Birthday Shenanigans 2018

Lady M was in Germany overnight last week and I got a text to remind me that her flight would get in about quarter to seven in the evening. It was closely followed by another text saying that I would also need to pick up my next present from Sunbury station at half past six.

A little context here: we’ve developed something of a tradition where we give whichever of us has a birthday a present on each day in the week leading up to it. They don’t have to be big or expensive, they’re just little things to cause a smile or excitement each day.

I had half an idea already from other comments during the day that something was being plotted, but when someone’s having fun with a surprise it’s rude to delve too deeply and ruin it all.

When I traipsed round after work to the station, there was Lady S – who had come for a long weekend visit as a birthday surprise. Time was tight so we hurried to get her bags back to the flat before racing to pick up Lady M.

Our extended weekend (aside from working Friday), included a Wessex Pistols gig, supporting Lady P at the Musical Chairs event in Camden, and a photoshoot in Bourne Wood despite plummeting temperatures.

I have been very spoiled by friends and family this weekend, and it has certainly been a birthday to remember. Thank you everyone

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.

A Naturalisation

Last year, as weird and wonderful election results gave everyone adrenaline dumps for a variety of reasons, two things happened: 

Happy July 4th
I spent a lot of time swearing under my breath, and on one memorable occasion here. And, by way of contrast, Lady G decided that after nearly thirty years in the UK she should probably get around to applying for British citizenship. A year of application forms, a written test, a number of expenses, and a few worried evenings of nerves later, she received the news she had been hoping for – and so yesterday Lady M and I were invited to support her at her Citizenship Ceremony. The irony of a US citizen becoming a British citizen on July 4th was not lost on any of us.

I’ve always felt a bit bemused by the concept – unlike Lady G’s native USA, we’re not generally fond of flag-waving nationalism bar a bit of silliness at The Proms or events like The Olympic Games. Walking into a room adorned with the Union Jack, gold-trimmed chairs and fittings, and a selection of traditional martial music was therefore both a little surreal, and yet…

…it was also deeply fitting, for a given value of Britishness.

The Deputy Mayor, in full regalia, presided over the ceremony – the candidates could choose to swear by a deity of choice, or affirm for themselves – and the people taking part were all ages. Everyone had family and friends with them, and yet what could have been a deeply informal and uncomfortable ceremony somehow retained both lightness and gravitas.

My only real snark was that a lot of the address felt like a tourist board advertisement for the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead. I’m a harsh critic perhaps. 

This is beside the point though. Lady G was beaming and practically floating through it all. Her face lit up the room when presented with her medal and certificate. Everyone taking their oath that morning was similarly energised and enthused by the moment. I am at one and the same time a hardened cynic and a hopeless romantic, and that latter side resonated enough to make the former admit the value of the moment.

And then we had tea in the mayor’s chambers – and true to local government tradition it was the worst cuppa I’ve had in a long time. I’m including in that scale the diner near The Lizard which hadn’t changed its burned coffee filter in a decade. 

Welcome, Lady G, to Britishness.

Winning Ways

I know I can write. I know I can write well. I know I can move and thrill and amuse people, often within the same piece. There’s still nothing quite like having it confirmed in a competition.

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I entered one this month, largely from having a couple of friends flag it on Facebook. It started by being challenged by Lord Danger, who had already had a crack at it, and by Ladies M and G, who keep an eye out for this sort of thing.

It was a simple enough thing, to write a short story based on a picture. In this instance it was a road traffic sign with a picture of a fairy on it. How could I turn that down?

I scribbled a quick piece over coffee, did a quick couple of edits as I typed it up, and submitted it, and thought no more about it.

This weekend we’re visiting friends, and I glanced at my phone as we arrived to see a torrent of notifications. The first was from Lady G, ecstatic on my behalf but with no explanation as to why. The second was from the competition owner, telling me I’d won first prize.

It hasn’t really quite sunk in yet, but there’s a quiet little glow of confidence that’s quite different from what I get when I sell my non-fiction articles. I knew it was a good story, it felt like bottled lightning as I committed it to paper, and it made me smile to complete it.

So that’s all worked out well.

You can find the results and the winning stories at http://thecultofme.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/april-short-fiction-contest-winners.html so go have a look, enjoy, and picture the daft little grin on my face this morning.

So, Awesomeness Happened

It was my birthday on Friday, and it was a good excuse to let our hair down and party like the proverbial madmen. We’ve needed it. I’ve needed it. You may have noticed a distinct lack of writing the last few weeks, and that has been entirely down to finding it incredibly difficult to bring myself to do any blogging at all because of the ongoing stresses and deep anger of what this year has thrown at me and the people around me this year.

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I could have used this blog to rage and rant, but I think you would all have found it getting rather boring pretty quickly. I don’t like airing dirty laundry in public either, taking the approach that anything posted here could be news front page copy at any time and biting my tongue accordingly. The discipline and honesty that comes with posting under my own name is both a challenge and headache sometimes.

So Lady M and I took this week off to do some decorating in the flat, have some downtime that didn’t involve solving other people’s crises, and do things that made us smile.

My birthday was on Friday, so after a sedate morning of gifts and wall painting, we headed up to central London and a real ale session in a pub not far from Euston station. We were later joined by Lady G for a few drinks, a wander across town to get food and then back to Maidment Towers for more gossip, a single malt or two and a binge watch of Netflix until about 3.30 in the morning.

Gloriously unaffected by any kind of hangover (I know, sickening), we dropped Lady G home, decorated some more, and then went to The Plough in the evening for a meal and a Wessex Pistols gig. In a sort of surprise move, Lady M had invited a motley crew to join usĀ  including the Charleesi, the ex-Lady M, Lord Danger, Lady P, and friends old and new. The band sang Happy Birthday to me, we shouted abuse back, we all had a glorious time, and hats got stolen.

We also came up with some ideas for this year’s cosplays at MCM. Should be interesting…

So, all in all, an epic weekend that also included taking the Charleesi to see Deadpool, many new books, and finding something positive to write about for the first time in several weeks.

Now to keep the momentum going.

The Big Party

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Lady M’s Saturday party was a huge success, thanks to the kindness and dedication of several people, and a willingness to really go for it on the costume side of things. For example, the Charleesi composed a Spotify playlist that the landlord agreed to play through his PA system. Between this list and a later one used by the pub, there was a huge amount of singing. Some of this has made its way onto social media.

Two of our guests (Lord and Lady H) arranged for a birthday cake and cupcakes to be made, based on Robin Hobb’s Farseer trilogy. The gasp from Lady M when we revealed them made all the subterfuge worth it. Lady P helped source decorations and stepped in to provide last minute transport for a couple of guests who might otherwise not have made it. My younger brother, Lord Demonic, entertained and kept the spirits and wine and beer flowing, and the pub served up a great buffet that both fed the troops and didn’t bankrupt me!

As for the costumes, well pretty much everyone threw themselves into the fray. We had an R2D2 and C3P0 couple, The Doctor, Merida, Ursula, Caitlin Snow (from The Flash), Arthur Dent (complete with towel), Jane Bond and her glamorous toyboy, Captain Jack Sparrow, a gangster, a couple of Bollywood stars, Clark Kent, and a survivor of the zombie apocalypse with more than a little bit of red on him.

The landlord and bar staff took it very much in their stride. Many of the regulars were extremely bemused. We all had a great time, and then went our separate ways.

It probably comes as no surprise that Sunday was very, very quiet…

Happy Birthday Lady M

We’re back home from a lightning run up and down the country to visit Lady M’s family, and it feels like we’ve been relentlessly partying before we even start today. By that I mean we feel exhausted and liable to have bits fall of at any moment. The drive up and down the M1 was notable for its roadworks and the most amazing fog that made the journey feel at times like an attempted flight from Silent Hill.

But I digress, and from the grin on her face this morning Lady M is rather enjoying levelling up today. Her presents have ranged across a whole swathe of her favourite geekdoms and some will no doubt accompany her to tonight’s visit to The Plough to be shown off. Shenanigans are bound, as they say, to ensue.

Now, we just need to shake off the migraine she’s woken up with. I’m thinking a brass band dressed in 80s neon – what’s the worst that could happen?

Waking Up Cambridge Part One

So this weekend just past, was my youngest brother’s thirtieth birthday and invitations went out to all and sundry to come and join him in a celebration of thirty years of this unique brand.

A Tip of the Dashing Hat
The Think Nick Salute

Under the banner of ‘Think Nick’ we were informed that the theme was ‘Gentlemen Explorers – Be Dashing’ and so the challenge was set. Private online groups were abuzz with plans for ballgowns for the ladies and a variety of hats, canes, monocles and periods of dress examined with the express purpose of defining whether they were dashing enough. Eccentricity has always been a hallmark of our family at the best of times, and a somewhat theatrical flair was expected from all.

In general the most accepted time periods to reflect seemed to gel between the Victorian Era and the Roaring Twenties. As we assembled we had military surplus jungle adventurers, Lara Croft, mystical fortune shouters in fezzes, slightly gothic Edwardian seers, and stout English Gentlemen with panama hats and righteous tweed suits.

Dashing Gentlemen Defy The Cambridge Traffic
Dashing Gentlemen Defy The Cambridge Traffic

Its fair to say, that we attracted a lot of attention. People took photographs. A lot of photographs, come to think of it.

People didn’t quite know whether to stare, giggle or run away. A few brave souls did all three, while the police took one look and ignored us – correctly noticing that we were utterly harmless and not causing any offense or dismay to anyone. Given the number of sword-hilted umbrellas on display, this was something of a relief.

Some of the people that we encountered as we wandered through the streets thought that we were a form of street theatre, so we ended up singing with buskers and posing with small groups of lost tourists. It seemed only polite really when there were so many cameras being brandished. Cambridge as a city seemed to be quite unsure of what to make of it all, and that was before we began the scavenger hunt.

A list of concepts needed for the scavenger hunt - including fun and the colour white
The Conceptual Scavenger Hunt List

Of course, being the event that it was, there was no way that this was going to be an ordinary scavenger hunt. Of course not; this was a conceptual scavenger hunt.

Concepts such as Happiness, Fun and Something Spectacular all had to be presented in some way, shape or form to our host as we settled to eat. All of this therefore required even more photography of our exploits as we found ways to express them. In the event it all came down to a tie-breaker – which ended up being a beat-boxing competition.

Suffice to say, dear reader, we won…

 

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