An Actual Bank Holiday Off

This doesn’t happen all that often: I normally seem to end up working the Saturday of any given Bank Holiday. The break couldn’t come at a better time.

The sun has been out, the Charleesi is staying the weekend, and we’ve spent the day at Thorpe Park for the first time in ages. (Spoiler: it was very busy). Tomorrow we’re seeing friends for a barbecue, and who knows what Monday will bring.

Even better, I’m on leave next week, and a few days away in Cornwall beckon. I need the recharge, and so far it looks like I’m going to get it!

A Day In The Park

I’ve had the unexpected pleasure of a visit from the Charleesi today, so after finishing a bit of work, we headed off to Thorpe Park to have another rampage. With it still only being June, most of the local schools are still in, so it wasn’t as busy as we’ve known it. There were a large number of school and tourist coaches on site, but the main car park was barely half full when we got there. Apparently this pattern has been fairly steady all week, so if you get the chance to go mid-week at the moment, take it – especially with the good weather we’re currently having.

When I say rampage through the park – I mean we went through pretty much every main ride that was open: Nemesis a couple of times, Swarm a couple of times, Colossus, Tidal Wave, the logflume, and even convinced the Charleesi to come on Stealth for the first time. The Merlin passes mean we’re not overly worried about times spent at the park as they’re effectively free; but days like this where most rides were less than fifteen minute queues are still a greatly appreciated luxury.

So – after a morning where I woke feeling like death, this evening I’m quite invigorated – how pleasant…

Fright Nights and Dungeon Crawls

Well, we seem to have made a fair few people jump with our dressing up for Fright Night at Thorpe Park last night. I was a little disappointed to see less people in costume than last year, but we embraced a “sod it” approach and went for it anyway.

commonsenseI joined Lady M and my daughter as a cloaked and masked deatheater, while Lady P opted to trial her new Deadpool costume, topped with a red cloak that we had spare. This led to a combination of reactions to and from our fellow queuers.

We made a point of being friendly/removing masks if smaller children were looking actually frightened, but others got menacing gestures, silent looming or shrieked curses that made otherwise cocky and burly young men leap in the air.

Staff seemed pleased to see we’d made an effort, and other in-character performers decided to not give us any scares; though I’m not sure whether that was uncertainty about how safe to attack dark wizards with wands it was, or being unsure if we were staff.

What we did learn was that some of the hijinks that are tolerated at conventions are not expected at the theme park, with Lady P nearly causing a security alert when she tried to blend with and disrupt a group of red robed actors that we’d thought was another group of cosplayers. We decided to err on the side of caution and eat instead.

We didn’t stay too late as Lady M’s labyrinthitis was making it very uncomfortable, and the cold weather meant that Lady P opted to change into warmer clothing halfway through, but all in all it was a great dry run for MCM London in a couple of weeks.

Oh, and I’ve finally written up Monday’s game session under Chapter Two, Week Twelve – Delving Deep, so go have a read of those musings too

Costume Developments

We spent a good portion of last weekend making papier mache and experimenting with acrylic paints and ink and I have to say the results are starting to look quite good. With the rest of the costume elements largely being made from existing kit and clothing, the masks are turning into the most intensive pieces of work. Hopefully though they’ll survive the next few weeks and end up being turned into something I can hang on the walls as a souvenir.

The initial sketch pad may have got a bit... embellished... since we started
The initial sketch pad may have got a bit… embellished… since we started

The basic cotton-based masks proved a good base for the glue and water mix I used, drying fairly quickly with some judicious use of airing cupboard space and strategic re-application of layers to reinforce tricky corners and junctions. Most of the issues came around trying to decide how to implement the various design ideas that we all had.

Most of the images found online for references use silver and gold, so those were the main colours that ended up being used as the base, but other hues and decorative patterns can also be seen on both official and fan-made designs, so I was pleased to find a good range of acrylic paints in a paint box that I had completely forgotten I had.

In the end I used a plain black acrylic paint base layer to seal the external surface so that further design work wouldn’t get lost in the text and pictures in the original newspaper coverings. After that we each took time to design shapes that we could cut into card and use as templates.

One of the masks with early silver drybrushing
One of the masks with early silver drybrushing

Some judicious use of water softened the card so that we could mould it to fit the mask contours and backed it with more glue for a secure fit, followed by more paint to help seal the whole surface. Then I dry-brushed silver over the whole assembly to pick out detail and give us a real idea of how each mask design was going to work out.

Death Eater masks are designed to inspire fear, so a bright colour scheme was never going to be on the cards, but I’ve also seen plenty of masks that use a brighter silver background to highlight dark hand-painted designs. I’ve not painted for quite some time, so I was reluctant to dive straight into that route. That’s why we went the card and template route.

I may adapt a cut out template at some point for another design if I do more in the future, as that seems a good compromise between the flow of paint and the structure of inlays. Each of us had ideas of how we wanted the masks to look. My daughter’s incorporates elements that look like a mask on the mask – or possibly a flayed mask, depending on how the colour scheme develops as she would like a little red in the mix somewhere.

Lady M models this year's Slytherin-inspired couture...
Lady M models this year’s Slytherin-inspired couture…

Lady M’s mask is all swirls and contours with splashes of green that suggest the Slytherin House background of many Death Eaters. My own takes cues from predatory animals, with dart-like daggers and stripes and stays with the golds and silvers.

By comparison, Lady P’s ensemble promises to mix bold colours with the dark cloak as a memorable comparison. The contrast should be rather striking, so I’m rather looking forward to seeing what she comes up with with limited preparation time.

For now, I think I won’t be doing much else to the masks, at least until this weekend when I reclaim the table that I usually keep my writing setup on as an art surface again. The final touches may not even go up until the morning before we head out to the event. Alternatively I might leave them, use the Thorpe Park event as a dry run and then tweak them for the MCM Expo in London at the end of October.

My Death Eater mask
My Death Eater mask

Each mask, to date, has about three or four layers of paint and ink washes on them with strategic dry brushing to highlight detail. Right now I’m struggling to find a point where I don’t either darken them too much, or give a cartoonish colour boost.

I tell you, designing these evil masks is a lot harder than it seems. I’m tending to go for more muted schemes given that we’ll be out in public as the evening draws in. Combined with hoods and capes and dark clothing beneath them, the effect should look quite intimidating.

Juggling in the Heat

It probably says a lot about both the typical British summer and the length of time that it seems to have been winter that I originally planned to start this article with a reference to it being “unseasonably hot”. Thankfully a faint spark of common sense kicked into action and reminded me that it is the end of July. The schools are just finishing their terms here, and my daughter is staying over this week.

Between the hours I’m doing at the library, the writing work and the general day to day household odds and ends I am still managing to spend a reasonably good amount of time with her. We spent the weekend revisiting TopGolf and (surprise, surprise) toddled back to Thorpe Park on Sunday where we all sweltered in the heat and enjoyed getting soaked on the Tidal Wave ride. I’m told the heat will be lessening over the course of this week, so we’ve been determined to make the most of it and get out to explore.

My other motivation for enjoying the weather has been simply to add a contrast to the humid and close conditions at the library. The recent work to replace the heating system put in air vents that supply the output of an air conditioning system – but the powers that be decided that this functionality would be locked off and the system set to turn the heating on every day at seven in the morning. After some picking through those portions of the menu systems not locked down, we have at least managed to cancel the heating by deleting the schedule, which should prevent some heat exhaustion – but for now we rely on the old school methods of open doors and windows and the strategic use of fans to cool us as we move stock around and help the heat addled members of the public.

Our customers seem somewhat confused about the arrangements, but one unexpected benefit has been that some of our more… assertive and idiosyncratic… customers seem to be too tired from the heat to get up to their usual behaviour sets.

Perhaps we should keep some water pistols under the desk to refresh them if they seem to be succumbing to the conditions too much…

This afternoon’s achievement has been to go on the Swarm ride backwards with Lottie – and I think I have a new addition to the list of favourites…

Summer of Fun

The last month or so, we’ve been enjoying the fruits of a deliberate large expenditure that is now saving us huge amounts of money. We’re saving like mad for the honeymoon, true, but we’ve also been talking for a couple of years about investing in a Merlin Pass for when we’re out and about with Small. Last month we bit the bullet and finally got some as a family while out at Legoland.

To say that we’re getting our money’s worth is something of an understatement. We’re situated roughly smack bang in the middle of a number of major attractions like Thorpe Park, Chessington and the above-mentioned Legoland, all about 20-30 minutes away, so our weekends are now allowing us to rediscover rollercoasters and rides of various shapes and sizes.

The number one advantage has been the discovery that being able to wander in past all the queues at the entrance really does take away all the stresses about time that we’d usually have. By this I mean that before getting the tickets we’d have been stressing about getting there early, the amount of time spent in queues for popular rides – not to mention the general expense of heading out as a family.

Now, we joke about wandering over to Thorpe Park to jump on one ride before heading out to somewhere else. It has transformed the weekends that we have Small over to stay with us, if nothing else. In theory, going to each of the local parks once each would see us breaking even on the costs. Today was our seventh park trip so we’re well ahead of the game. When you factor in a twenty percent discount on food and drink there… well we really can’t complain.

Especially when we effectively get to fling ourselves down rides like this more or less at will (well, okay, barring a bit of queueing…)