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

Meeting The Family

This weekend was a celebration in my family of my parents’ Golden Wedding Anniversary – fifty years together and still teasing each other every day. The venue was a hotel near Box Hill in Surrey that we’ve used for various celebrations over the years.

The twist was that Lady S was also invited along, marking her introduction to my wider family in a somewhat wider scope than I’d ever anticipated.

I’d pushed for an invitation when they were first planning the event, partly to make the point that both Ladies M and S are important parts of my family and I wasn’t willing to sacrifice them. Given how my relatives are spread out around the place it made for an easier way to demonstrate that despite our unconventional relationship, no one involved in it had three heads.

I’m pleased to say that we had a wonderful evening celebrating my parents and catching up with each other. My family is generally one that gets more talkative and garrulous as the drink flows,and it’s safe to say that Lady S got a good look at where my storytelling comes from. We didn’t get to talk with everyone, but Lady S was happily welcomed right from the start, and our collective nerves rapidly settled.

Lovely food, good company, and a very late night as we opted to drive there and back rather than stay over – partly because of our nerves before hand in case things didn’t go well. And now… relax…

St Alban’s Comiccon

I had a very long day on Sunday, but I’m glad I stuck to my guns and guested with Squad UK at St Alban’s Arena. We had a table to display props, so I grabbed as many as I could and loaded up the car. Lady M has unfortunately got the summer cold thing that flattened me last week, so I left her sleeping and pootled around the M25, not entirely sure what I was going to do for parking – but determined to wing it.

Once I’d parked in the Maltings and ferried boxes and cases to the venue I eventually managed to find the others in the pre-opening set up confusions and we set about sorting out the table.

Now, I enjoyed the event immensely, but there were issues with the venue. It’s a theatre, not exactly designed for bustling stalls and tables. There was no air conditioning, though we were lucky enough to grab a window location so could get a breeze or two. Far worse though was that the venue was totally unsuited for people with mobility issues. Access routes were narrow, we were on the first floor with no lift access, and I only saw one disabled toilet in the building.

The staff were friendly, even if some of the organisation was a bit…vague… but most importantly we had a good turnout, and I rarely stopped talking all day with families about our props – and how simple techniques and tools could make outstanding items.

We had masks and headdresses, bodices and pieces of Halo-style armour. Cigars and cigarettes, wands and guns, hearts and sunglasses – and people were amazed at how light but sturdy most of these items are. All day long we talked about layering fabrics or working with foam and card – and encouraged people to take photos of friends (or selfies) with the props.

By the time we packed up and hit the pub afterwards my voice was croaky, but it has resparked my enjoyment of cosplay and events far more than I thought it would.

And I have a new challenge. I’ve agreed to make a new gender-bent cosplay: Poison Ivy. Watch this space…

Musings on a weekend

It’s been a busy couple of days. Work on Saturday was steady, with few problems bar some ongoing issues with the building that prompted me to leave irritated emails for Property Services to find when they got back after the weekend. We were short on staff, but kept our spirits up, managed to get a Pride display sorted, and generally had a good day.

Layered mask over rubber wolfsface mask

Sunday saw me travelling down to Portsmouth to attend a masquerade event with Lady S. As I was meeting her from her work to head straight there, this meant that I walked the sunny streets of Cosham and Drayton suited and booted with a walking cane and wolfshead brooch on my lapel.

Compared to the people half-falling in arguments out of pubs, newsagents, and off-licences I was therefore a little overdressed and conspicuous. It led to some bemused frowns of concentration on some faces. If they could have seen inside my bag, with its masks, paddles, and assorted elements, those frowns would no doubt have been even more confused.

The event itself, on its second anniversary of running, was a lovely celebration of humour, friendships and general debauchery as you might expect, and we were both glad we’d pushed through nerves and tiredness to attend. It was a late night, all in all, but I knew I could catnap on the way home.

The one thing I hadn’t planned in was the torrential rain that hit while I was on the train home. It’s my own dumb fault for not reading weather warnings. All I can say is that walking from the station in a suit was a refreshing experience..!

And so back to work – a short but eventful day, and a body that I’m not sure if it’s aching from being in the rain, or from exertions!

Pride: We Were Not Ready

We’ve been meaning to go to Pride in London for ages, but never got round to it, usually because somehow it always seemed to be on either when I was working a weekend, or had a prior engagement. This year we determined was going to be different.

Was being part of a throuple part of this? Yes, a little I’ll admit, along with having started to go to munches and engage with the wider LGBTQ+ community rather than rolling relatively solo (so to speak). It’s brought us to know a more diverse and vibrant set of individuals and hear their stories.

From doing so, it became clearer that with so many more important problems in the world than who loves who, it is more imperative than ever for us to stand up and combine celebration with protest. To be a voice and representative for those unable to do so, or who would be at serious personal risk if they did.

So Pride it was, with some fellow cosplayers from Squad UK, and the promise of a glorious hot day. We thought we were ready. We had water, sunscreen, hats, and a rendezvous at Oxford Circus. We were there a little early, and got to see the crowds rapidly swell to fill streets normally thronged with shoppers and tourists.

Being the centre of London shopping, everywhere was decked out in rainbows. Tube stations, shops, buses, you name it, with many shops deploying extra staff to encourage people in out of the fierce sunshine. Somehow that just made everything seem more vibrant.

More and more families appeared, multiple generations to support and cheer on the parade, and everyone was just… relaxed. People of all shapes, sizes, ages and origins chatting, sharing jokes and observations, making room for each other, encouraging and supporting people. It was lovely, and heartwarming.

But it was very, very hot. I’d love to report that we managed to stay for the whole parade, let alone attend any after parties or shows, but the need for food, more drink, and shelter from the heat, let alone a break from the crowds, left us reeling away about halfway through.

We eventually ended up at The World’s End in Camden to meet some other people from Squad UK to celebrate some birthdays, and Lady M got to watch England beat Sweden before we made a break for home.

All in all, what a positive and extremely packed day. We will definitely go again, better prepared now that we have a better idea of what to expect. We were not ready!

Portsmouth Comic Con

IMG_20180509_123418_839 (4)Last weekend, the three of us descended on the inaugural Portsmouth Comic Con for a weekend of cosplay, comic book geekery, and board games. Nearly a week later, we’re all still exhausted, which is why it has taken me so long to write it up.

The two-day event was held at the Portsmouth Guild Hall – an impressive building just outside the city centre next to the station with a large open square in front of it across from the Council offices.

Lady M and I opted to stay at the Premier Inn just across the road – while Lady S was on dog-watching duties at her home in the evening with most of her family away. We approached the weekend with a mixture of excitement and trepidation as it was the first convention we’d gone to as a throuple (I guess that’s a word now). Everyone has their own way of engaging with conventions, so part of it was a concern that we’d be pulled in too many different directions – and there was also a small fear about how we might find any stress about being out and about in public together. As it turned out: none at all. We did, admittedly, confuse some people in restaurants and local pubs, but that was more to do with our being in costume rather than anything else.

IMG_20180509_123418_831We were very pleasantly surprised at how well the event was run. First-time conventions have a reputation of suffering from problems as part of a steep learning curve. We were happy to findĀ instead efficient and courteous security and ticket management staff – and a well laid-out floor plan that was accessible and made good use of the wonderful building it was housed in. Food and drink was reasonably priced – though on the first day there were huge numbers of crowds which made for long queues.

Even so, everyone we spoke to agreed that it was really well done and great fun to be at. What differentiated it from some of the bigger Cons, like MCM, was the focus remaining on comics and creators. There were loads of big name artists and writers, with a strong focus on independent creators. In many ways it reminded me of conventions I went to in the early nineties – in a good way. It was friendly and felt a celebration of pop culture rather than just an opportunity for big names to show off merchandise and upcoming features. That, as much as anything else, made it memorable and fresh – and we were overjoyed to hear on the Sunday that the event had been so successful that it would have a follow-up next year.

IMG_20180509_123418_837 (3)We all went in cosplay on each day. Saturday I took the work in progress that is my Captain Jack Rackham (based on the pirate featured in Black Sails), Lady M went as Rizzo of the Pink Ladies from Grease, and Lady S went as Kitty Owens – a gender-bend play on a WWE wrestler called Kevin Owens. With the addition of a set of kitten ears, gloves, and a tail bought from one of the stalls inside, this cosplay became Kitten Owens.

Sunday saw a switch around. I reprised my old favourite: Harley Quinn; Lady M brought her work in progress Mad Hatter; and Lady S donned a wig and gown to grace the stage as Lady Sansa Stark from Game of Thrones.

On the Saturday we’d discovered the free games tent in the grounds of the Guild Hall, but Sunday we settled ourselves there for a good portion of the afternoon as we were all pretty tired from our wanderings and exertions on the first day. Joined by Lady B (a friend of Lady S), we played the Plague Inc board game and spent perhaps a smidgen too much money on new board and card games to share with friends and family in future visits.

I won’t go into how much we spent, but let’s just say that Lady M didn’t have to haggle hard to get a discount each day we were there.

IMG_20180509_123418_830 (3)As if that wasn’t enough excitement, Lady M and I took leave of our senses and entered the Cosplay Masquerade competition. This involved getting up on stage in front of a hefty proportion of the Con while we were in costume and talking about ourselves and why we cosplay. We didn’t win, but we did have fun, and that’s absolutely the whole point of the exercise.

The Masquerade was run by Go Geek, and all credit has to go to their Master of Ceremonies forĀ  running a smooth operation of getting upward of thirty people up on stage, interviewed briefly, and then off stage again to make room for the next with a seemingly unending stream of patter and humour that made it a delight both to engage in and to observe.

IMG_20180509_123418_834 (4)It was a blazing hot weekend – the first May Bank Holiday – and those wearing wigs or hats (most of us at one point or another) were very glad to find well ventilated and shaded areas through the day. From our conversations with various guests and fellow convention-goers we were not alone in this. Paradoxically the only place that didn’t have shelter was either side of the main stage where we queued for the Masquerade.

It made the decision to slip out of the event and retire to the nearby Wetherspoons pub very easy. There, we engaged in the traditional cosplay activity of confusing everyone by not acknowledging that we were dressed any differently from anyone else. Its a tough job, but somebody has to do it…

So – a successful weekend with plenty of laughter and fun. Now the focus is on getting ready for MCM London at the end of the month. In particular we’re working on our group cosplay based on Black Sails – the poly triad of Jack Rackham, Anne Bonney, and Max. Its going to be great.

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 Quietly Busy Day

We finally have hot water again, following a packed morning of helping a plumber dismantle the old leaky one, bundle it down two flights of stairs, and carry the new one back up. The old one had been failing for a while, so the sense of relief at not having to shore it up any more is gratifying.

Lady M had taken a day’s leave following her triumphant tour of the TechBritain ’16 event at Stamford Bridge. Rather than representing the company that pays her wages, she was there by invitation of the organisers under her online persona of TWITT (Today’s Women In Tomorrow’s Technology).

Lady M has been championing this event focusing on diversity and futurism in the technology sector ever since it was announced. In conjunction with the organisers she was even able to provide discount codes for attendees and has already had discussions about speaking at next year’s event. Even so, I don’t think she was prepared for the warmth of her reception there, or how many people knew her by reputation already.

Rather interestingly, there did seem to be a significant number of people who were surprised to learn that she was a women. A hefty percentage of men there had assumed that as some of her tweets and articles had a technical focus she was male. You can imagine, I’m sure, the saltily arid comments Lady M made to those individuals, let alone the smirks among those who witnessed the exchanges.

Despite fighting off a migraine, Lady M/TWITT has come away from the event inspired, confident, and clutching a handful of contact details for an impressive array of business and thought leaders in the UK technology sector and I suspect that the ripples of her actions and commentaries will continue to upset and inform a number of apple carts for some time to come.

So I think our afternoon in the pub with Lady G was a fair reward for her ongoing awesomeness, and as a celebration of the return of some basic amenities. Time for a shower I think.

The TWITT Twitter can be found @TodaysWomenInTo
Lady M’s Twitter can be found @JoLMaidment
The TWITT blog can be found at http://twittcomblog.wordpress.com

Bank Holiday Weekend

wpid-IMG_20120731_233143.jpgOh it’s been a good weekend – between the trip to see friends on the South Coast and an afternoon and evening on Monday of good company, good entertainment and comfortable levels of refreshment. If I hadn’t thrown my back out, it would rank as a pretty much perfect start to the week.

The back injury – before anyone gets excited – is pretty minor and just across the base of the spine around hip level, rather than the major spasms I occasionally get that lock up my entire upper torso. In a landmark of heroic actions, I was merely bending down to pick up some clothing off the floor when the muscles went ‘twang’.

Fortunately I have a healthy supply of painkillers, muscle relaxants, gels and heat pads to hand, as well as the skull-topped cane which always fascinates onlookers. Handy hint, dear reader, if you are tired of people asking what you’ve done to yourself, use an ostentatious cane and let them get distracted by its appearance.

The Wessex Pistols – I may have mentioned a few times before – have a cowpunkabilly sensibility and the flyers for the event had suggested people dress up to join in. This may or may not have been prompted by conversations with the band at their last gig where our cosplay contingent got very excited about the thought of us all just turning up as a motley collection of characters. We considered the gauntlet thrown and so most of us went for some variant of cowboy/girl, pirate or punk in our dress. Well, most of us at our extended table anyway. The Ladies M and Lady A went cowgirl, Lady P went punk, Lord S went Skapunk, I went piratically Assassin’s Creed, Lady G declined to dress up, and my daughter (The Charleesi) went as a bored teenager.

This is what good times looks like
This is what good times looks like

The gig started in the pub garden and moved indoors at half time when the weather turned, and I have to admit I was flying somewhat with the combination of painkillers and beer which made me really not care about the bad back any more.

It was a grand afternoon of silliness, in-jokes, refreshments, and good company – especially when the band set up right next to us for their acoustic-ish second half of the session. There were a fair few people who hadn’t dressed for the occasion, so it was good to have several of the band come thank us for making the effort. We’ve all been there so frequently that it would seem that they were not even remotely surprised that we would.

Eventually people had to drift away as the evening drew on, but it felt too soon to let it end. So that’s why we went and saw Civil War afterwards. Good film, great fun, plenty to geek about and it has fuelled more than a little conversation at the subsequent #Tuesday.

A good time had by all

A Eulogy For Eddie

We’re finally home again after burying Lady M’s father. It has been exhausting, and we’re still on a rollercoaster as we try to sort out his estate. I was asked to speak for the family at the funeral – to give his eulogy – and with their permission, I’m posting it here this evening.

The first time I met Eddie, he looked me up and down, furrowed those mighty eyebrows, and said: “Who are you?” It wasn’t meant rudely, but it certainly made a lasting impression. At the time I’d just moved in to a flat-share with his daughter: Joanne. We weren’t dating, but a father’s protective instincts are never far away.

The second time I met Eddie, it was to ask for Joanne’s hand in marriage. I once again got the long look. Then there was a little nod, and possibly the driest commendation I’ve ever heard came my way:

“Just remember – she’s not just for Christmas right? You can’t bring her back if she starts running rings round you.”

These two short encounters illustrate so much of what made Eddie so unforgettable. His dry humour and love for his family were rivalled only by his ability to make friends wherever he went, and by his huge generosity of spirit. Everyone knew Eddie, and he usually left a trail of smiles in his wake.

He was never slow to help the people around him. Trying to track him down for a conversation often started with my being told he’d “just popped over to see so-and-so”, or that he was ” fixing something for someone”. As you can imagine, this was sometimes more than a little frustrating for his family, especially if they were trying to get something of their own fixed, or something sorted out.

It will probably come as no surprise then to hear that as we’ve met people over the last few weeks, the universal reaction to the news of his passing has been shock and genuine dismay – particularly among the ladies of the town: his ready wit and silver tongue seem to have left a trail of flirtation and teasing wherever he went.

We can only imagine that Barbara is feeling his ear right now and giving him a round telling off.

The last time I met Eddie, he was finally at peace. The pain and loss that had marked him in his last years were finally lifted. His relaxed features looked proud, and in the raising of his two amazing daughters – Jo and Suzanne – he has every right to be.

However we remember him – with love, affection, annoyance, or gentle smiles – his greatest achievements are here in this place with us now, and for that we are all truly grateful.

So, goodbye Eddie.

Rest easy.

You’ve done well.