Birthday girl

Despite the best efforts of her employers we were determined to help lady s celebrate her birthday this weekend.

As she was having to work the actual day, we arranged to head down on Saturday after I finished work, and we gathered together with Ladies J and B to escort her to the pub for food and drink and a quiet evening of silliness.

And the nice thing is that we don’t need to drink to have fun, be daft, and let our humour out to play. The next morning would see us having a breakfast too, but we were mindful that lady s had to work soon. So we contented ourselves with putting the world to rights over pizza, puddings, and pints of diet soda.

The following morning we showered lady s with gifts before breakfast and dropped her and Lady J to work. Lady M and I spent the day being tourists before Lady M headed home. I lurked in the area until lady s finished work and ubered her home. The rest of our evening was spent watching YouTube clips before bed called and we turned in.

Lady s said it felt in many ways that it didn’t really like a birthday this year, but a 12-9 shift will take the wind out of most people’s sails. Between us, I think we did our best to counteract it all

D-Day Museum

Lady M and I visited the D-Day Museum in Southsea yesterday while lady s was at work, and I found it just as powerful and human as I did the last time I visited. It tells a rounded story of local people, the preparation, the fears, and the events and aftermath of the D-Day assault without indulging in jingoism, cliche, or fantasy.

The exhibits are carefully curated and laid out in a highly efficient use of the space available, and the whole place just feels…loved.

I can’t recommend it enough, and the cafeteria is friendly and full of tasty things too.

Long Week

My rota pattern changed recently so I’m now adjusting to the new days, including the swapping of the weekends where I work. This wouldn’t normally be too complex, but I’ve also got various weekends and days swapped round to accommodate colleagues or allow for various holidays. The general effect therefore is one of having to consciously remind myself several times per day where I am, what hours I’m doing, and whether I need to make further course corrections to avoid having to be in two places at once.

Its all a bit exhausting. Fortunately this weekend we’re off to go see lady s as its her birthday tomorrow so that will be a nice escape from the grind. For at least a couple of days I’ll be able to forget buildings that are generally porous to the weather, or that have been shaken by nearby construction. I’ll instead be able to delight in giving presents and sharing a breakfast tomorrow before being a bit touristy in Portsmouth.

We’re all pretty run down, so it’s not going to be a grand explosion of frolics and silliness (well maybe a bit of silliness) – but just being in each others company will help I think.

Weekend Visitors

We had Lady M’s niece and nephew over to stay for the weekend – something they had been anticipating and getting very excited about for weeks. There were numerous messages, texts, and video calls in the weeks leading up to it – and I’ll admit there was no small measure of pressure felt to give them a memorable weekend. Lady M went to pick them up after work on the Friday – and their aunt would pick them up on Sunday – so that left us a fair while to entertain them.

Its been a while since we’ve been particularly touristy, so having the kids around is a good excuse – so we went to the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden as our main excursion. Its been a good few years since I took the Charleesi there, and I was pleasantly surprised to see the changes they’ve made.

Much more has been done to lay out the story of the changing nature of public transport in London, and there’s a wide range of exhibits and carriages that can be interacted with and clambered into. We had a lovely couple of hours making our way round, and a series of “stamping stations” gave the kids something to aim for to complete their collections all round the museum.

As you might expect, they’ve a lot energy, so having a well lit and extensive place for them to explore had them darting around all over the place was perfect way to drum up an appetite before we introduced them to some of London’s geekier locations. As we were in the area, this included the new Noble Collection store in Seven Dials, which holds all manner of film prop replicas and merchandise, and then on to Forbidden Planet and then Orcs Nest.

By then they were exhausted so we made our way home. The minor kip they had on the train and in the car woke them up enough to want to then play Dungeons and Dragons – duly encouraged by Lady M. So character creation happened – and the next day after a roast dinner down the pub, a mini game occurred. I threw together a scenario based on something I ran a few years ago – and they seemed to have fun.

Today is a quiet day – on all fronts. The flat feels peaceful again, and its a good chance to recharge batteries before getting back to work.

Busy, busy, busy – and I’m exhausted. I love them dearly

Yes, it is the weekend

I’m not sad to see the back of this week – it does seem to have been unnecessarily arduous: one of those Murphy’s Law weeks where anything that could go wrong seemed determined to do so.

This even extended to a member of my staff on his last week who seemed determined to push as many buttons as possible. Because why not?

Still, it’s all past now. I had a good long conversation about it all at counselling and have been enjoying a quiet day of mostly collapsing on the sofa with Lady M. Games have been played, doodles have been drawn, films have been watched – and there’s even been some grocery shopping and things thrown in the recycling bin.

I’ve also been writing. I’m trying something different to try and reenergise the storytelling by shifting to third person away from first person. If nothing else it’s giving me a chance to revisit characters and flesh them out a bit.

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!

MCM ComicCon May 2018

I’m exhausted. There’s no two ways about it. Across the blazing hot Bank Holiday weekend we just had, I’ve sweltered and socialised with fellow cosplayers, geeks, nerds, and friends at MCM ComicCon. It was brilliant.

Three days, three costumes, many photos, and best of all our first proper group cosplay as a triad, recreating the Black Sails partnership of Jack Rackham, Anne Bonney, and Max. We even managed to get in to see Jessica Parker Kennedy, who played Max in the show, for a photo opportunity.

We’d mildly squee’d when we saw her announced, and then I’d had a number of conversations around whether the three of us could see her at once. Negotiations and financial considerations sorted, we then waited until the Saturday to tell Lady S in case she got into a complete panic meltdown.

As it turned out, we were instantly recognised as our respective characters (more than a small relief), and then for the rest of the day found ourselves being approached by a surprising number of people who either loved the show or who themselves also cosplay characters from it.

I think it was a first for all three of us, to find ourselves being stopped by people so enthusiastically, and it’s just made the whole weekend that much more special.

Photos from various photographers are starting to filter through, and we made it into at least two videos that I’ll post links to as they get published.

I’m tired now. What a brilliant weekend.

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.

Unexpected Visits

Last Friday, Lady M had to go to Germany for the day. As you do. And as it was my day off, I agreed to drop her at Heathrow and pick her up again in the evening to spare her some hassle at this end of the journey.

“Ooh,” says Lady S, “do you fancy coming down for the day then to meet the family?” I hasten to add that this wasn’t actually on the day itself, but a few days prior.

“Why not?” I said, so mentioned to Lady M that I’d drop down to Portsmouth and be back in plenty of time. So far, so normal.

Then work started getting a bit hectic and stressy for Lady M, so the day before she was due to fly out and back, Lady S suggested she come back with me so we could be friendly faces to welcome her back.

I thought this was a great idea. The look of joy on Lady M’s face when I told her we’d be getting Lady S staying for an unplanned weekend lit up the room and confirmed that this was indeed a popular move. So, duly buouyed by the knowledge her girlfriend would be waiting for her return, Lady M hopped on her plane, and I discovered the joy of navigating into Portsmouth and not ending up on a ferry by mistake.

Lady S’ family is a wonderfully sardonic and laconic bunch. Her dogs are daft as you might expect, and even the cat tolerated me. Her fiancee was nervous of meeting me; but after I bought lunch and we started comparing pet and customer stories we seemed to click and there was even a degree of relaxation.

Once her father realised I understood both coding and game level design principles, gave me a great rundown on the physics engine tweaking he’s doing on GameGuru. As for Lady S’ son – well he seems to have taken a shine to me, or at least a desire to show off his favourite games and nestle up for hugs, much to his mother’s bemusement.

As for the weekend itself, well I was working on Saturday, and Lady M was focused on finishing a costume for this weekend’s CosXPO convention so aside from a trip into Kingston we largely took it easy and just enjoyed each other’s company.

And then we mentioned that Lady S also has tickets for CosXPO, so would be there, health permitting. That did make Lady M grin even more.

Into the Woods

Back at the end of February, on my birthday weekend, we went on a photoshoot in Bourne Wood. It’s just out the back of Farnham, and has been used as a location by a number of Hollywood films – if you remember the scenes of Harry Potter and friends being hunted by dark wizards, for example, then that’s the woodland we’re talking about.

We’d set up the shoot with Toneagraphy Photography just before Christmas after having such a good experience of shooting with Tony in October at MCM. What I didn’t know until that weekend was that plans had also been made for Lady S to join Lady M and myself.

It was a bitterly cold day, not long before the snows hit, so while I was wrapped up warm with multiple layers as part of my costume, the same was not true for my poor partners.

Lady M had updated her Poison Ivy costume to include a winter cloak, while Lady S was channelling her inner Death Eater to present a young Bellatrix Lestrange. My rucksack was full of spare blankets and slippers to try and keep some warmth in people between bits of the shoot.

Bourne Wood is just off the North Downs, so it’s hilly terrain, and well loved by local families and dog walkers alike. The reactions of each to seeing various people in costumes accompanied by a photographer and lighting kit ranged from making a wide berth to simple curiosity and asking what we were doing.

Gender-bent Harley Quinn closeup

Somehow “taking photos” didn’t seem enough, so a brief explanation of cosplay and conventions usually then started. That was pleasant enough, but in near freezing temperatures we did start hoping people would avoid us after a while.

So, it was exhausting and cold, but also fun. Yes, we played dress-up in the woods. The photos that have come back from Tony are beautiful. One of the things I love about his work is his use of light in his compositions. He’s also more than willing to explain what he’s doing and why, and to share views of the raw shots while we work.

It has in turn made me more thoughtful about the composition and framing of my own photos, even if I am only using a phone.

Most importantly, it was fun. If you’ve not done a photoshoot before – and the cosplay element is irrelevant for this part – then consider giving one a go with someone you trust. It’s a fun and collaborative experience that has inspired memories and conversations ever since.