Wednesday 22 November 2017


I've just been on holiday! And it surprises me to realise, this is my first proper holiday in nearly 10 years. Husbit and I go away frequently for Blood Bowl tournaments, and visit friends, and go to Alton Towers most years, and occasionally spend a day out somewhere, and those are all great, but not the same as going on holiday purely for the sake of being on holiday. My last holiday like that was when my little sister took me to Egypt for my birthday, nearly 10 years ago!

One of my best friends - Vikki from circus - wanted to go to Amsterdam for her birthday. She goes on little city breaks from time to time. I mentioned I'd been for a tournament so hadn't had any opportunity to really see the city and really wanted to go back, and our other friend Emily (also from circus) said I should go along as well (she always worries about Vikki being away by herself) - and pretty much like that, it was organised.

We had a great time. Our hotel rooms were next to each other, as we'd hoped. We were pretty shattered the first evening, and the restaurant Vikki had earmarked for dinner had unfortunately closed so we ate at a random little Indian place that tasted great, then back to the hotel where we watched TV and had an early night. The view from our rooms was beautiful - right over a dancing fountain.

Waffles for breakfast. Mine was covered in caramel sauce that mostly ended up down me, so I went with plain waffles or croissants on subsequent mornings.

I hadn't heard of our first stop, the Stedelijk Museum, before, but wandering around there I finally understood modern art. I'm still not a big fan of a lot of it, but I'm discovering I do like some.

From there, we went to the Amsterdam Museum, getting lost on the way and wet in the rain. This was the one place we had on our itinerary that we didn't enjoy: the first bit, about the history of the city, was fantastic, but as we explored deeper into the building, we became more uncomfortable: the layout is awkward and we started to feel trapped and lost, and there was this corridor in a lurid orange and lined with mirrors that we didn't enjoy at all. After that, we went on to the red light district to investigate the Red Lights Secrets museum of prostitution. Of all the places we went, this is the one where I particularly recommend getting the audio tour: Inga, who narrates it, is quite funny, and the stories are shocking, funny - and sad: before she came to Amsterdam, she worked in Germany and tells of finding the body of a murdered friend there. Amsterdam definitely seems to have served her better.

We stopped at Lush for bath bombs on the way back to the hotel (my favourite is Intergalactic, which is the reason I'm still covered in glitter) (it felt a bit silly to go to Lush in a foreign country, seeing as we're from the same part of the world), and again had an early night. I'm very grateful Vikki likes early nights; I'm sure I'd have struggled a lot more with pain and fatigue if she had wanted to be out later.

The next day had a shorter itinerary and less walking; staying in the museum district, we started at the Van Gogh Museum (my favourite artist, so I was thrilled about this). We were a little early - pre-booked tickets allowing us in at a set time - so stopped for a coffee at the cafe at the Stedelijk Museum, with the most chilled out barman anywhere who taught me my name in Dutch. 'Varen', pronounced like 'Farren' when he said it. He said you have to be careful when you say it, because in other contexts the same word is used to mean you're taking a ferry.
I loved the Van Gogh Museum. I had no idea he'd been so prolific, nor started so late: at 27, he decided to become an artist and went off to teach himself how. Saw pieces I'd never seen before and fell in love with. Also found a new artist called Zeng Fanzhi - a few pieces of his that were inspired by Van Gogh were on display and were fantastic, really exciting. Looking him up now, discovered there actually was a whole exhibition of his there at the moment, unfortunately closed just for this week so we didn't see any more. But we missed the signs saying anything about it while we were there, so we didn't know we were missing out. We both loved his take on Wheatfield with Crows - so vibrant.
From there, we went to the Rijksmuseum, but found a market and explored that first. Met a lovely artist, Elles, and bought a couple of prints. Then the Rijksmuseum, which we liked but didn't get the whole way round: we were pretty museumed out by that point! It has a really nice looking library; one of the guards chatted to us because he liked my t-shirt (a picture of a cat, book, and cup of coffee, saying "my needs are simple", and he related to it), and told us how you can get access to the library. Unfortunately, it was locked then. If we;d been able to sit there for half an hour or so, I think we might have made it all the way round.
On the way out, we spotted a diamond museum so popped in there: she'd hoped to book us onto the free Coster Diamond tour, but they never got back to her. Shame, because I'd have liked to see that. The diamond museum included the worlds smallest cut diamond, complete with a magnifying glass so you can actually see it. Seriously impressive: smaller than a snowflake. 
Dinner was at the noodle bar we'd eaten at nearly every night last time I was in Amsterdam, for nostalgia's sake. The staff weren't as good as I remembered: they messed up Vikki's order. Then another early night.
The next morning was the walk back to Centraal to see the Body Works museum that my brother had recommended. It was fascinating - I was a little worried it would be gory or make one or both of us squeamish, but actually it was great. I'd also wandered how they connected happiness with human body parts, but actually it worked really well. Also, there were swings and I haven't been on a swing since I was a kid and I'd forgotten how fun they are.

Flight home was really quick, but we were exhausted. Staggered to our hotel, collapsed in front of the TV then read for a bit - we were sharing this room and Vikki was worried she'd keep me up if she carried on reading after I'd taken my tablets, because she's very considerate like that. I think it would have been fine; I was more worried I'd keep waking her every time I became restless, even in separate beds (also, if I snore it tends to be loudly, I'm told).

Then we went shopping in London! Ostensibly, we were Christmas shopping, but we may have bought more presents for ourselves than other people...

Then the train home. I live really near the station, so walked the last bit and was met at the door by a Kitty and Husbit who were both very pleased to see me. As amazing a time as I'd had, I'd missed them both too. (I knew trains in the UK were more expensive than the rest of Europe, but this day really brought home to me how much more. It's ludicrous. The worst bit was how much it cost us to leave our luggage in the station lockup: £25, compared to €7 the day before.) 

We walked an average of 10k a day including the day we went to Amsterdam (so a bit over 50k for the 5 days). I expected to be exhausted and barely functioning today, but the biggest reason I had a lie in this morning is that the Cat pinned me down (she's sat on me most of the day, when she hasn't been eating or tearing around like a mad thing). I think it's because we had restful evenings and early nights every day, and Vikki was very careful to make sure I was ok all the time, and she'd pre-booked most of our tickets which meant we didn't have to queue at all - a real blessing. I think a large part of why I was so exhausted after Alton Towers this year was the queuing (I was also fatigued before going to Alton Towers, but had largely recovered before we went to Amsterdam).

I'd love to go back to Amsterdam and show Husbit around. I'd also really like to go away for a long weekend with Vikki again. I had an amazing time. 

Wednesday 15 November 2017

Deadlands - Tam's War Ends; Our Next Steps

The war spills across the streets. Armed with the key we'd worked so hard for, the one we'd broken so many morals to earn, we head to the ruins of the Explorers' Lodge. The watchtower is mostly intact, so I approach - and quickly step back, hands raised, as shots land at my feet. Pennignton-Smythe calls out an apology to me, and we scurry in. They explain they're there because they think Kwan's men will come for the amulet, and as they say it, we see them coming.

The fight is short and brutal, with ogres and martial artists... and a set of twins, who make me on my creepiest day look like some kind of angel. They cast a spell on the tower, coating it in some kind of sticky black fire that drags it down to hell. We start to flee, but realise Chin's still inside. I manage to grab his hand and pull him out as the tower sank below the ground, leaving a sticky, stinky pit. The twins teleport away before we can regroup to retaliate.

We set to work clearing the rubble over the vault. It's long, heavy work and by the time we're done, the fighting that had spilled through the streets of Shan Fan was over. We hear Kang making a speech and look over to the Heavenly Park to see Tam holding Kwan in chains. Tam and Kang are working together now - Kang wants Tam's help rebuilding the Lion's Roar Triad and in return will give Tam the support of the Iron Dragons. He - Kang - talks about being destined to rule California, then walks up to Kwan and, with his bare hand, rips out Kwan's heart. I gag.

We pause for a shocked moment, then hurry into the vault and start helping Pennington-Smythe and Dillenger clear the bits they need. As thanks, they let us each pick an item, Smith & Robard gadgets. Chin gets a new pair of shoes - soft and grippy, to help him climb and sneak around quietly. Tesla chooses an electric stun gun. I don't spot Carson's pick, but I get something they call a 'spirit camera' - they claim it can take photos of ghosts. Give me a few plates and developing fluid and talk me through how to use it.

As we turn to leave the vault, a large, damaged piece of stone catches our eyes. Despite the damage, it looks like a map of California. We peer closer: there's a few curious marks on it, like lightning bolts. There's one around about where the cave was, the one with the Wailing Horror and (I shudder) that pile of bodies. The cave where Pennington-Smythe had hidden the amulet. We'd seen a lightning bolt on the wall there. Thinking on it, there was a similar mark at Felheimer's Folly, too - and sure enough, there's one on the map there too. I reason these are important - Explorer Society mission important - but Pennington-Smythe and Dillinger don't know anything about them. They hadn't even spotted the marks before, or had only ever seen them as damage. The stone's too big to take with us, so Tesla takes a rubbing.

We head back to the Sunrise Lodge. Now they have what they needed to protect, Pennington-Smythe and Dillinger leave for New York, telling us to telegraph if we need them. We stay in town for a few days, and learn that Kang and Tam have, indeed, made peace. Neither is in charge: they've crowned Joshua Norton as the Emperor of California to be their figurehead. 

The nearest lightning mark looks to be on the Isle of Ghost Tears, and I want to find out more about the place. It's meant to be very haunted, and it's said anyone who goes there comes back mad - or dead. Story is, Chiang-Nu came to Shan Fan with his wife Meng to join him here later. Problem is, he found alcohol and opium before she got there. They argued and she ran - just as the Quake hit. It seemed to be centred on her, and she dropped dead on the spot.

I'm frustrated that no one else is interested in the place, but we spot a message in the Tombstone Epitaph telling us of a meeting in Perdition in 8 days. It doesn't give us long to get there: we leave immediately and make it in 6: All Hallow's Eve.

Wednesday 1 November 2017

What you don't see

Warning: talk of vomit and self-pity over pain and fatigue follows.

Here's what my weekend looked like:

Pretty exciting weekend away at a theme park, right? Lots of fun, lots of rides - even did the scare mazes, because I probably won't have a chance in the future (subspecies was great, the others ok).

When I set my out of office on Friday, I spotted that I had booked off Wednesday as well as Monday and Tuesday - a whole extra day off to write and have fun in! And you can see I had fun - check out the photos from last night!

Looks great, right?

What you don't see is that the only reason I was still walking by the end of the weekend was that one of my friends had disabled queuing and could queue jump 3 people with him. You don't see that I took loads of photos of The Smiler because I couldn't bear to queue for it, even though I really wanted to ride it, but sitting there waiting for the others had stiffened me so much I had to walk around. You don't see me nearly crying because the others aren't ready to go home but I've been wanting to leave for hours because I'm done. You don't see me waking up on Monday morning, falling out of bed and staggering to the kitchen to feed the cat, with a splitting headache that stayed until Wednesday evening. You don't see me crawling back to bed after feeding the cat, then crawling out again a few hours later to collapse at Husbit's feet, crying with the pain. He cooked me food and watched me pick at it, then went out to do the shopping and some other chores. You don't see me throwing up the food I managed to get down me, nor the dissolvable aspirin I drank after I finished puking the first time. This is something that happens to me when I either don't eat enough or otherwise exhaust myself. I threw up the aspirin so hard it was coming out of my nose.

You don't see me sleeping the rest of Monday.

You don't see me staggering around trying to prepare the flat for estate agent photos Tuesday morning, and making nice talk and helping move stuff around for the photos, while in so much pain I wanted to curl up and cry. You don't see me curling up and crying as soon as he left. You don't see me so fatigued I couldn't even watch TV.

You see me at circus. You don't see me seriously considering not going, but finally deciding I have to to keep the fibromyalgia pain away and hopefully reduce the headache (which you don't see still not responding to painkillers) - and also because I don't want to let anyone down. You don't see me failing at a basic move because I'm too fatigued to pull it off, and needing the trainee instructor to demonstrate it to the class. You don't see me collapse in the bath after, and struggle to get out.

You don't see the frustration when I woke this morning and the headache still pounded and I still couldn't move easily. You don't see me crouched in the kitchen trying to make food, grateful that the gabapentin and circus has kept the fibromyalgia pain at bay and trying to keep from crying with the headache and the exhaustion and the frustration that I'm not writing, like I want to be. You don't see me napping, and being woken from the nap by a noisy gardener so curling up to watch TV and crying at everything because I'm so damn tired, and then the gardener leaving and me trying to nap again, only to be woken again soon after by school kids running and screaming on my driveway. You don't see the internal battle that eventually sees me getting up and dressed and nearly crying again, when me opening the front door is all the catalyst it takes to get the gossiping parents to call their children to heel and go their separate ways.

You don't see the angry letters I'll never send to the school.

You don't see the affection the cat has given me all day. You don't see the relief that follows the kiss Husbit gives me when he gets home. You don't see the look on his face when he realises I'm still in pain.

You don't see the wonderful feeling that spreads as the headache finally lifts and I can write this.

You don't see the fear that friends and work colleagues will take what you do see to mean I'm fine.