Saturday, 21 May 2011

New Hair and Housekeeping

So,  I finally got around to getting my hair cut this morning.

I've been meaning to for ages, but with work, and being busy at weekends, and being generally disorganised has meant it hasn't happened. But today I didn't have any specific commitments, and when I went into town to do various errands and  go to the library and such, I popped into the hairdresser to see if they could fit me in, and they could.
New Hair
An hour later, I had shorter hair. I didn't have quite the hair I asked for - it was supposed to be about an inch shorter at the front, and shorter again at the back, but despite having confirmed this with the stylist at the start, and half way through, and having shown her a picture (of me) before she started,  she didn't seem to grasp the idea. I don't dislike what she's done.

 It's not massively different to what I actually wanted, but it's annoying, and as I had a photo, of me, showing the front and side views of what I wanted I don't really think there was any excuse. But it became obvious that she couldn't, or wouldn't, sort it out, so I decided that (a) I was not going to argue with a woman waving sharp pointy things round my head and (b) I'm mostly annoyed because it's different to what I wanted, not because it's a bad cut per se, so I can live with it. But I think I'll go somewhere else next time.

Apart from the hair cut, I have mostly been doing bits and pieces of housekeeping - literal and otherwise, today.

My TV licence had to be renewed this month. You can renew online now, (which I did) and they strongly encourage you to keep the whole thing paperless, but I prefer to still get them to post me a paper copy of the licence, so I have hard proof that I have paid them good money. I don't begrudge paying it.. Mitch Benn is right, we should all be Proud of the BBC (and if you haven't, you should buy the song, and the shirts), and at less than £3 a week it's hardly overpriced, but I do want a receipt. . .

In fact, it's my week for renewing licences - my drivers licence is due for renewal at the end of this month, too. This is actually the first time I've had to do it, as the 'new' photocards last 10 years, and before that I had the old paper kind, which didn't need renewing.

It turns out that the DVLA sends a reminder, with a form to fill in, which explains that if you want to renew by post, you must send them a photo of yourself which  must have been taken within the last month. However, if you want, you can renew online, tell them your passport number, and they will use the picture from your passport, provided that the passport was renewed within the last 5 years.  Soooo, my (potentially) 5 year old passport photo would be OK, but a photo taken 6 weeks ago would, at least officially, not be.

As it happens, my passport was renewed only last autumn, so the photo is pretty much up to date, but it strikes me as peculiar, and just ever so slightly a bit illogical. (which I suppose is only to be expected when dealing with a government agency...)

The rest of my exciting Saturday has involved getting all my finacial records up together to send to the accountant to do my tax return, doing laundry, and general cleaning and tidying. So I now have a clean, and organised (well, mostly) house.

Oh, and I might have bought some more books. Just in case I run out, or something..

Not an exciting day, but not a bad one either.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

China Miéville in Bath

Yesterday evening was the China Miéville event at Mr. B's Emporium of Reading Delights - I do love Mr. B's; and it seems I'm not alone - they won the Independent Bookseller of the Year Award  on Monday (the BBC has a story featuring them) .

It's a lovely shop, the staff are all  both friendly, knowledgable and passionate about books. And upstaiurs there are comfy chairs and free coffee, if you need a break. And they have theirn own loyalty card to get money off books. And the walls of the toilets are papered with reviews and poems. Did I mention that I like this place?
And I've been looking forward a lot to this event. I booked as soon as the event details went up. In fact, I bought the tickets first, and asked Cheryl if she wanted to come afterwards (she did, obviously. I mean, who wouldn't?)
It turns out that when Mr. B's do an event, you don't just get a writer and the chance to buy books. You also get live music with originals songs by The Bookshop Band, and delicious nibbly finger food, and wine, and mingling with interesting people, AND a writer and the chance to buy books.

I approve of this. A lot.

I especially approved of it yesterday, as I had, up until I got to Mr. B's, not been having a very good day. I had a new case, so I had to go to court at short notice. I was expecting it to be a relatively short hearing, but we  ended up in being in court from 1.30 til 6, with things such as lunch, and indeed any kind of break, or access to coffee, being but a distant hope. So getting to Mr. B's and being offered wine and nibbly things and interesting people to make conversation with was even more welcome than normal!
Having arrived at the shop, and met with Cheryl and her friend Pat and (briefly, China himself) we went upstairs and the evening started with music from The Bookshop Band (Ben and Poppy) who performed two original songs inspired by EmbassyTown.

Then China spoke a little about Embassytown, (carefully avoiding spoilers, for those of us who haven't yet read it) and about the thedme of the evening, which was 'Corruption'

One of the very nice things about this event was that it was small. I'm not sure how many people attendted, but I would guess around 30 - few enough that it was genuinely possible for there to be a conversation, rather than a 'talk' - the conversation ranged from method of writing/planning so as not to get lost in one's own plot (China  uses flowcharts), the invention of language, with particular reference to the word 'Immer', and what headaches this may present for whoever tranaslates Embassytown into german, and  mention of the fact that when King Rat, which contains lots of 19th Century ryhming slang, was translated into Japanese, the translator didn't ask for any clarification, leaving chian wondering whether the either (a) The translator happened to be an expert in 19th Century slang or (b) Japanese readers have some very odd literal translations in their version of the book..

after the first part of the evening, we stopped for food and wine and chat. (Someone (NOT me) asked China about letting us see the whole of his tattoo - he declined to take his short off, but you can see the whole thing here, Nathalie!)  then back upstirs again for part two of the evening, in which members of staff, members of the audience, and China all suggested books on the theme of corruption - one of which was Documents Concerning Rubashov the Gambler , another (recommended by China, for those who like their vampires Mod and dangerous, was 'The Shiny Narrow Grin' by Jane Gaskell (which is out of print, and hard to find...) Patrick Ness's ''Chaos Walking' also got a shout out..

We then had just enough time to buy books (did I mention the 10% discount on everything, for the evening?) and get them signed, and to speak briefly to China, and then to pick up the free copy of The City and The City (signed) which was available for each of us, before hesding back home.

As you may have gathered, I really enjoyed the evening. This is the first time I've been to one of the Mr. B's events, but I think I shall be going to more. Sadly I shall miss the evening with Patrick Ness on 16th June, as I shall be in a cottage in Wales with no electricity, but I am sure there will be other events when I'm NOT in Wales..

Oh, and for those of you who haven't seen it, there is a short story by China here in the Guardian. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Upcoming Events

Well, after the weekend, going back to work lacks a certain amount of appeal, but I am fortunate in having several other good things to look forward to.

Tomorrow we get to see and hear China Miéville  at Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights, as part of his  Embassytown tour. I'm looking forward to that a lot!

Then in 3 weeks time, I shall be heading to Ely and Cambridge - my clever brother (Well, my only brother, but he *is* clever) completed his Open University degree just before Christmas. He got a 1st, and his graduation ceremony is at Ely Cathedral, and I shall be going along. I imagine that the ceremony itself, like most such things, will involve a lot of waiting around, but it will be good to see him and my parents, and I feel I should show to mark his achievement!

On 9th June Jonathan Coulton and Paul and Storm are playing in Bristol, and I'm going to see them. It's been 2 years since I saw them play live, and I so looking forward to it.

Then the following weekend I am going to go to visit my sister and her fiance, and we shall, weather permitting, do some sailing.

And the weekend after that I've been invited to join my aunt and uncle and cousin for a couple of days in Wales, by the sea (they have rented a cottage for a week, and have a spare bed for a day or two) - it is right by the Coast Path, and should be lovely (plus I get to see Cousin's gorgeous baby again:-)

It's good to have things to look forward to.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Bristol Comic & Small Press Expo

So, after my mini-blog this morning, I thought, as one does, that I had plenty of time to run an errand or two, and so of course I almost missed the train I'd planned to catch.
However, I did catch it, and managed to do a couple of other errands in Bristol before heading to the Ramada to register and then to look around.. 

The Con is spread over two hotels - the Comics Expo in the Ramada, and the Small Press Expo at the Mercure, which is just around the corner; they have a symbiotic relationship but are not, I believe run by the same people.  The first things I saw  in Reception at the Ramada were a pair of Imperial Stormtroopers, and guy dressed as Batman, and three slightly bewildered  hotel guests checking out.
always a reassuring sight!
After looking around, and managing to not buy any comics, I headed over to the Mercure. They keep all their conference rooms on the 5th floor, but there was a familiar looking blue box in the reception area, which gave me confidence that I was in the right place!
There were lots of comics (unsurprising, at a ComicCon, really, I suppose), lots of writers and artists, and a small number of panels.

I only went to one panel - 'Women, Politics and cartooning' - this was moderated by  Jasper Bark, and featured  Blue Lou, Kate Evans and a third artist (unfortunately I didn't make a note of her name, and it's not written in the programme). It was very interesting, with discussions about activism, motherhood, guilt, politics and politicians, viciousness, and breastfeeding. Later in the day, in the bar, I had the opportunity to chat further with Lou and Jasper, and to look at more of her artwork. I recommend it. Go look at her site.

I then met up with Cheryl and we went out for lunch in a dodgy pub, where we had some not-very-good beer, and some decent fish & chips, and where we were accosted by a random drunk enquiring as to whether we were east German Stasi. (No, we couldn't quite work that one out either...)
I had thought I might go to one of the 2 o'clock panels but Cheryl led me astray we wandered into the bar, first, where Cheryl introduced me to Paul Cornell and later we wandered around the Expo, and I bought a copy of Alice In Sunderland, in which Bryan Talbot drew me a beautiful Mad Hatter.

Later again I found myself back in the bar, (perfectly sober, but in need of a comfy chair and a cup of coffee) and had lots of interesting conversations - this was when I had the opportunity to chat with BlueLou and Jasper, and with a writer/reviewer named Mark, and Paul Cornell again, and various others whose names I failed to note. 

Conversations wandered from subject to subject - some SciFi / Comics related - Which Doctor Who Episodes deserve to win Hugos, whether Superman and Clark Kent were either or both ever American Cctizens in the first place, how quickly trade paperbacks of comics should become available, and what the chances are of fielding a cricket team entirely made of Doctor Who writers are; Some not - babycare and breastfeeding, government cuts, the tendencies of large organisations to become reactionary, and the excessive cost of coffee in the hotel bar.

I enjoyed the afternoon.
Photo stolen from @MrTonyLee
I stayed on in order to watch Neil Gaiman's episode of Doctor Who -  The Doctor's Wife. It wasn't the optimum  viewing experience - the TV was in ne corner of the hotel bar, but there were a lot of people in the bar who were not watching Doctor Who, and so there was a lot of noise - it took a while before we were able to get subtitles up, and of course subtitles are not as good as being able actually to hear the dialogue, but even with those disadvantages it was a great episode (and good company!)

Once Who was over, I headed back home (where I watched the episode again, with sound, this time, and also watched the 'Confidential' - both very good. A nice end,  to an interesting day.

I had bought a ticket for the full weekend but having a lie-in on Sunday morning meant I left it too late to get to Bristol in time to see the 'Just a Minute' game, which was the main attraction, to my mind, so I didn't go back. Maybe next year.

(EDITED TO ADD: the 3rd cartoonist was Vicky Stonebridge. Thanks to Aldous Russell for pointing that out, over at lj)

Saturday, 14 May 2011

What I'm Doing Today

Today should be interesting. I will shortly be heading off to Bristol, to the Bristol Comics Expo - I had vaguely thought of going last year, but left it too late, and all the tickets were sold out, so this year I booked early, and then (as no updates are sent) forgot all about it until people in my timeline started tweeting about it...

I know that a few people I have heard of / seen before such as Paul Cornell , Tony Lee and Bryan Talbot are all going to be there, as is my friend Cheryl,  but other than that I am not sure what to expect.

I suspect that around 6.30 this evening there might be a sudden exodus to the bar, or wherever else a large TV can be found...  I don't suppose that the BBC deliberately scheduled Neil Gaiman's episode of Doctor Who to coincide with the Con, but you have to admit, it's good timing...

Saturday, 7 May 2011

In Which There Are Many Little Things....

I've had something of a stressful week, despite it having been so short (there was a bank holiday on Monday) and stress did the stuff it always does, and left me not sleeping well, and feeling nauseous, which is no fun whatsoever. And the knowledge that things are (almost) never as bad as you expect really doesn't help.

Anyway, for various reasons I was very much looking forward to the week being over. On Friday I was in court all day. It was a not-too-difficult day for me, as I had counsel, but a long day in a stuffy court room is rarely much fun, especially when timing leads to a certain emptiness, at the point in the day where one usually finds lunch...

However, after we had finished, it was suggested that we go for a drink, as one of our number was celebrating a birthday, and besides, I was told, "it's fizzy Friday" (one per week!) so i found myself, at around 5.30, sitting out under a large parasol, sipping chilled prosecco and fraternising with my erstwhile opponents. I’m not in the habit of drinking champagne or prosecco at 5.30 in the afternoon, even on a Friday, but I have to say it is the kind of thing one could become accustomed to, fairly easily…!

Of course, one of the disadvantages of slurping fizz at 5.30 is that you then have to find something else to do afterwards, while you wait for the fizz to wear off in order to drive home. Happily, another local lawyer was holding a party to celebrate 20 years in practice, so we went to congratulate her, and socialise for a while. Not at all what I had planned for my Friday evening, but definitely a pleasant end to the week. And when I got home, it was to find an unexpected free box of chocolates on the doorstep, which I think we can all agree is the type of thing which improves any day no end! (The chocolates are a somewhat belated apology from the chocolate company, for having inserted a big chunk of plastic sheeting into a chocolate I had at Christmas)

So not a bad day, all in all.

And then, it started to rain. It hasn’t rained for several weeks, and everything smelled of freshness and wet earth and spring, and a new start.

Today has been a quiet day – I woke up to the news that the referendum, on AV has resulted in a ‘No’ vote, which does not surprise me, but which does disappoint me. Other than that,  I have done dull things, such as laundry and hoovering the floors, and topping up the oil in the car, and taking cardboard and plastic to the recycling place. I have also been to the garden centre to buy various seedlings – tomatoes, beans and so on, as, as usual, I have either been too late to plant seeds or have planted them and seen them develop into healthy slug-food. I am hoping that the plants I have now bought will prove too large to be easily eaten by slugs, even the Super-Slugs which seem to inhabit my garden. I haven’t planted them yet, as I got side-tracked by weeding, and it then started to rain, but hopefully tomorrow will be fine for long enough to do so.

The day ended, happily, with Doctor Who and Pirates, and a little sneak preview of Mr Gaiman’s episode, which airs next week. I have to say that this week’s episode, while it had its moments, will not, I think, go down as one of the great episodes. It was fun, but not deep.