Clanning Together

The last few nights I’ve been playing Destiny with boy s and Lady B. We’re each one different platforms due to the wonders of cross play. I’m on an XBox, Lady B on a PC, and boy s on a PlayStation. We’re using Discord for voice comms and it’s turning into a nice semi regular end of an evening bit of fun.

We’re using a Clan I set up back in the first Destiny game to help organise our Roster, and it’s another good example of how tech can be tangled in new combinations to bring us all together – albeit this time united in the desire to shoot aliens in the face and dance in the middle of battlefields.

Admittedly it’s now one in the morning but as I had my Moderna booster shot this morning my arm is currently very stiff and sore so I can’t settle anyway. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. I spent a fair chunk of this afternoon dozing on the sofa.

So, that’s why I’m blogging a little later today as I try to switch my brain off and curl up with Lady M. Here’s to a quiet day off and a body that continues to more or less behave for a bit

Podcasting Thoughts

I’m getting used to the process of quickly recording snippets of podcast that are based off these posts, and despite saying to myself that I would only do a couple of recordings a week, I’ve ended up doing at least one a day. For the most part I’m seeing it as an accessibility sidebar – another way of burbling away into the void. If people come along for the ride then all the better but I’m not monetising it and its purely being done for the fun of it. If for some reason, this all tickles fancies enough that people start crowding to hear and read things so that it gets to a point where I need to start investing in bandwidth, well then I’ll consider looking at some sort of premium chargeable content. For now though it seems somewhat ridiculous to think people are going to consider paying for my two or three minutes of rambling.

Looking at the statistics after a week, I appear to have seven unique listeners. Well, I guess it goes without saying that you’re unique because you’re people – and if I’ve just uncovered a cloning operation then all hail our genetically engineered overlords (that’s the right phrase isn’t it?) Considering I’ve put no thought or planning into any of this I’m frankly surprised I’ve got even that many. Apparently three of you are sticking around long enough to register as repeat offenders – sorry, I mean listeners – as my ‘audience’.

Well. Hello. Isn’t this cosy? Apparently most of you are listening either on Spotify or on Apple devices and its good to see you out there.

I’m thinking of reading some of my short story materials from the site as extra or alternative content – if only to give you a respite from the trivialities of my blog. If I do, I’ll likely set those up as a Season Two and continue the blogging-based updates as Season One. Who knows, maybe it’ll spark some periodic content as a season – winter tales to shiver to or something.

Oh, one other bit of site-related news: we’ve this week achieved our highest ever yearly reader figures. That’s a quiet point of pointless pride – thank you to all the regular readers – of whom there are apparently about 650 or so, but I haven’t dug that far into the stats on WordPress.

Anyway – I have, at least, made it to the weekend after what has been a bit of an odd one as weeks go – and I even have a semblance of humour intact. So that’s happened, which is nice.

No Rest For the Wicked

I’ve just spent the last couple of days compiling my first article for the Surrey History Centre, and it is centred around our experiences as a polycule, banding together in the face of the first lockdown. It seemed appropriate with the news of the emergent omicron variant to reflect on how we got through the early days, and supported each other. It’s a couple of thousand words – about four sheets of A4 if you’re trying to picture it – and is a whistle-stop tour of how Discord and social media became a way of making our own virtual bubble even while apart.

Of all the things I might have expected to come of it all though, I don’t think I really expected to be as forthright when talking to strangers about things as I am now. I’ve always been more of a people watcher when in new surroundings. I tend to open up and gather my storytelling largesse once I know who I’m talking to instead – or at least to waffle as a smokescreen. I’m under no illusions that part of that is a trauma response gathering and redirecting attention where I want it to be, but I digress. A large part of living with, loving, and knowing the people I do has been accepting that I need to speak up and educate where needed – and sometimes that’s in the strangest places.

This weekend, that turned out to be in the back of an Uber with a very talkative driver from Sri Lanka as I made my way to catch up with the folks at the Excel. Over the course of our meandering journey, we exchanged elements of our life stories and then I started to talk about my extended found family. I challenged his expectations about sexuality, trans people, and relationships based on my own experiences and the tales I’ve had shared with me – and delightfully he was curious rather than hostile, listened and learned. While he didn’t totally understand, he was able to ask questions that weren’t insulting.

Even maybe six months ago I wouldn’t have credited myself to have the courage or wits to engage in this way with someone, let alone a cab driver, and especially not about matters of sexuality or my own personal life. This may come as a surprise to some, given my penchant for speaking up or about things without any apparent concern – but that’s something I’ve been practicing hard at over recent years – overcoming my natural reticence. What was different this time was that, other than a brief pause to mentally shuffle the cards in the right order to provide context, I didn’t feel any concern. If anything I mentally rolled my eyes at having to explain my situation to round out the statement and challenge I was about to make.

Thankfully years of counselling and the various counselling-adjacent training I’ve had have helped me marshal points succinctly and retain some distance mentally while engaging in these conversations. Far more important in getting to this point though has been the hours and hours of no holds barred conversations we’ve had among ourselves in the DDC and among our friends circles. I wasn’t so much regurgitating points previously discussed as being able to be mindful of nuance that might not necessarily be obvious.

We ended our journey amicably, even though I’m sure there are a few new grey hairs in my beard after some of the more erratic driving manoeuvres we did in Central London – and he learned a new phrase: “having an inquisitive mind”

Coming at the end of a fourteen hour day though, I was glad to stumble out of the car and into the arms of my loved ones. I was wondering if I would actually get any reset this weekend.

Out and About

After a long day of work as one of the senior staff on duty, followed by my regular biweekly Saturday evening counselling session, I eventually made it up to the Novotel Excel for a little before midnight to join the rest of the household. It meant that I could be with them for day two of the Social In The City event – and while it just isn’t my thing, it was a delight to see how excited boy s, the niece and nephew, and the cub were. I did the coat holding and bag-carrying thing as my brain weasels were in revolt, and my stomach decided to flare up – but that didn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the people watching. If nothing else, seeing the hero worship reactions was both delightful and entertaining.

For her part, Lady M went into shameless networking mode with the youtubers and podcasters in attendance. Her positivity and directness looks to have nabbed a number of high profile LGBTQIA commentators to participate in future discussions, and I can’t wait to see what comes of those contacts. It was a rare chance to see her at work in that aspect of her passion project: namely, the identification and planning of future content, and ways to widen conversations and discussion. Her Two Women In Tech podcast (available all over the place but start with Spotify and Apple) and her wider TWITT projects are deeply personal, and related to her belief in building people up and opening opportunities. That’s why it was lovely to see and hear the enthusiasm on various people’s faces as she told them about what she was doing and invited them to take part. I shall await the results with interest

For my part, to settle my nerves and rest my aged aching body, I settled near the coffee stall and edited up an old sketch on the laptop in between retrieving lost children as they disappeared and reappeared without telling anyone where they were off too.

Yes, there will be a tshirt

Its one I did with a variety of metallic ink pigment ink pens a few years ago on black craft paper. I tried an edit at the time but could quite make the colours pop, but this time with some filter layers and light rendering on the filter layers I was able to bring more a vivid flame flicker to match the lines. I also resampled it in slightly different proportions as it originally didn’t quite work in my eyes. I’m much happier with the new proportions and resulting better clarity of facial features that have resolved while working on it.

I might not be feeling great, but I can take some measure of satisfaction in being able to create and produce images that catch the eye. It’s particularly enjoyable as a reclamation of skills I’ve not felt able to use in a while – and is especially warming when the act of revisiting an old piece I’ve discarded creates something better than it was when I started.

But I digress – we all got home and my body decided it wasn’t going to cooperate any more, so I’ve spent the best part of the late afternoon asleep and trying to settle after a broken night. I’m getting very tired of being ill so regularly. Hopefully the various investigations under way will pinpoint what the problem is so we can deal with it.

Sudden Remembrances

I’ve been meaning to catch up with myself with regard to the Surrey History Centre and the conversations I had back in August about submitting material. I finally got round to it today in between meetings and crises.

I wrote back at the time, a little about how at the beginning of the first lockdown we looked for ways to create a safe lgbtqia+ online support space for ourselves and it seemed a good point now to revisit that and write it up as an essay and commentary for the archives. The SHC agreed, so that’s my immediate writing project sorted, and one that I will try and keep some momentum on over the next few days.

If nothing else it will be a good procrastination piece in between my various other deadlines.

On a whim, I then asked if they’d be interested in my journals and sketchbooks down the line. Apparently as a resident of Surrey, and an employee of Surrey County Council, and a member of the SCC LGBT Staff Network I am of triple interest to the archives and so they would be delighted with anything I pass their way.

So, without being in any way morbid, I guess I’ve found a home for my journals and other books when I don’t need them any more. It raises an interesting image of future historians trying to make up theories about my art and writing as illustrations of these weird times we’re in.

I quite like the thought of that.

Morning All

It’s that quiet moment before the household properly wakes. I can hear very little from outside thanks to the new double glazing, but I’m sure life is quietly bustling.

Here indoors though, I think the cub is rousing and is probably playing Geometry Dash on his PC. Lady M is probably asleep on the sofa (it’s my turn there tonight), and I have boy s asleep on my chest, face softened in slumber.

I’ll have to wake him in a bit as he has a flat viewing to go to – the search for a place for him and the cub to call their own is on in earnest now.

It’s otherwise looking like a busy day. We have a new cooker being delivered this afternoon so I’ll start looking to make sure access is clear for that, and I’ve just had email confirmation of work approving a hybrid work car through a salary sacrifice scheme which is a bit exciting.

Right, the day beckons. I can see daylight.

Yes, I’m Old

This isn’t going to be one of those posts bemoaning the youth of today or my not knowing who any given YouTuber may be outside the limited circle if my interests. There’s no qualifier to that statement. It’s far more fun leaning in on people’s inability to accurately tell my age and making statements that leave people frowning and doing some mental calculations.

For a good few years the revelation that I have a daughter (The Charleesi) who has not only graduated from University but is holding down a full-time job was enough to prompt variants on a theme of “but you don’t look old enough!” What can I say? Good genetics and marrying young seem to have made me, for now, a bit ageless in appearance?

Or there’s the look of confusion when I mention I’m older than Google, or indeed the world wide web – or inform the cub that I’m nearly five times older than he is.

I’d have thought the copious amount of grey and silver in my big bushy beard was a bit of a giveaway, but maybe some people think it’s just highlights or something.

Perhaps it’s just having reached a relatively fearless point in my life where I’ll happily tease people or play word games that veer into strange territories that make people wonder if they actually heard me correctly.

As long term friends will attest, even that is nothing new. Maybe one of these days I’ll end up being the dirty old man in the corner that no one pays any heed to.

It all sounds rather exhausting.

New Tech Please

Lady M and I decided that Christmas would come early this year as the home IT setups were frankly ancient. My collection of ancient laptops are practically steam powered, while her desktop PC is a Frankenstein’s Monster of salvaged parts from my old kit and occasional extra bits bolted on over the last ten years. Want to talk about Theseus’ Boat? I have a modern-ish day example propping up a desk in the spare room.

It all rather got pushed to the fore by the cub monopolising the spare room with his PC, and my increasing frustrations with trying to run the gaming sessions through www.dndbeyond.com and www.roll20.net with a side order of www.syrinscape.com for good measure – there may have been regular swearing and frequent use of theatre of the mind to keep people occupied while waiting for things to load. By the same token, Lady M’s podcasts and blog work had been utterly derailed by the presence of our beloved goblin.

And so we went on to Lady M’s employee perks website to see what discounts we could find, set a budget, and smiled sweetly at the credit card. It is some measure of how far we’ve come in the ten years of our marriage that we have the budget to do this and not break down in sweaty tears at the cost and guilt of spending money on ourselves.

So, a little delayed from the initially promised delivery date, we’re busy setting up and engaging with various projects that we’ve had on hold for some time. The cub is serenading us from the other room as he plays Geometry Dash and makes up his own theme tunes, and its a pleasant backdrop as we sit in geeky, nay nerdy, bliss on the sofa.

It’s also a much needed distraction from today’s date and the many firework explosions outside. I’ll need to venture out later to retrieve boy s from his workplace as he’s on a late night covering an event at Thorpe Park – though Lady M has offered to do that as a kindness, depending on how rambunctious the cub is. I may take her up on it given how broken my sleep was last night.

Your friendly neighbourhood dodgy wizard, perhaps..?

Oh, one particular joy with this new piece of kit is that it’s a convertible HP Envy, which means I can fold the screen back and the machine turns into a tablet – it has even come with a stylus pen that I had to charge up earlier.

It felt rather rude not to test this and take advantage of the form factor, so I scribbled a little something earlier – the WIP version can be seen in the Instagram feed on this page, but the final version is here in all it’s dubious glory. Cheery old geezer with possibly a wand of some description, and the world’s bushiest eyebrows.

I’ve even updated Scrivener and transferred all my files over and it takes less than an ice age to open the app and documents now – so I’ll restart editing the short stories to get back into the swing of things – again, a good distraction.

I was tempted to have another crack at Nanowrimo this year but launching myself at the intensity of that straight from nothing would be setting myself up to fail – so short stories it is. I really need to get back into the habit of writing longer pieces than these blog posts on a regular basis. Trying that while also battling the black dog wouldn’t be a kindness, so while I don’t have a deadline I can move at a slower pace.

As the saying goes: what’s the worst that could happen?

Feeling the Elements

There’s been some pretty changeable weather today. It started with sunshine as I walked the cub to school, despite his sulk at being required to do so. It then got greyer until it began to rain as the three of us went to pick him up in the afternoon.

Somehow I had neglected to put on anything with a hood, so I embraced the elements and strode into the sweeping wind and rain. I joked that at least I wouldn’t have to worry about my hair needing to dry before we headed out again.

This evening we were back to calmer climes as we headed to Shepperton for Lady M’s birthday, but the temperature had noticeably dropped. I had at least learned from my earlier mistake and worn more layers.

Must be winter or something

Quiet and Tidy Day

With cub back at school, and boy s visiting friends, Lady M and I have had a couple of quiet days tidying the flat, getting rid of rubbish, playing games and catching up on TV shows.

More significantly we’ve ordered a new cooker to replace the original fitting that gave up the ghost a couple of months ago. I’ve almost forgotten the luxury of cooking with an oven rather than just the grill and rings on the top (which is what we’ve had to cope with) I’m looking forward to having more options again when shopping for groceries.

We’ve also ordered some new laptops using Lady M’s work discount so better tech for creating things is coming… they’re early Christmas presents, and I can’t wait for their delivery.

Still, it has been lovely having boy s back home this evening, and the cub had friends from school round too, so not such a quiet end to the day but still a delight.