Tuesday 10 September 2019

Quick Update

Normally after RPGaDay, I'm a bit burnt out for a while but doing it as weekly rather than daily posts hasn't had the same effect this year (though maybe also because I'm still on maternity so wasn't trying to fit it in around a job). This year, my delay in further posts is because Ziggy has an uncanny ability to wake up as soon as I turn my laptop on - and at the moment it's very difficult to type with him around as he wants to eat the mouse and the power cable, or bang on the keys...

He's currently napping beautifully, so I'm sneaking on quickly!

Kitty is still going. She's become quite adept at getting around with 3 working legs, but can't figure out how to claw up the furniture any more (yay!). Our neighbours even saw her jump a fence the other day, though she insists to us she can't get over the stairgates. She's losing weight rapidly, no matter how much we feed her, but while she stays content we'll continue to look after her.

Ziggy adores her, but isn't very good with his love. She likes to sleep in basically a blanket fort on the sofa, and he'll lift the blanket up to flush her out, even pulling the blanket right off if she doesn't respond (and we don't intervene quickly enough). She'll sit down next to him, though, and then give us evil looks if we let him touch her. She doesn't mind him stroking if we hold his hand and control him, but he hasn't learnt the importance of gentleness yet. He's getting bigger and more mobile, so it is getting harder to protect her from him, and she seems to want to troll him anyway, walking right past him when the easier route takes her the other side of the room. I find that fascinating.

I'm in the middle of writing up a Mage post, but it's slow going because of Ziggy - I get a sentence, maybe a paragraph done at a time. I'm also using his sleep time for knitting, researching, and playing City of Heroes (or, more accurately, logging into CoH and moving my characters to new day job locations. If I'm very lucky, I might get to do a mission with one of them).

Researching is to do with the novel I think I might actually manage to write. I read Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth and she mentions that there are no (or few) books in which a midwife - or even a nurse - is the main character, and something in my brain went "challenge accepted". This being me, I'm looking at a fantasy setting. Most of the fantasy I've read is heavily influenced by medieval Europe, so I thought I'd start by learning more about medicine and midwifery there. My local library were intrigued by the challenge and tracked down a few books they thought might help, but couldn't find anything specific (the best match, a history of nursing, was held in a reference library in a different county so they couldn't fetch that). I've got a book on women in medieval society, a book on medieval society and the manor court, and one about science in history, that includes Ancient Greek and Egyptian medicine so that sounds useful.

I've started with a chapter about sex, marriage and motherhood in the medieval women book, and have been interested by some of the misconceptions they held about the female body and also about misconceptions the modern world has about the role of sex in marriage (we think, or at least I did, that sex was something a man considered his right to take from his wife, but in fact sex was a debt each owed the other: the man also was expected to provide sex to his wife when she wanted). A lot of it stems from Christian influence that won't be relevant to my story but is still interesting. I want to create a more egalitarian society, but there are concepts I'm reading about that I want to include. I had the bones of the story, and the shape of the beginning and the end, and this is giving me ideas to help flesh out the middle. I only have the books for another couple of weeks, though, and start my new job next week, so I'm hoping I'll be able to renew the loan a few times as I'm not going to be able to get through them otherwise!

Saturday 31 August 2019

#RPGaDay2019: Days 26-31

Monday 26th - "Idea"
Like an awful lot of people, I'd love to write a novel one day. Now, I know that when you run a game, it's bad form to have an idea for the story and prevent the players deviating from that (if that's your plan, write the book instead); however, I think there's something to be said for using games as a place to try out ideas, or seeds of ideas, for stories you want to write, and I think this is something players can do as well as GM's. As long as it doesn't detract from other people's enjoyment, I think there's a lot to be said for this method of testing ideas and concepts. Having the feedback from the interaction of others can be incredibly useful and spark new ideas that you  wouldn't necessarily have come to just writing by yourself (though I should write down when I'm inspired in a game as I tend to forget otherwise).

I'd like to try writing a novel with friends this way, in a sort of pseudo-RPG setting, where "dramatically appropriate" rules and where no one person is the GM but rather we're all co-creators of a world discussing how things may progress, probably all running a few characters but able to make suggestions to each other... 

Tuesday 27th - "Suspense"
Initially, I thought I hadn't played in many games where there was a sense of suspense, but then I thought about the current Aberrant game and Bill's death and the Protos mystery, then our repeated failures to take down the Patchwork Man in Deadlands, which hopefully will keep building to a satisfying conclusion, and the suspense of waiting to find out what's happened to Svetlana et al in Pathfinder (just knowing they're missing from our other characters' experience in the world). I've got other examples, too, but they're the easiest to express. Guess I've been left in suspense more often than I thought!

Wednesday 28th - "Love"
I love a love story! The first was in a horror game run at uni, where we played US university (college?) students on holiday who end up sucked into another world and my character ended up in a relationship with one of the other characters (based on that "fear is an aphrodisiac" concept) - the other player involved in that is now married to the other woman who played with us (the other man and I are not married). It was a short game, maybe only one session, but great fun and very effective.

Next was Kella and Reisha, which I've written about in previous years.

Then fast forward and no more romances until Svetlana and Noleski. I created a character for a Cyberpunk game and her girlfriend (to be an important NPC), but we never got to play and I can't find the character sheets anywhere (I wanted to write them up on this blog). Anyway, from Pathfinder I moved into Aberrant and deliberately created a commitment-phobe - but plot and character development saw her enter a relationship that has become steadily more frayed. I've never had the chance to roleplay a failing relationship before, so this is fun (if they just talked it might be salvageable, but if they do ever have that talk it's likely that's the end of it so they keep skirting it). Our Exalted game went on break with Taji finally entering the relationship she was hoping for, and that was a wonderful moment. I really enjoy that character and her love for her brother and now her lunar mate. And in Mage, my character has again fallen into a relationship that is certainly interesting, Ragna being sweet and incredibly naive and her girlfriend being... rather less so.

Thursday 29th - "Evolve"
If my memory serves, in a previous year we were asked how our play style had evolved and I claimed mine hadn't, really. I've subsequently realised I was wrong. There's certain aspects that stay true: I enjoy character-driven play over dungeon hack or even story driven (though character and story driven play are highly compatible) and that's always been the case, but the types of characters I get the most out of playing have changed - less, now, the innocent healers and more leaders or mother hens or prickly characters who still want the best for the team. I still prefer range if there's fighting to be done (though Chrissie'll happily get in the thick of it to throw a few punches), and still prefer the parts of the game outside the battleground (though the White Wolf/Savage Worlds games don't fill me with dread when it comes to combat the way Pathfinder does, because the combat systems are much quicker). I feel I'm getting better at making things up on the fly if I need to (though it's something I need to work on, particularly in Mage). I hope I give and continue to give other players (especially the GM) plenty to work with.

Friday 30th - "Connection"
"Emotional bleed" is a phrase I learnt a few years ago that stuck with me because I love to be so connected to my characters that I feel that emotional bleed, feel their emotions as strongly as my own. I appreciate it's not for everyone, but for me it's what makes a moment memorable.

Saturday 31st - "Last" 
This prompt is hard. I can't talk about the last game I'll ever play, or the last group I'll ever play with, like I did with "First" because I hope that's many, many years away. I don't want to talke about the most recent game I played, because it's not the last in that arc...

Oh, that makes me think! The last game in the most recent Exalted arc ended in one of my favourite endings, with Taji's lunar mate wrapping his arm around her and her leaning against him, surrounded by their friends at an outdoor celebratory party. So which are other favourite last sessions? Two come to mind, both long running campaigns at uni.

The first was Werewolf: The Apocalypse. The Galliard, the Philodox, the Ahroun, the Ragabash all died in the great battle. Only the Theurges, my Child of Gaia and Mel's Black Fury, survived. The world was different now, the changing breeds no more: Mel's character was now a full time human, and mine a full time wolf. They remained friends, though, meeting at a particular location (a lake between the woodlands and the town, as I recall), and generations after, her descendants and mine continued the tradition.

The second was Final Fantasy Noir. Kella had fallen pregnant while the party climbed Mount Gagazet, but (believing she was destined to die) she'd told no one. Reisha had died before she learnt she could survive, so he never learnt about their baby. Until after Zet was born, when Kella relaxed on the Besaid shore with her sister and her sister's twins (fathered by Rax, another party member), and a distant SPLASH caught her eye. It was Reisha, returned to life by Phoenix, with whom Reisha had a strong connection that was never quite explained. It was perfect and made me cry. 

Sunday 25 August 2019

#RPGaDay2019: Days 19-25

Monday 19th - "Scary"
I've played a few games where the hairs on the back of my neck have stood up and I've needed to take a moment to calm down after. The first was in the Renraku Arcology, and the most recent the Deadlands Asylum. Both sent real shivers down my spine, but I'll relate the Arcology one here, as it happened after the point I had notes.

Kamaya made it back into the Arcology to try and rescue her friends. They were still holed up in more or less the same place, waiting out the situation. She got bored and wanted to find out what was going on, so crept off through the ceiling vents. At one point she ended up in a toy shop, where a wall of dolls turned their glowing eyes on her and, in a chorus of sing-song voices, called her by name to come and play. The image was so vivid in my head it still gives me the shivers.

Tuesday 20th - "Noble"
This one's easy! Svetlana is the first character I've played who earned herself entry to the world of nobility, first by right of conquest - "reclaiming" part of the stolen lands for Brevoy - then earning more titles by hard work as an adventuring, and finally marrying the king.

Really looking forward to getting back to her (though on the other hand, I'm so distracted by Ziggy during our games at the moment that part of me is worried, because I want to give her more attention than I'll be able to.)

Wednesday 21st - "Vast"
One of the things I love about our Exalted game is how vast it feels, yet also how much it feels like we can affect things, like we have choice and agency and will shape the world for the future. It's an interesting balance and one I believe the players need to take some responsibility for in order to maintain it. I know how hard GM's work to breathe life into worlds. Players should respect that by acting responsibly with what the GM gives them. Which of course doesn't mean they can't have fun - "responsible" and "fun" are not synonyms - but the best games come, I think, when the GM and players work in tandem to create and believe in the characters and world, and I think that's happened in our Exalted game and the vastness - in time as well as space - of our version of Creation.

Thursday 22nd - "Lost"
I lost the first RPG group I was a part of. They were mostly guys a few years older than me, and one of them decided (pretty much without consulting me) that we were dating, and I was pretty naive for 18 and went along with it, and then he broke up with me and made out that I'd broken his heart and I know one person in the group I really admired absolutely accepted that without question (they'd been friends for many, many years so I have no anger towards her, but I miss her), and I found it easier to melt away than face it, and then I met Husbit, and then I went off to uni and made more friends both times, and it just became easier.

I regret it, though. I feel the loss of those friends. They got me through hellish teenage years and introduced me to something that remains one of my favourite hobbies.

Friday 23rd - "Surprise"
In Exalted, there's a bit coming up where I took my GM by surprise, to the point he paused us and excitedly and rapidly typed a bunch of notes. It was a pretty thrilling moment, to make the GM stop and think again about how things will unfurl. I don't want to give too much away (the things to look for are the next message my character sends to the Emissary, which he made a point of ensuring was noted, and what Taji insists be done after Hak has intervened), so instead I'm going to talk about the time a different player surprised a different GM in a game I wasn't even in, a moment that has passed into legend among certain of my friends. (The player was Ben, the friend who had me join his Space Munchkin game to introduce some of his non-RPG friends to RPG's.)

They were playing some superhero game, and Ben's character was the descendant of Arthur, King of the Britons. Had the sword Excalibur and everything. The game was set in the US, though, and the characters were ostensibly American. The game had been going on for some time when, for reasons lost in the mists of storytelling, the party ended up flung back in time to the American War of Independence. They were recruited by an American general and one job was as lookout, waiting for the news that the British were on their way then lighting lanterns to pass the message on. Ben was on duty the night an out of breath rider arrived, bearing the warning. 

"Ok," says Ben, and sends the weary man to get a rest.

"What are you going to do?" Asks the GM.





"Did you miss the bit on my character sheet where it says 'King of the Britons'?"

The GM never quite forgave himself for not seeing it coming (but made sure the repercussions were felt when the players returned to their own time. 

Saturday 24th - "Triumph"
We have a house rule in our Pathfinder group that if you roll a 20 for a critical and a 20 to confirm, you roll again and if it's a third 20 then it's an auto-kill. It's only happened once, and I was the one rolling. I roll a statistically improbable amount of 1's so it felt an even bigger triumph.

We'd got into a fight and were being badly beaten. There were 3 significant NPC foes and we'd gone in overconfidently (players, overconfident? Never! I hear you cry)  

Sunday 25th - "Calamity" 
It used to bother me when calamity befell my characters, but now I appreciate it as a method of enhancing storytelling. Sometimes, I want to know that things will come out ok for the characters in the long run (Svetlana, for instance), but often I'm happy letting it drive the story onward. I think a lot of this comes from that episode in Exalted I'll be writing up when I get time, the one I already mentioned briefly under "surprise".

Sunday 18 August 2019

#RPGaDay2019: Days 12-18

Monday 12th - "Friendship"
Friendships are vital for good gaming, and I've made loads of new friends that way too, and I've talked on that theme before so I'm going to talk about in character friendships instead, because those are also fantastic.
The big ones have been (more or less in chronological order): Kamaya with NPC's Drazen and Tark; Kella with PC's Kyann, Rax, and especially Reisha; Plays in Shadows and the other PC's making up her pack; Svetlana and the NPC's I created for her backstory; Chrissie and Adam; Taji and Kito, and Taji and an NPC you'll be meeting very soon in the Exalted storyline. 

We're currently playing Aberrant so I think the friendship between Chrissie and Adam is a good one to discuss! We've been joined by another player (one of those friends I've made through gaming) whose character, Morgan, is important to the team but, coming in later, isn't as close  to the other player characters as they are to each other. Chrissie and Adam's friendship is a little strained by the events leading up to and following Adam's incarceration but was forged in strong fires. They had almost polar opposite upbringings, have slightly different morals stemming from differences in their pre-nova lives, were forced together by circumstance (and Benedict...) and have done their best to save the world (or at least make it a better place) many times.

Tuesday 13th - "Mystery"
Running a mystery game is hard. You need to leave breadcrumbs that will seem way to obvious to you, yet your players either will completely misinterpret or won't pick up at all, then you have to figure out how to guide them out of the rabbit holes without making it too obvious, because if it takes too long or feels too hard, the players won't have fun. I've always wanted to play in a mystery campaign, but have no idea where to start to run one.

Back to Aberrant (and friendship). We're currently playing a mystery scenario. Chrissie had a friend in her backstory, Bill, who's recently been killed! Investigating, Chrissie found clues he'd left that only she could find, leading to the word "Protos". We've now spent several sessions trying to figure out what on earth is so important about "Protos" that Bill went to such effort to hide it in such a way only Chrissie could find it. We've definitely gone down several wrong paths and the GM has helped us out by rephrasing things or giving us new ways to find information. We've finally tracked down the people behind the word, but still don't know what it all means...

 Wednesday 14th - "Guide"
There's a real joy to be had in being a guide bringing new people to table top roleplay. My best experience in this role was at uni, where a friend of mine on my course and also in the roleplay society wanted to introduce some other friends of his to gaming. He ran Space Munchkin, and invited me along to show them what it was all about, and act as a cattalyst to keep things moving. I played a cat person wiht force powers and incontrollable curiosity - the other players were soon having their characters grab my tail to yank me away from any red button or hatch labelled "do not open". It was great fun to play someone that reckless, and it was great fun to see them enjoying something they'd never done before.

Thursday 15th - "Door"
I love welcoming new players to roleplay. I think it's a fantastic hobby that gives benefits in normal life. You hear about hobby gatekeepers, but I think it's important and wonderful to hold the door open to everyone who's interested.

Friday 16th - "Dream"
I start a new job in a few weeks, and I'm anxious about it because it'll mean less time with Ziggy. Less time for my hobbies, too, but missing Ziggy is my biggest anxiety. The dream, then, is to have a job that pays enough to meet our outgoings and lead a comfortable lifestyle but that also has minimal (and flexible) hours. This was, I believe, a promise of automation that we haven't seen (there's a rant I could go off on...).

I was chatting about it with my regular GM. If I won big enough on the lottery, I'd love to be able to pay my friends to play with me (and especially the GM, because I think they put the most work into a game). He, in turn, would set up an office and employ us all to help develop the game he's working on. With an ice cream machine and mandatory naps.

I kinda hope he does win the lottery!

Saturday 17th - "One"
I was really struggling with this prompt and asked Husbit's help. He suggested one on one sessions, mentioning the Deadlands one he ran at the Asylum, which was effectively 4 one on one sessions, rotating between the players. He did a really good job of bringing personal horror into it and amping up the dread. I think this is something easier to do one on one, as the GM can really focus on that one player, and the player isn't distracted by other players' responses.

My most recent one on one session was in Aberrant, where I'd missed a session so played through the time separately later. I feel like I got a lot more done in that one session than in the normal group, which again goes to the way players are like cats: easier individually, but a nightmare to herd.

Sunday 18th - "Plenty" 
The one thing I have plenty of for roleplay is dice! I've played diceless and there's other diceless systems that interest me, but I do love rolling great handfuls of dice.

Sunday 11 August 2019

#RPGaDay2019: Days 5-11

Monday 5th - "Space"
I'm going to borrow from Autocratik and talk about our gaming space. We had a decent-sized wooden table with benches rather than chairs that had a homemade 6' by 4' gaming table over the top, complete with static grass. It made a decent table through several flats, but when we moved to this house, the previous owners left their table - longer and with actual chairs. It's in the dining room, an extension of the kitchen (so very convenient for coffees). The previous owners originally wanted a conservatory, but found it too hot in the summer and cold in the winter, so made it into a permanent structure instead. In keeping with their intention, though, the room has large skylights and windows, so feels light and airy. We've got a couple of bookshelves in there, to store dice and books for current games (the other books are in the Kallax in the study), and the toy cars for Gaslands, which Husbit's got really into recently.
I prefer to play sitting on sofas and the floor, but I'm outnumbered in this group, and the space is good.
Tuesday 6th - "Ancient"
I love settings with ancient tech, no longer understood. I'd very much like to play Numenera one day, but my experience in this comes a little from the Final Fantasy-themed game I played in at uni and largely from the Exalted game where I play Taji. I really enjoy whenever we find something ancient and try to learn about it in that game - made a little easier by a certain NPC (or two... or three) who remember those days.

A good example was the recent Exalted post "Our First Command", where we found some old tech stolen from the tombs of ancient Solars (and where I rolled a triple botch and accidentally triggered a defective Thousand Forged Dragon, destroying all the evidence and some of the loot we'd found). The next post is one I'm really excited about, because it will introduce one of my favourite NPC's, and one of those who remembers the First Age when all this tech that seems so magical to Taji and Kito was considered as commonplace as a mobile phone today...
Wednesday 7th - "Familiar"
I like the idea of having a familiar, but have never played a character with one. Animal companions once or twice, but never yet a familiar. I'm torn between whether I'd want a cat, a kestrel (or similar raptor), or a crow (or other corvid) - or maybe a rat or a ferret or a snake or a spider... It's definitely on my list to do one day, in the right game (maybe this one). 
Thursday 8th - "Obscure"
The most obvious way to take this, to me, was to discuss an obscure game I've played, but I can't think of one, so instead I've gone to the verb meaning.
Generally, I dislike it when one player obscures the truth from others, but there's times it's great fun on both sides. I generally enjoy it more when it's some dark secret from the character's background but also when it's something coming from gameplay - as long as it isn't the character working against the others and as long as it comes out quickly. I get anxious with hidden secrets, even benign ones. Husbit loves them. His character Alexei in Pathfinder has a lot going on (though I swear half the time he and the GM are just passing notes that say "this is a secret note"). Another character in our other Pathfinder game has some secrets that are starting to come to light, but these were more character secrets than player secrets, and came from backstory.

I did once have great fun being the player with the secret, when Svetlana was sneaking around with the group's patron, the king of Brevoy. We resolved it quickly, but I finally understood why Husbit enjoys obscuring secrets so much.

Friday 9th - "Critical"
I'm sure I've said it before, but the thing I consider most critical to a good game is playing with people who want the same thing as you. In my case, that's lots of character-driven story so those people also need to be people I'm comfortable getting vulnerable with. It's part of why the Exalted game is so dear to me: there's a large world to explore, but the story is made by the way the player characters, Taji and Kito, interact  with each other and the vast stable of NPC's. I think the closeness of the twins helps - I also really enjoyed a Pathfinder one-off where we played mentor and mentee in a similarly close way - and the life the GM has breathed into the NPC's is the icing on the very yummy cake.

Saturday 10th - "Focus"
I feel like I'm being told off! I don't have AD(H)D but my brain often sprints off after the proverbial squirrel regardless. It therefore seems most apt to discuss the things that send us shooting off topic the fastest! I'm sure all groups have them, key words, phrases, or concepts that derail play until the rabbit hole is cleared. Ours include:
  • certain in-jokes (Did it move? Classic Paul! Boats do a lot of damage...)
  • ridiculous conspiracy theories (flat Earth gets a little attention, but our ire is reserved for anti-vaxxers. Flat Earth is just silly, the way they produce experiments and refuse to accept the results, but anti-vaxx isn't just dangerous for those involved, but also those around them, such as those Ziggy's age, or those with compromised immune systems, or those with allergies that mean they can't be vaccinated, or anyone else who relies on herd immunity)
  • the ridiculousness of the US healthcare system. We live somewhere that (currently) has free healthcare and it seems crazy to us that a country with the economic success of the US doesn't offer the same. It particularly came up in our Mage game, when we got shot and had to work out if we could afford to go to hospital... We were so shocked by what we read that we keep coming back to it
  • Books, films, TV shows that mirror things in game - or just that have got one of us hooked recently and we want to share our new obsession
Of course, it's Ziggy who most often derails things now! 

Sunday 11th - "Examine" 
This wasn't a game I was in, but one Husbit ran for our friends while I was away at uni. A Ravenloft game, with lots of gothic horror and personal tragedy. They'd finished a dungeon hack-style encounter and had emerged, blinking, into the sunshine. Husbit described the scene: the fields, the clear sky, the fields, their horses happily eating the grass and still tied to the tree, the kestrel sitting in the tree watching.

There followed an in character conversation that lasted around an hour debating what to do with this kestrel. Was it food?, a threat?, a spy?.. Husbit has told this story with two punchlines. The kestrel was due to be the ranger's animal companion... the kestrel was an incidental bit of scenery with no significance.

Wednesday 7 August 2019

#RPGaDay2019 - Days 1-4

1st - "First"
My first gaming group were some of the staff from my local Games Workshop and their friends. I'm struggling to remember who was actually in the group: Andy, because he was GM; Tom, because from there he invited me to the Shadowrun game that was how I became completely hooked; their housemate Paul. I think there were others, but I can't remember except I was the only girl in the group and the last to join.

It felt a real honour to have been invited. We played ourselves in a game of Buffy set in our local area. We had a Watcher but no slayer (what with her being off in Sunnydale). We'd all ended up dragged into this supernatural world by dint of things we'd seen or experienced. Andy, as GM, occasionally played himself but was keen not to be dragged into the game properly so played himself as an obstacle: we had to keep things secret from those not involved, and that included him. We played in their living room; they lived round the corner from the local firestation and I can't remember if we ever managed it or only wanted to steal a fire engine and fill it with holy water to go on a rampage...

They were good guys who helped me through the worst of being a teenager.

2nd - "Unique"
There's certain themes my characters will nearly always have one or more of: child-like innocence, kindness, an affinity for fire, a preference for ranged weaponry. My Ravnos 'Mathilde' was an exception. She was cruel, a bully, a trickster - completely against my self-image or my desires, but still great fun to play (with the right group). Definitely unique amongst my characters - the nettle among the daisies.

3rd - "Engage"
The death of G+ has changed the way I engage with the international roleplay community, making it a lot harder to do. I'm really sad about that. The alternative social networks don't work for me, for different reasons, and I feel the loss of that community.

I'm staying in touch with the blogs I remembered to bookmark, and am hoping this blog is still enjoyed by those who can still find it.

4th - "Share"
Speaking of the blogs I remembered to bookmark, you can see them down the side! What did I miss? Let me know! :)

Tuesday 6 August 2019

Quick Life Update

It's August already, and I only noticed because I poked Instagram and spotted an update from Dave Chapman referencing this year's #RPGaDay, and I was only on Instagram because I'm job hunting and a prospective employer mentioned she'd looked me up and seen my account there, and I realised I hadn't updated it in ages.

So starting with RPGaDay - I intend to take part. Now I've seen the graphic, I'm intrigued by the prompts (though find the graphic itself less clear than the previous format. More fun, but less clear). Between the Cat and Ziggy, I have less opportunities to spend time on my laptop so I think I'm going to write up as many as I can when I get the opportunity and post them to go live on Sundays in a "weekly round up" style.

Kitty's still doing ok. She's not eating as well as she was immediately after the steroid injection but is still eating better than before it. Her front right leg is now almost completely useless to her and the muscle is wasting away, but the limp that was developing in her left back leg has fixed itself. We assume she'd strained it compensating for her front leg. She's doing a very good job of getting around, albeit more slowly. She still comes up at around 6am and jumps on the bed, miaowing for cuddles. 

The job hunt is because I'm in gardening leave. I did 6 months maternity and went back to work for a few days, then gardening leave started. My department's been sold to an offshore company, who sensibly enough want to bring it to their continent and I didn't want to follow. Husbit has also been made redundant, but was always going to leave his job to be primary parent so this way we got an unexpected payout. My job was under threat before I fell pregnant and the dates confirmed before I left for maternity leave, so it's not unexpected. What's frustrating is that this time last year I was looking around at what was out there, and there were loads of jobs in my industry that were lower responsibility than I'd had and for nearly 50% more income, so I wasn't worried. Those jobs have all now dried up and I'm anxious. I'm also struggling to prove myself in technical tests. I spent 4 years or so being told how good I am at programming and I'd finally internalised that, and now the feedback I'm getting over and over again is that my technical tests aren't up to standard. I have, fortunately, managed to get an interview despite that (showing personality counts for something), but it's really knocked my confidence. It also means I'm going to be on a wage barely above what I was on before, which is not enough to cover our bills so that's super stressful. I'm going to have to work hard to prove myself and get a pay rise (wherever I end up)  before my redundancy payout runs out. (The recruiter sounded annoyed when I mentioned I had to give notice or I'd lose the payout. I didn't like to mention I don't really want to start before the gardening leave naturally comes to an end because I don't want to miss Ziggy more than I have to, and I'm still breastfeeding. I'm prepared to if I have to, but I don't like it.) I don't want to whine about it, but writing my worries is one of the ways I deal with them. Which leads on to the thought that I'd love to write a novel and get it published, and necessity may help my enthusiasm cut through my self-doubt (and my reluctance to edit).

Ziggy continues to do well. He's got 6 teeth cut through, with several other little bumps. He can walk while holding on - even a few steps holding with only one hand! He can run with both hands (and climb stairs the same way). The last couple of days, he's started crawling! He doesn't get very far, tending to use it as a way to get closer to something he's already sitting near. He's currently playing with blocks and watching Hey, Duggee (the only kids' show we don't find annoying. One episode is about the right length for his attention and gives us a 7minute break). I'd like to do a proper post soon, showing him swimming and at circus and bouncing and all the other things he enjoys.

In summary, life is more stressful than I like right now, but not insurmountably so, and I'm still getting great pleasure out of the things I love.

Friday 26 July 2019

Exalted - Our First Command

This is the story of our Second Age Exalted game, told from the point of view of my character, Cathak Taji. Click here for the index.
We headed north, knowing we couldn't take on the Bull (yet) but determined to learn as much about him as possible. The journey was uneventful: we rested at Port Kaylen, where the gate guard slept as we walked past. The inn we stayed in was cheap, pleasant in itself, but run by a harridan. We were back at Highcastle by the next evening. Rey greeted us with good news: she'd been reassigned with us as the Empress pulled some strings after our visit, and was glad to be out of the cold. She led us to Rose Black and the leader of House Tepet to make our promotion official. Our new unit was the 73rd Regiment, a scale within the 33rd Legion. Our first mission had the primary objective of coming back alive: to the north was The Hold of White Idols, a rice farming region whose produce supplied much of the Realm and Threshold, but they'd gone quiet recently and we were to learn why. On our way, we were to stop at a holding of one of the lesser Houses of Ledaal. She gave us a Hearthstone amulet that would allow us to contact her, our medals of office showing us as Scale Lords, and sent us on our way.

We picked our way through the campsite to reach our scale, their tents in a semicircle that broke the perfect order of the camp. 6 who appeared to be normal humans, and 6 Dynasts: 3 from Tepet, 2 from Cathak and 1 Ledaal, Sven. He called us "kids", but I managed not to rise to his baiting. We were young, and I knew we'd soon prove we were there on merit.

They were the troublemakers, which delighted me. It meant they could think.

We found a rabbit in Kito's bed that night. I was set to punish them or at least get revenge, but Kito calmed me and I listened. We fashioned it a harness and named it 'Ghost' and kept it as a mascot. It was a sweet thing, white with black spots.

We left in the morning and got to know our unit as we travelled. Cathak Cainan was particularly grizzled and seemed to have the most leadership experience. The other member of our House, Kou, was the youngest of the Dynasts, an Immaculate Monk wearing a tunic with a leaping flame motif. House Tepet was represented by Rihannon, a blonde-haired older woman with a reaper diklaive and an excellent cook, Elena, who felt familiar until it struck me she reminded me of the Rose Black, and Hoarst, whose bald head was one of the shiniest things I'd ever seen, and who seemed... shifty. He kept grumbling about the cold. Ledaal Sven had fair hair and skin, blue eyes and light stubble, and seemed young and irreverent. Everything was a joke to him - I had no doubt he was behind Ghost's appearance. Of the mortals, Osada and Iki were married. They wore full plate armour as though it were nothing, and had strange amulets grafted into their wrists. Matsu Dairu had a pair of ornate guns with which he was very skilled.

After half a day's travel, Sven was already bored. We could hear running water and headed toward it. Before we reached the river, we found a giant rock gouged with great clawmarks indicating we were passing into an Anathema's territory. After a quick discussion, we decded to take the risk as the river would vastly speed up our travel. Once we reached it, Cainan oversaw the building of a raft while Rihannon, a good fisherman and cook, prepared a meal. Osada, Rey, Elena and I secured the perimeter, and I learnt more about Osada and Iki's armour. It wasn't full plate, but "gonzai" armour, linked to the amulets. It's a special kind of power armour that can be used by those who can't normally channel essence, but it halves their lifespan. In thanks for such a sacrifice, the Realm promises to look after their families and gives them a command. He met Iki through this, and they're here rather than commanding their own unit because they're coming to the end of their time and "well, I'm not the type to die in bed, so I'm refusing to retire." I could respect that.

Cainan and I were sharing watch when the tyrant lizard attacked that night, crashed through the trees towards our camp. I fired arrows into it as Cainan swung at it. It bent its mighty head and caught him in his jaws, lifting to swallow him, but in that instant he flared so that it looked like it was breathing fire for a moment and cut his way free, the sword getting wedged as he finally fell. I fired an arrow into its open mouth and must have hit a nerve that caused the jaws to snap shut, lodging the sword deep into the creature's brain. We looked at each other with the joy of hard fought victory. There's good eating on a tyrant lizard. Rihannon joined us in time to organise the creature's dissection, splitting the parts into edible, valuable, useful and detritus.

The river raced us along until we reached an offshoot used to irrigate the fields of the Ledaal holding. We saw fewer people than we'd expected, but it seemed to be very efficient. Overseers stared as we floated past,visibly relaxing when they saw the  Imperial red armour worn by some of the unit.

After tying up the raft, we were led to Overseer Vash, a corpulent man grown comfortable in his position. He introduced us to his servant George and showed us around. Housing for the workers and livestock was pointed out and dismissed as he led us to the gardens, replete with ornate topiaries and pristine lawns and flower beds. Even the ivy clinging to the buildings was immaculate. The stables housed horses of particularly fine eastern stock. As we approached the main house, servants tripped out and lined up as though for an inspection. Vash then offered his hospitality for as long as we might want, his obsequious bow and unctuous grin failing to hide his desire it wouldn't be long: with so many Dynasts in our party, perhaps he thought he was being replaced. He then began a detailed tour of the house, and this was when we noticed Hoarst was missing. Kito left Sven in charge, and we snuck off to look for him.

We found him in a study, feet on table, flicking through paperwork, looking, he explained, for any dodgy dealings. Behind him, a painting rested on the floor to expose a safe in the wall, the open door revealing a jewellery box filled with large gems, and two talents of yellow jade! Hoarst chuckled at our shocked expressions. 

"There was more." He indicated the paperwork. "Our Overseer Vash has been dealing with the Azlanti." And not just the Azlanti: he showed us where 12 talents had been paid to the Azlanti, 5 to the Guild (for slaves), and finally 5 to the Realm. Payments had been coming later and later and with less and less interest, so the Realm had become suspicious. This was the real reason we'd been told to go via this site. He explained something the Rose Black had omitted telling us: each member of our unit has their own purpose and their own mission. This was his.

As we helped him restore the room, I discovered a secret compartment in the safe, holding a key labled 73256. Hoarst pocketed the guide and promised to keep digging, but seemed genuinely impressed I'd found the key. We rejoined the tour briefly: Sven was doing a fantastic job of keeping Vash occupied, so we slipped off again to look for a bigger safe. 
Kito suggested the wine cellar, figuring a safe as large as we're expecting would have to be underground. As we walked, Hoarst explained the unit's recent history. The previous leader, Scale Lord Chow, faced down an Anathema so the rest could escape, but even so half the unit had died. 

The wine cellar was filled with expensive bottles of wine and spirits, and barrels of various sizes, up to some several metres in diameter laid on their sides. One of these sounded empty so I fiddled around and found a catch that opened the front, revealing a large metal door. The key fitted the latch, and the number turned out to be the code. The wall the barrel had been pressed against wasn't, as it had appeared, been the edge of the cellar. While the room had been large, where we now stood was even larger. The size and structure made us think the room had to be Shogunite, or even older, but was clearly in current use. The wine stored here was worth even more than that we'd already seen. There were green jade talents stacked fairly near the door, artworks and other items dotted around. Kito found a small box in green jade. Opening it, we found 8 needles around the length of a finger and the diameter of a stem of wheat, 2 in each of the magical materials. We recognised them as Wound Healing Needles and hid them in my bag. A fine pair of gloves next caught our eyes, chased in orichalcum. The left included a Hearthstone socket. Kito identified them as Gloves of Martial Readiness, and again we squirrelled them away. I picked up a small orichalcum chevron, that could clip over a belt buckle, and spent a moment attuning to it. Throwing it to the ground caused it to expand until I could stand on it, hovering. It responded to my awkward movements and my feet felt secured. With practice, I knew it would make a very useful archery platform (I'd later learn it was known as a Wind Blade Class Personal Transport, and it remains one of my favourite possessions). Finally was another small jade box, with motifs picked out in moonsilver, locked and dusty like it had been discarded. Kito attuned to this which allowed him to open it and discover a plasma tongue repeater, like the one the Highcastle Quarter Master had given us, complete with ammo. I restored my wind blade to belt buckle sized and shared a look with Kito: there was a lot of orichalcum in the room.

What we found there made us look more closely at the yellow jade Hoarst had found in the office. Stamped by the Imperial Mint but dated to the first 5 or 6 years of the Shogunite. We took these and rejoined our unit, throwing the jade down in front of Vash with our accusations. He prevaricated and tried to justify himself, but before he got far Elena's blade flashed past, beheading him. I was shocked and angry, wanting to hear more, especially about where he'd found the orichalcum items (Anathema tombs, but we didn't learn the location), and frustrated that she was acting on orders from above me and about which I knew nothing. I understood this wasn't unusual in an army situation, but I felt undermined and that was nearly unbearable. I suppressed my feelings and gave instructions to split up and find more evidence.

As the others amassed paperwork and such in the great hall, I found a hidden room behind the kitchen - I had to squirm through the back of a cupboard to reach it. Inside was a strange device, with an array of buttons and blinking lights. I didn't recognise any of the symbols and curiously tapped a couple of the buttons. The lights and some symbols changed. I tapped again, and the blinking intensified. An alarm sounded. I frantically batted more of the buttons until the blinking and alarm synced into what sounded like a countdown. I bolted from the strange room and started yelling for everyone to evacuate. As I reached the edge of the gardens, I saw a large, metal dragon-shape break out of the house and explode. I was shaken but not injured, unlike Kito who'd been trying to rescue servants. He was bleeding profusely when I found him, badly bruised all over with his leg twisted beneath him. We laid him out carefully, and I tested the needles. To my relief, they worked. Guards came running over, but Sven led them off. I instructed our unit to clear the ruin, and we got the surviving servants to prepare the guest house as the main residence.
As Kito came to, he pointed out there was no essence in the area. The device must have been similar to a Thousand Forged Dragon, though with less destructive power. All the same, it shouldn't have been possible to accidentally enter the launch code. Either I got very, very unlucky, or those things have a lifespan and become unstable towards the end. That might explain why there was less damage, too... Either way, I was just grateful my brother was ok and the damage not as bad as it might have been.

Wednesday 24 July 2019


Does have lymphoma. She also has a limp they thought initially was arthritis but now think is a tumour, and another leg has started limping since then. She's on steroids to make her feel better and encourage her to eat, and they do seem to be helping but they aren't a cure. We're giving her lots of love and affection and all the food she asks for. We're hoping she makes it to Christmas, but have no idea how long she might have: the only way to find out would be invasive exploratory surgery which doesn't seem fair to her. For now, she's happy and we'll do what we can to keep her happy as long as possible.


Wednesday 10 July 2019

Mage - Introductions

This is the story of our Mage game, told from the perspective of my character Ragna "Reagan" Halvorsen. Index here.
1st March 2016
I sat among the other hopefuls, waiting for my turn. While they ran lines in their heads and practiced faces and poses, I centred my breathing as I moved between yoga poses and looked over their auras, seeing the nerves, the confidence, the hopes and fears of every other audition room I'd been in. This time, I was going to try something different and needed my mind in the right place.

When they called my name, I walked to the stage and looked out, through their auras, into their minds to see what they thought they were looking for, and deeper, to what they actually wanted. They were mostly bored, but I got their attention anyway. A little life magic can add sparkle like that.

It's not cheating, using the gifts I inherited from my mormor. After all, I could be using her name and her agency to get parts. At least this way I'm doing it myself.

They smiled as they thanked me. I smiled back and hid the relief. A chocolate milk commercial might not be much, but it had lines and that's a start.

Caervus, the man who'd initiated me to the Euthanatoi tradition a few months ago, met me outside. He gave me an address and told me to be there at 9pm, before slipping away in his mysterious manner. I raced to my waitressing shift - long as usual, still lacking any high powered film producer who might cast me as the lead in his movie. Managed to find the right buses to get me across town to what turned out to be an occult store. You know the type, lots of dangling charms and trays of gemstones (many fake), and tarot cards behind glass, and a funny smell from mismatched incense. Confused and shy, I spoke to the guy behind the counter. He led me creaking stairs to a landing so decrepit I felt sure I'd fall through - he went back to his store and left me there, so I went through the only door.

To somewhere bright and sunny, but cool (or at least, cooler than LA). The ground was made of carved stones and a pool glistened. Snowy mountains in the distance. Caervus came over and explained this place is a meeting place for new members, and I won't be back here for a while.

"Your path coincides with another for now. This is Marcus Waite." 

Older than me, maybe mid-20's. Dark hair, styled longer on top and shorter on the sides with a purple tinge, dark eyes. Was wearing ragged jeans and a white shirt under his long coat, the way he was nearly always dressed, I'd come to learn. He removed his headphones as we were introduced. Caervus explained he's further on his path and will be teaching me. Gave him my number and he left, then Caervus wished me luck and gave me a blessing. Felt a bit sad when I realised I wouldn't be seeing him for a while. Initiation isn't gentle and he supported me through it.

When I left, I saw the door stood with in the middle of the balcony. Marcus was waiting, took me for a coffee and we chatted. He was from the East coast, played in bands and came here for a record deal that fell through. Caervus found him in a particularly bad spot - he looked haunted by it and I didn't ask more. The more we talked, the more I thought Mormor would like him.

He took me to meet a mysterious "someone". The house was typical suburban, maintained with pride. Before we went in, Marcus explained I was here to have a reading, which I should only discuss with him, and any questions should be to him not her - she "gets funny".

The lady was African American. I'm no expert on accents, but I think she was from somewhere South. She looked older than Mormor looks, but not as old as Mormor is. She had a nice smile and ushered me into a candlelit room, sat me down in front of a table covered in a deep velvet cloth. Talked me through the cards. She clearly knew what she was doing, but I felt dazzled by it and came away only understanding I had a lot to learn.

Marcus got us a cab home, somehow getting away without paying for it.

2nd March 2016
Marcus was worried about a friend of his who'd gone missing, and wanted me to check out a laundromat in Chinatown where there were rumours of strange goings on. Warned me "be circumspect" so I 'accidentally' spilled somethng down my uniform at the end of my shift and headed over, humming to myself - singing to the building. There was a tingle of ... something. I couldn't place it. Went in and talked to the guy, but I couldn't get a read on him. As I tried, a strange, skinny guy came in so I left. Back out on the street, I tried to pinpoint what I'd sensed before, sketching a circle and trying to focus through that onto the building, but the skinny guy reappeared, and everywhere I went he seemed to follow. Went back in and arranged to collect my uniform the next day - try again then. The strange guy offered me a lift home, which I eventually accepted. Howard. Think he was surprised when I got him to drop me off in Beverly, and Mormor, of course, teased me mercilessly.

Wednesday 26 June 2019

Birthing Debrief pt 2

As with the previous post, I appreciate this is something that isn't going to be of interest to those of you who read the blog purely for the geek stuff. I want to talk through the birth and days after to help sort it out in my mind and because it's a huge thing to me, and I want to talk about Ziggy endlessly because I'm overwhelmed by the wonder of him, but I also want to keep up writing about games and aerial and other things I love, because it's important to me to be a rounded person with interests beyond my child. I'll find a balance that works for me.

In the meantime, here's the cat pic warning for those of you not interested in birth and newborns, or who don't want to read about the things Husbit refers to as "human goo": the blood, faeces, urine, vomit, snot and dribble that comes from having a baby.

I stared at him. The trauma of the previous however long was tethered to me like helium balloons, and with each breath another string was snipped until the universe was him and me. I felt a swelling of love for Husbit, for my stepmum, my family, my friends. Everything and everyone that mattered to me mattered more. It was like he was an amplifier for the love in me.

They turned off the epidural as soon as he arrived, which meant no pain relief for the stitches. The antenatal class had warned me about this, saying that we'd be so absorbed in the baby that we wouldn't notice the pain. I was very absorbed in him, but it still really hurt (I remember that pain better than the pain of the birth itself, probably because it happened after I first saw him). While they were doing that, the trainee muttered about there not being any tearing (weird things to feel about), and the consultant saying this was unusual when there was - and I missed the next word, filling in "forceps" or "a large/stuck baby". Hours later, I learnt I'd haemorrhaged. A blood loss of 500ml or more is considered a haemorrhage. I lost 1300ml. I think I was lucky not to need a transfusion.

I'd agreed with the first midwife when we arrived that we'd do delayed cord clamping and that my stepmum would cut the cord, but she'd left by the time he arrived, and the doctors either didn't read her notes or didn't care and did all that before any of us knew. I'm a bit cross about not having delayed cord clamping.

I was exhausted and wanted peace and quiet to be with Ziggy. I wanted Husbit with me, but the bed was small and awkward with no space for him to curl with me, and I knew my stepmum's car was back at our house and I knew he was exhausted too and needed to rest and I knew I'd be ok with Ziggy (who had a real name now, a grown up name for such a young person) so when I heard him dithering around I sent him home to come back in the morning. I was still in this little bubble of love and it enveloped him even when he wasn't next to me.

Eventually, it was just me, Ziggy, and a midwife. She quietly scribbled notes, giving me some peace. Ziggy stayed on my chest for a few hours, which was lovely, covered in the blood and goo of birth, which wasn't. At some point, someone took him off me, cleaned him of the poo he'd smeared over both of us, and put him back on my chest in the same pile of meconium. I didn't bother to mention the next time he pooed and just enjoyed the weight of him instead. Midwives kept changing - I'm not sure how many we went through over the course of the night. Eventually, one took him and cleaned him up, dressed him and laid him in the bassinet beside me and we lay there staring at each other. I timed my breathing to his. Whenever one of us got hiccups, the other started soon after. I imagine we both dozed, but I don't really remember.

They left me filthy when they cleaned him. I'm pretty sure they turned off my oxitocin an hour early and took away my fluid drip before they should have, but I was pretty out of it when they were told when to take that away, so I may be wrong. The room was far too hot for me - they kept saying my faint feeling was the blood loss, but I knew it was the heat. One midwife listened to me. She turned the aircon on and I was fine (until the next came and turned it off again). She helped me stand so I could move to the chair for a change of scene, and said she'd be back shortly to help me have a shower. An hour, longer, passed and she didn't return, so I rang and another midwife appeared, said I couldn't have a shower because I couldn't stand up because I'd had an epidural (I could. It was hard because it was so hot in there and I'd lost all that blood, but I could stand and I could walk). The nice midwife eventually came back and apologised that she couldn't help me have a shower because she was too busy, now, but she did shortly after bring me a basin of water and some wipes, so I at least managed a strip wash, and she helped me put knickers on after.

Top tip: if you're ever helping someone with a catheter and stitches put on their knickers, put the catheter tube through the leg hole on the side the stitches aren't.

She did, at least, come back to remove the catheter pretty much to the minute of when it was able to be removed, for which I was very grateful.

Midwives would bring me tea and toast, then he would stir and I'd see to him so they'd go cold and midwives would take them away without letting me say that I'd rather have them cold than not at all... That didn't help my faintness either. 

One midwife, when I'd finally had enough and got as close to griping as I did all night, told me they were very busy and that "not everyone got to have a happy ending like you", which, y'know, probably not something she should have said to me. Definitely not something I wanted to hear. It cowed me, though. Meant I didn't make any more fuss.

I did eventually get a shower, though no help with it and I was far dizzier than I'd realised and struggled to stand. With hindsight, this was probably the blood loss.

Several midwives showed me how to feed him, but they all showed me different techniques and I felt a bit confused by it all - they'd say "yeah, you've got it" then the next would arrive and ask me to show them and they'd suggest I might find a different method easier/more successful, to repeat the cycle.

He received a vest and a teddy for being the first baby born that Christmas Day, and a book, another teddy, and some Child's Farm goodies for being born on Christmas Day at all. That was pretty cool.

I was told there was a place on the ward if I wanted it, but they knew I'd wanted a homebirth and they were unusually busy, so I could probably go instead if I'd prefer. Given my experience to that point, I definitely preferred. I let Husbit know and he got ready to come and collect me.

They brought me Christmas lunch, which was nice. I shared it with Husbit, as he'd arrived without eating anything as we both thought I'd be leaving sooner than I was.

When they did eventually discharge me, they explained that the doctors weren't happy to let me go because of the blood loss (which is when I discovered I'd had that), but that the midwives were "on my side"because it was Christmas. 

"It's Christmas, so you're willing to risk her life?" started Husbit. I shushed him, by now desperate to get out and unaware that he'd genuinely thought I was going to die during the labour (it took me several days to realise how traumatised he was). 

They signed me off as successfully breastfeeding because he latched ok (and let go immediately on doing so...), and we left.

Husbit's mother and sister met us at our house, with another Christmas meal and a bunch of presents. My mother-in-law informed me I needed to lose weight (something she'd repeat every time she saw me until he was 8 weeks old, even when I asked her not to, even when I pointed out it wouldn't be safe to Ziggy for me to start trying to diet yet, with him relying on my food). I asked her to give him back at some point while she was cuddling him - I forget whether I just wanted him back or if I thought he was hungry or something - and she snapped "NO!" whilst twisting her body away from me with him in her arms. My arm was ready to throw the punch before I noticed I'd balled my fist (I often wonder what would have happened if I'd let it fly). This was when our relationship - already frayed due to her behaviour especially towards the end of the pregnancy - started to really fracture, though I did my best to hide it for Husbit's sake.

My Dad and little sister came round Boxing Day. I'd suggested all my family should come, but they said I'd be overwhelmed. I pouted internally, but in the end was grateful. My sister laughed at my distended stomach "You've got a hippo too!" She hadn't known about this when she had her first, had thought you went straight back to looking not-pregnant immediately after giving birth and had been shocked and a little upset to discover that wasn't true, nicknaming the paunch "hippo" to make her feel better. She'd then forgotten again until after her daughter arrived.

My midwife checked us out. She and my sister were both a bit worried about his feeding, but the hospital had told me it was fine and I trusted them.

One of my friends drove down from Wales with presents. It was amazing to see her, and we ended up so grateful, because that was the night Ziggy decided to let us know he wasn't actually feeding. He screamed all night, kept pushing my breast away. Contacted my midwife, who sent Husbit out to buy some formula. She thought the one she recommended came with teats, but it didn't. Fortunately, we had some bottles and sterilising fluid. The bottles were really for a bigger baby, but it's what we had. Sterilised them in a bowl, having to roll them to sterilise the bit where an air bubble formed because we didn't have a bowl big enough to stand the bottle in.

Typing this, I can feel the anxiety building again.

He guzzled the formula.

My midwife arrived and weighed him. He'd lost 13% in 3 days. Babies are expected to lose weight, but not that much: 10% in 10 days, usually. She sent us to the hospital, and this is where my friend came in really useful. She's a trainee nurse and she's had 2 children, so she understood how sleep deprived we were, she knew some of the answers to the questions the staff asked us, and knew how to translate their questions and our answers where she didn't know. They wanted to take some blood, at one point, and she asked questions of the phlebotomist who let her assist, which I think helped me stay calm.

He was jaundiced, nearly enough to need a sun lamp but not quite. Part of me wanted them to put him under anyway, to make him safe, but I was too sleep deprived to know how to ask for that. I can see why it's a torture technique: I was very compliant. They admitted him to the children's ward for the night - I was distraught. I've never stayed in hospital before and it seemed frightening, especially to be away from Al.

Whose mother phoned when we were on the ward. She'd popped over to drop things off at ours and seen the bottle and sterilising set up we'd used, and yelled down the phone at me about how wrong it all was. I wanted to hang up, but, shaking, let her tell me off. After, I told Al she needed to back off, that I was fragile and needed handling with care and gentleness and she is not gentle. It's the first time I've stood up for myself like that and it felt strange, but I knew I had to for Ziggy's sake. "She's just worried. She's just trying to help. She just wants to help" was the refrain I would then hear from Al and, moreso, from his sister, which at least reassured me he had spoken to her but wasn't what I needed to hear, because, quite frankly, I didn't care what her intentions were so much as the effect. I felt that if she actually wanted to help, she could ask what would be helpful, and she could try to remember how overwhelming those first few days, weeks are. I still don't really understand why I'm the one who was expected to compromise at that time. On the plus side, my stepmum had had even worse problems with her in-laws and was amazing as a result. I hope to follow her example should I be lucky enough to become a grandparent.

It frustrates me to be so critical of Husbit's mother, but she's done a lot of emotional damage.

The hospital stay ended up being two nights and being really valuable. I managed some sleep - letting them take him from me for a few hours the first night was one of the hardest things I've ever done, but I knew I had to or I wouldn't cope. A wonderful, kind auxilliary nurse by the name of Lol sat with us for 2 days until he and I had a much better idea how to feed. She warned me about the day 5 emotional crash. We were discharged with instructions to feed every 2 hours, starting by offering expressed milk, then breast, then topping up with formula. This was exhausting, and after an unknown number of days (every a blur by then), my midwife moved it to every 3 hours overnight. Gradually, my milk came in and he started to throw up the formula until eventually he was 100% breastfed. It was an incredible feeling, and now I take it for granted.

Watching him leave that night was so hard
but worth it once he was feeding

I'm really glad I persevered: being able to feed him without needing a load of paraphenalia makes it a lot easier to feed him when we're out and about. The fact he was introduced to the bottle so early also helped, as it means he didn't have to learn to take a bottle later and I can go out and leave him with his Dad. He never experienced "nipple confusion", and the hospital staff said it wasn't really a thing, in their experience. And they have a lot of it! Locally, there's a real problem with babies not feednig properly, which they lay to two things, both of which were my experience: 1) the above mentioned hospital sign off when not really feeding (it makes the maternity hospital numbers look good), and 2) the antenatal classes all make it sound easy and natural, so new mothers assume that what they're doing is right. The children's ward would love them to be honest about how hard it can be, just as they are with the labour, but the midwives don't want to because they worry it will put people off even trying.

The trauma of it all meant my midwife had me marked as ?PND. The next time I saw her, I asked for counselling which she quickly approved: she'd been going to suggest it anyway. I went for two sessions and by the second the feeding was going so much better that I felt ok and we agreed I'd only come back if I was still dwelling on any of it after 3 or 4 months. I hadn't told her about the in-law issues, but that's the one bit I'm still struggling with. Things she's said or done still pervade my thoughts and I still find myself talking about it. She was diagnosed with a vitamin B deficiency, which includes depression in the symptoms and has started to improve since being treated for that, but because of the way she was for the first few months it's still very easy for her to say or do something that makes me internally flinch. I'm doing my best to deal with it for Husbit and Ziggy's sake, but she really has done a lot of damage and I'm only starting to understand how much now that her attitude has improved.

Next Ziggy instalment will probably be on the more exciting topics of his hobbies, classes and development. He's 6 months old, and walking already! (Holding fingers, but walking)