Monday 28 December 2015

Loot the Tree!

When I was at school, we were occasionally asked which season was our favourite. I couldn't pick, and ended up feeling like this was in some way a flaw on my part. I still can't pick, but no longer feel it's a flaw. All seasons have things about them I love; all have things I enjoy less. And they're joined, they need each other.

One of my favourite things about the winter is the cool weather that has been distinctly absent this year.

Another thing is Christmas. I feel like people who have Christmas (or a similar celebration) in a warm climate must miss out, somehow, but my Australian friends assure me that summertime-Christmas is superior in their eyes, so it's ok. But for me, part of the joy of the celebration is that getting together with family and friends and sharing the long, dark nights and the cold, dark days and filling them with light and warmth.(Although I also know many people who prefer to take Christmas as alone time, to spend with themselves, looking after themselves, and I can understand that too. That way leaves those who have to be alone in the midwinter feeling less lonely than my way.)

Anyway, one of the nice things is the way things become more relaxed at work. In the past, I worked for a company employing lots of contractors, and the office would be filled with bottles of wine and boxes of chocolate from the contractors, to be distributed to the staff for Christmas - a thank you for sending work the way of the contractors, and a lovely perk for us. This year, I'm working in IT rather than proeprty management, but a similar difference in tone descended on the office, aided by one colleague with his Star Wars Lego advent calendar - we had a lot of fun with that.
Spot the interloper...
I was particularly fond of the Jawa/Ewok alliance
Even my local shopping centre looked to be getting in on the act, with what definitely looked like lightsabres hanging from the ceiling.
That's no moon!
I've not seen the new film yet, so would be grateful to avoid spoilers. Our work's Christmas party clashed with the opening night. A few went to the film instead, some left early to catch a late showing. I opted to party - wonderful excuse to wear my favourite dress.

Anyway, the purpose of this post was actually to talk about Christmas. I said last year that I normally go over to my Dad's on Christmas Eve, and we followed that tradition again this year. I got there early and, having forgotten my key, ended up having tea with my old headteacher who lives round the corner - he came to collect a load of logs a few minutes after I arrived. Was really nice to see him again, actually, even if he will always scare me slightly.

Then it was back to my Dad's for real. I'd brought all our presents in my treasure chest (my Dad says it's actually an old boarding school tuckbox, much like the one he used to have), and was pleased to find the returning gifts would also comfortably fit.

Christmas Eve was fun: couple of Wallace and Gromit films before dinner, then Little Sister got us playing a game where we all wrote down the names of 4 people (fictional or otherwise) the others in the room were likely to know, then had one minute to give clues to the person to the left for them to guess as many as possible until the slips of paper ran out - then repeat using charades, then repeat using a single word clue. One pass only, but you could return to it, and we decided you scored points for your guesses and the correct guesses of your clues. Turns out my sister's psychic, because in the first round I was trying to describe Ada Lovelace to her and she hadn't a clue, but in the second round she guessed both Ada Lovelace and General George Patton just from the expression on my face as I read the clues (she's dyslexic, so accusations that she could read the names backwards through pieces of paper with other writing on the back are dubious). I really enjoyed that game - not just because her uncanny ability to read me meant I won. Little Brother then got us to play a round of Saboteur (I was disappointed that there were no shoes), which again Little Sister and I (and Husbit) won by being very successful saboteurs. Then we filled stockings and went to bed.

To add to her awesomeness, Little Sister fishtail-plaited my hair Christmas morning
Christmas morning saw the start of looting gift-giving. Stockings first: we have the rules that items need to be fun, cheap and practical (ie, not go straight in the bin), so I got novelty pants for Little Sister and Step Mum, and coffee/tea for most other people. Little Sister got her husband socks. Lots of socks. A stocking more or less full of socks. Which entertained the rest of us, anyway. Then Little Brother drove off to pick up his new girlfriend, who'd very bravely agreed to spend the day with us when she'd only met Little Sister&Husband before, and we went to the next door neighbour for mulled wine and nibbles and to stay out of Dad's hair as he cooked lunch.

Pleased to report that Little Brother's new girlfriend is really nice. She's smart and has a similar sense of humour to the rest of us, which meant she fitted in well.

I've gone right off turkey recently, so had the veggie option - a nut roast my Step Mum had doctored. Much better choice and will probably be fake veggie again next year (I quite like being fake veggie). Then presents under the tree before Husbit fled to the relative sanity of his family and we continued silly games with mine: I received a game called 'Say Anything', which is a bit like Cards Against Humanity (and would work well in combination with it...), but more child friendly. And eventually I also left for presents with Husbit's family, then home to Kitty and our own tree presents before collapsing asleep to start again on Boxing Day.

We've got some fun plans for New Year and the week after our Pathfinder group will be exchanging secret santa presents to finish the season. By then, hopefully the cold weather will have arrived properly and I can be looking forward to spring.

Wednesday 16 December 2015

Musical A-Z - X,Y,Z

I found it really hard to finish this. I ended up cheating and looked for bands for X and Y. Any suggestions or recommendations in the comments please.

When searching for X, I was intrigued by the preview of this article so went and looked up the band and thought they were rather good.


I'll admit, it was the name that caught my eye ;-)

Zombina and the Skeletones

Played a gig when I was at uni and they were so much fun - full zombie/skeleton make up and costumes and fake blood. Went down well with the larp'ers! I love this song.

Z Z Top

And I kinda hadta finish with these guys. 

Sunday 13 December 2015

The Tree Ship

There seems to be a lot floating round about saying 'Yes' as a GM at the moment. I have some opinions on that, but I don't think my opinions are important: you should see what works with your group(s) for that game and go with that. I don't think there's anything wrong with saying no if you need to (or if other members of your group need you to), but amazing things can happen when you say yes. Terrible, amazing things.

We're doing the Star Stone trial at the moment in Pathfinder, which is why my GM has asked I don't write up the sessions until we're back on Golarion (he's doing his own version and I think intends to run it for other people another time, so no spoilers!), but we created something so cool last session I have to tell you about it!

There's two important things that happened in the lead up: we acquired use of an airship and discovered our druid can reduce our transport time dramatically by portalling us through trees. Obvious next step? Get a really big pot, put a tree in it and have that on our airship. And awaken the tree - that can't go wrong, right? We sold it to the GM with the suggestion that the tree - a spruce pine - could grow into the ship, creating something akin to Moya in Farscape or the sea-going ships in Robin Hobb's Liveship Traders trilogy (which I haven't yet read but now really want to). The Star Stone trial can affect the magic, or something. 

We helped the druid, all pouring in mythic chips. As the ritual ended, the tree stretched its limbs, needles extending. The balloon providing lift to the ship popped and for a few heart-stopping seconds we plummeted before the tree had converted enough of the ship and was able to return us to flight. Roots spread, wrapping through the timbers that made the ship - we could see the nutrients being sucked out and into the tree. The clean, worked wood was replaced by a mass of roots. The railings became old, gnarled wood. The trunk of the tree grew tall in place of a mast. A figure head grew from the prow, shuddered and shook, then looked back to us. The needles glowed, shimmering and shivering, as it spoke: "I am Yggdrisil".

Yggdrisil is a sentient airship sorceror (verdant bloodline). It is a magical plant, originally a spruce, so can photosynthesise and gets the rest of its nutrients from a ball of soil stored in the cargo area. It has some fire resistance, the ability to detect magic at will, an insatiable curiosity and a love of flight and freedom. Mental stats are all 18 (we took party averages to reflect the lifeforce we poured in in the form of mythic chips). If it likes you, your cabin will be spacious and accommodating to your needs - as a sorceror, it can use dancing lights to provide your lighting; as a living tree, it can extend part of itself as a shelf. If it doesn't like you, your bed will be gnarled and knotted and you may lose knickknacks you leave lying around. 

I don't know its flight speed, precise spell list or its physical stats, but the imagery is so cool and I'm really excited by this. I'd love to use it in a novel, if I ever manage to focus long enough to write one.

Monday 7 December 2015

Inspirational People - Lorna Arnold

Today would have been Lorna Arnold's 100th birthday. I'm very sad she isn't here to celebrate it, but I'm still grateful to have known her and it feels right today to talk about my Great-Aunt Lorna. My elder sister recently told me that she knew Lorna wasn't allowed to talk about her work, so always assumed she was a spy! She was a nuclear historian, working alongside Margaret Gowing.

You can find out about her life on her website, wikipedia or in her memoire, so that's not what I want to talk about here. I want to talk about how her life has inspired me: the fact that it wasn't until she was in her mid-40's that she found the career she's famous for. When I was feeling like my life was wasting before, racing away from me, I took strength from remembering that, and that was a huge part of how I had the courage to apply for the job I'm now in. She gave me that strength.

I also want to talk about the last time I saw her, the summer before she died. She lived up in Oxford, and there was an exhibition at the Ashmolean my Dad, step-mum and I wanted to see so it was a good justification to pop in. She wasn't quite ready when we got there, very frail by then, her carer was helping her as we waited. It was weird for me: there was something familiar about the house as we arrived, and as we waited I looked out at the garden and it was exactly as I knew it would be. And Dad remembered that I had been here before when I was very tiny. Strange the things we remember: it was the sunshine in the garden.

When Lorna came down, I was silhouetted against the French windows, which meant despite her now limited vision, she could still see me and commented how tall I was - I was amazed, similarly, by short she seemed. She's one of these people who filled any room she was in, so it seems strange that she was so little. We ate cake and drank tea and talked about the world and the way it's shaped. She commanded a room when she spoke, and she spoke so articulately and intelligently. And you know what, she made me feel invincible in her calm, made me feel like I could achieve anything, and I needed that at that moment. My depression started to lift for the first time after that visit.

Sunday 6 December 2015

Musical A-Z - W


This is the first piece of classical music I got into. Very dramatic piece of music.


I don't know anything else by Wheatus, but I've always enjoyed this song.


This is the deeper this week. Many, many years ago, I went to Reading Festival with some school friends. The mother of one drove us up: she was volunteering at the festival for a mental health charity. The others in the car thought that was stupid, they couldn't understand why people would need counselling at a festival. I was just coming to terms with my Depression diagnosis (and it was going to get a lot worse before it started to get better) and what she said next was so powerful for me: sometimes, people feel sad in places where they feel like they should feel happy, and are surrounded by people who feel happy, and it becomes much harder to bear. And that first day of the festival, my depression kicked in and I felt so lonely and if she hadn't spoken before I'd have felt even worse. Wheezer were the last act I watched that day, the only one I came close to enjoying, but I managed to find a way through and enjoyed the next 2 days. Hearing Wheezer always reminds me I'm not alone in the ways depression can beat me around.

White Zombie

Feels a bit of a cheat to include White Zombie when I've already included Rob Zombie, but I really like this song.
The Who

Again, I just like this song.