygate shall not be things of which we speak. Many new #MadeUpModFacts were revealed, and some of the audience joined in with #MadeUpFanFacts, so nobody felt left out.

Lady M is still recovering from her infection, but seems in reasonable spirits otherwise. Hopefully she’ll be back in action soon.

Gaming and Modding

I’ve finally got round to writing up this week’s Monday game, and that heads up a new chapter in the Wartorn game – what’s a fantasy pirate adventure without a few zombies?

The modding for Artyfakes seems to be going well too – at least, they keep inviting me back so that’s a good sign. One of the things I’ve been doing, partly to keep the chat channel moving and partly to remind people that the show is moderated has been to throw in a series of fake facts with the label #MadeUpModFacts. These have generally made people smile and seem popular as I’ve retweeted them.

Examples include:

  • #MadeUpModFacts The chat channel is kept scrolling by tiny mice who live in the wood pile
  • #MadeUpModFacts Slenderman currently has three restraining orders against Ludd, who keeps trying to put Tabby’s zombie daffy duck mask on him
  • #MadeUpModFacts The floor is tiled with off-cuts from the crew’s first attempt to build the British Space Shuttle
  • #MadeUpModFacts The overhead camera is actually operated by one of Terry Pratchett’s box imps drawing very quickly
  • #MadeUpModFacts Some say Nic’s never been seen in the same room as The Stig…

I’m sure you can see a certain surreal pattern emerging. As a writer it’s a great exercise in throwing out quick snippets and it helps me get on with my own writing by simply getting me to write without worrying about context, continuity or even sense. Those come later when I dive back into the dialogue and descriptive sections.

A gentle evening's carnage
A gentle evening’s carnage

Last night I was online for roughly half of the show, before diving off to help celebrate a friend’s birthday at a local pub.

This turned first into a game of Cards Against Humanity, and then a long rambling night of music, dance, wandering conversations fuelled by many, many drinks. I’ve seen a post by someone else who was at the party today, saying that we should get a survivor’s t-shirt made up.

Tonight’s activities, I suspect, may follow a similar pattern – I’ll be covering the first part of the stream from around 6pm before leaving them in Lady P’s delicate care to take Lady M out to a live music night of cowpunkabilly mayhem with the ex-Lady M and the Charleesi. What’s the worst that could happen?

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.


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