Saturday, 30 October 2010

Autumn Colours

I had planned to catch up with housework, and other things which have piled up over the last couple of weeks, while I've been busy partying in Dublin and then being sick-unto-death. And I started well, this morning: I finally managed to post a birthday present to my best friend (admittedly her birthday was a week ago, but it felt like an achievement)

I even did some vacuuming and some laundry. However, I noticed while I was in town that the trees are looking rather colourful just now, and that it was actually a rather nice day, so I decided to change my plans and head to Stourhead to go for a walk, and enjoy the autumn colours.

Stourhead is owned by the National Trust these days, but it used to belong to the Hoare family, who were London bankers. They had a manor house built in the 1720s, and the gardens were laid out between 1740 and 1780.

There is a lake, surrounded by woods, and overlooked by a grotto, the 'Temple of Apollo' and an reproduction of the Pantheon.

The woods around the lake have a lot of beech trees, and rhodedendrons, and there is, of course, a rustic cottage.
I also found some wonderful fungi, on a fallen tree.

and of course, the gate house going up p he house itself, is, well.... modest and unpretentious...
I wonder whether I can fit a small castle on to the front of my house, too?
Tomorrow is forecast to be cold and wet. I'll do housework tomorrow.

Monday, 25 October 2010


I was planning to do a round up of what I have been reading recently, and my plans, but the cold I brought back from Ireland has turned nasty, and so I have mostly been curling up in bed with hot drinkks and honey and a warm cat.

I made it out of the house once over the weekend, to send a parcel, and to pop into the bank.

Except on Saturday night, when I was woken by shouting and bangs and unexpected lights, and what turned out to be a  fire, and subsequently two large fire engines, outside in the street.

It seems that the fence to one of the neighbouring houses (about 4 doors away) caught fire.

 I am going to take a wild guess and say it had help, as given it was so wet on Saturday morning I was seriously considering whether I shoud start building an ark, I very much doubt that spontaneous combustion was to blame..

I am hoping the week will improve.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Last Day in Dublin (sob)

Monday meant having to leave Ireland, which was sad. Very sad.

First, there was PACKING. This is interesting, when you have 9 books, one jar of honey, some jewellery and a poppet more to take home, than you had when you arrived. Not that I didn't want all those things, just that they all take up space.
Then, pausing only for pancakes and tea, we headed out to Blackrock to visit Louisa at her beautiful bookshop, Raven Books. For me it was a very fleeting visit, as I had to get to the airport to catch my flight home, but it was never the less a fun morning.

We got a train out there, and spent a long time browsing the shop (and I found a copy of Gail Carriger's 'Changeless', which is a Good Thing)

Louisa met octokitty, and then we went for lunch. And did I mention that Anabek gave me a handful of eyeballs, to make up for the fact that unlike the others (and Finn) i would not be going on a Ghost Bus  for the evening.

My Octocon Swag!
I was fortunate enough to have a smooth (if ltime consuming) jouney home And oh,so very tired!
I haven't posted all my pictures in the blog but if you want to see more the full flickr set is  here .

Oh, and did I mention the glorious steampunk earrings and Cthulhu pendent I bought, from Ukapala. Nice, aren't they?

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Octocon - Books and Ninja Gig

In my memory, Dublin  seems to include a lot of interesting meals at odd times and places. Saturday night we went out for a quiet meal with Catie Murphy, which turned out to be a not-so-quiet meal with dozens of people (although I'm pretty sure I *saw* Catie, across a crowded restaurant... 
George RR Martin
 On Sunday, it was a very very late lunch  (or possibly, I suppose, a very early supper) at a place named Green 19, with Lorraine, and Brian, and Nathalie, Hellie and Anabel., which was lovely, and leisurely and relaxed. 
We got back in time to attend the Octocon closing ceremony, during which many, amnypeople were thanked, and George RR Martin was given a lifetime achievement awardin the form of a rather nice steampunky pistol, or possibly blaster.
I cannot now remember what we were pkanning to do after that, but what we actually did was make it as far as the comfy chairs in the lobby, and then stop.

C.E.Murphy, Fabulous Lorraine, R.F.Long
I seem to remember tea. and then later we bribed Lorraine with tea and hobnobs and footrubs until she agreed to play her fiddle for us. It was wonderful. And I also loved that she was able to sit down in the corner of the hotel lobby (bearing in mind the Con didn't have the whole hotel. Therre were *normal* people there too) and play, and no-one turned a hair. Maybe they have random ninja violin gigs in the lobby all the time. it wouldn't surprise me at all.

I think it was around this time that Catie Murphy turned up and gave us lots of books. Don't you love when that happens? I have a huge big stack of shiny new books (including a copy of 'Hands of Flame'  which unexpectedly starts on p.33. I asked whether Catie could summarise what was missing and she said "stuff happens" . So that's clear, and, I am sure, accurate. But I think I shall go and buy another copy, too. Maybe one which does have those first few pages, even if it lacks the author's signature.

Oh, and a certain small skeleton boy was spotted...
I think that it was round about this point that sleep deprivation really kicked in, as although I'm sure there was conversation and interesting things I don't remember any of it very clearly. I know I was enjoying myself, though.

I'll leave you with a random Octokitty picture.

I think Octokitty made a lot of friends.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

In Which There Are Panels & Writers

Tragically, the cake cafe where we had breakfast on Saturday doesn't open on Sundays, so we couldn't hve breakfast there. We ended up in the Boulangerie RF Long and her family,m which was a consolation.

Then, as there was some sort of convention going on at the hotel it seemed reasonable to go to a panel or two...

I started with "Ethics in YA Fiction"; the panel included Michael Carroll, author of the 'Quantum Prophecy' series, Peadar Ó Guilín (the author of 'The Inferior', which I belive involves teen cannibals) Siobhan (who is a knitter and linguist, and may well have other qualifications I know not of) and Clare Hennesy

The panel started with discussions about what can and cannot go into books marketed for children, Michael Carroll explaining that on the basis of concerns about the sensibilities of some parts of the USA, he has had to excise the occasional "damn" or "Bloody" from the books, and has therefore invented his own expletives. There was also some discussion about age banding and labelling and how libraries are (at least in part) trying to cater to those parents who don't know what might be suitable for their child, rather than trying to censor books.

The panel then moved towards issues which I found more interesting - some of the ideas and presumptions that may be found in (some) books - one example given being that in the Harry Potter books, there appears top be the idea that 25% of wizards are evil, based on selection at age 11. I had to leave at this point which was a shame, as it felt that the panel was just getting on the area I found interesting...

My second panel was Lorraine's panel "Neil Gaiman: Behind The Curtain" - which sadly clashed with Brian's horror panel, which I should also have liked to attend. Lorraine talked about her job, and answered questions from the floor, Including revealing that she had initially said No to Neil doing "13 Nights of Fright" (Because he didn't really have time), but relented when he explained he had always wanted to come out of a coffin....!)

I thought it went well, although the room had a bit of a problem in that it seemed to have only two possible settings as far as heat was concerned - very stuffy & overheated, or frigid. . .

I stayed on for the next panel, which was about invented and inventing languages, and worldbuilding, which was fun - wandered on  into issues of Irish accents/language on TV.

As if to make up for no panels yesterday, today was pretty busy. Straight after  the language panel was a panel about the Care and Feeding of writers, which featured Lorraine (of course), Parris, (GRRM's partner) Pat Fanning (R.F.Long's husband) and Ted Lee (C.E.Murphy's husband). Topics covered included The Importance of Feeding Your Writer,  Socialisation and Human Contact, lots of anecdotes  -very interesting to hear about the writing habits of different writers. I think for me one of the most amazing was Ted saying that Catie wrote her first book while on trains commuting to and from work. How impressive is that?.

Parris spoke with feeling about how absorbed and un-distractable George can be - she once got fed up and went in to tell him that that the tyrannosaurs were invading and  the volcanos erupting, and  got a "good...." and "fine, in a minute" reply. . .
I noticed a number of nods of recognition from the other panellists!

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Crypts and Bog-Bodies and Fiends (Oh My)

Today started well, with a wander down to the canal to admire the swans and the skeleton-on-the-wall, followed by pancakes for breakfast at the wonderful  cafe where we had lunch yesteday, in the company of Lorraine, Nathalie and Anabel
We then went to the Octocon opening ceremony, where Lorraine, and George RR Martin, and the other guests were introduced. I have to confess I have still not read any of GRRM's books, but I can report that he has a magnificant beard!

Then out to explore Dublin!

We started by visiting Christ Church, because, as Lorraine so rightly says, it has a wonderful crypt. The cathedral on top is pretty nice, too.

We spent more time in the crypt, though. There was tea.

It turns out that Tea in a Crypt is, indeed, an ideal way to spend a Dublin morning!

It turns out also that there is a food market on Saturday morning at Temple Bar, where one can buy all sorts of cheeses (If one didn't have to worry about packing or customs)  and breads, and delicious, freshly baked blueberry scones the size of your head. 

Not that I stole any of Lorraine's scone, obviously. I would never do that.

Then, as 2/3s of the party missed out on the Bog Bodies yesterday, we went to the museum. We saw no more grafitti warning of the dangers of toast, on the way but there was other street art...

At the museum we acquired Hellie, (slightly sleep deprived) and went to look at bog bodies. I can't begin to compete with Lorraine's flawless description and archeological expertise. So you should just go and re-read her blog here .

Those people got bogged alright. Also they all had red hair.

And as well as the bog people they have other stuff in the museum. Viking and Celtic jewellery (and, for some reason, buckets).  And then there was the whole zombie arm. They said it was a reliquary for some saint's arm, but you only have to look at it to see it's really the remains of some cyborg zombie. Be very careful in dublin. Who knows wht else there may be here.

As well as mummies and zombie arms and bog bodies, they have a tea shop in the museum. I like that in a museum.

Visiting culteral sites and artifacts such as crypts and bog-bodies is wearing . Some of us found a taxi and headed back to the Con, where Q scheduled a new panel, located in the hot tub and entitled "getting bogged with Fabulous Lorraine" It was a small but perfect panel. With bubbles and hot jets. More conventions should consider scheduling hot-tub based panels.

I think the next thing which happened was the chrity auction where various things, including some of Neil's honey, boks and games signed by GRRM and other authours were autioned off - over 900E was raised, which is pretty impressive.

Then dinner, and a party, with music from th Fabulous Lorraine (on violin) a guy whose name I didn't catch (on guitar) and various rmadom people providing choral singing and interpretive dance. Musically, I think it perhaps lacked that certain something (I'm nearly sure that it traditional to sing & play in the same key) but for sheer fun, it was right up there with the best.

As was the whole day, in fact.

Friday, 15 October 2010

In Which There is Tea, Cake and Kidnapping

We had, apparently, arrranged to meet up with @Nemone7 and Brian J. Showers at 8.30 in order to go tto visit a cemetery, so we had an early breakfast, a which we were  serendipitously joined by @ickle_tayto

We walked to the cemetery,[edit to add - Anabel (@Nemone7) tells me the graveyard is Mt Jerome] where we saw the graves of Sheridan LeFanu, And of the fathers of both Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker, not to mention many wonderfully named scions of Dublin, including one Hercules Ellis. There are many warning signs about hwthe gates are locked at 4p.m. SHARP. And quite a few disturbingly disturbed looking graves, which lead you to wonder whether the gates are locked to keep visitors ou, or to keep somthing else in.

But I'm sure that the little bits of bone were just from rabbits, or urban foxes. and there's a good reason for the crypts to be so securely locked.

We all go out safely, and in our search or coffee (sadly the coffee shop in he cemetery itself was not open) we found a cryptic warning:  I can't speak for the others but I for one am grateful for the warning and intend to be on my guard around toast from now on. It should have warned of tea, though.

Our morning coffee break  was a little marred when the waiitress (who was otherwise lovely) lost control of her tray, and spilled boiling tea all over my foot.

I do not recommend this. I am always open to new experiences, but I feel confident in saying that hot tea should not be used externally. They did bring me cold coke cans to use as a cold compress, and, eventually new tea. and I'm sure the blisters will heal soon. I'm told  I was lucky.Some people get bogged in Dublin, which is more permanent.

Visiting yarn shops in the company of mad knitters is not, as far as I know, a well publicised or common part of the Dublin experience, but it should be.Lorraine was kidnapped for the afternoon by some knitters she met in a pub, and I got to tag along as a spare hostage.

We visited 3 yarn shops, and some countryside, and there was coffee and cake, and Octokitty, who is travelling with Lorraine, got a shiny new eyepatch to cover up his/her/it's bengal-induced eye loss. (Patch provided courtesy of free yarn from The Yarn Shop  and mad knitting skills of Siobhan!)

And then, when we got back, Lorraine was taken away to be important as a con guest, & I got t meet up with Nathalie and Cheryl and to go out for a fantastic Indian meal.

And after that:-

Oh, and I got birthday gifts and Q got kidnapped again, and there were lots of lovely  Irish  people to talk to.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

In which I travel to Dublin

I have been looking forward to, and planning, this trip to Dublin to see various fiends and to attend Octocon, for months, but as often seems to happen, it appears to have been a long time in the future for ages, then suddenly it was week away, without any warning!
I spent most of yesterday faffing about with last minute work stuff, as my quiet day in theoffice to ensure everything was up together turned into a lot of firefighting. And then the evening was taken up with packing. I don’t know whether it’s just me, but I always seem to end up in a state of panic in case I have packed the wrong things, or too little, or that I will discover that my choices of clothes etc. are wholly inappropriate to the place, or the weather, or the event. Knowing how foolish this is does not seem to change anything. *sigh*

Still, I did manage to be quite restrained when it came to packing books, on the basis that if one is attending a Science Fiction/Fantasy convention in a major city the chances of being unable to acquire extra books if needed are fairly low…

I was disappointed but unsurprised to find my first train of the day was running late (Thank you so much, First Great Western.) Probably just as well I booked the train an hour earlier than I thought was necessary, really….

However, the train did make up much of the time and I arrived at the airport with plenty of time in hand, and was able to go through security with only a minor check (apparently books look suspicious under x-rays, Who knew?) happily, Southampton is a dinky litle airport which, at least on a Thursday afternoon, is not crowded. I actually walked past the entrance to the security without realising it as I was loking for a queue, and had to turn back!

The flight was short and uneventful. I was disappointed that low cloud meant I couldn't see much.

Then Dublin, and a long bus ride brought me to the hotel.Several very friendy and helpful Dubliners ensured that I got off the bus in the right place, and shortly after checking in I met up with Lorraine and her Spirit Guide, @Nemone7. (Check out Lorrraine's blog to see what they'd been up to all day - way more exciting than my uneventful journeying!) for dinner and chat and plaanning of nNew Fun Stuff to do tomorrow. I believe graveyards will be invovled. And maybe tea. 

Also, unfortunately, Early Rising.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Mostly Grumbling.

It's been a funny old week. Lots of stress at work, and (probably in part as a result)  have not been sleeping well.

And I have been feeling very sorry for myself over the weekend. Sometime I wish I believed in Creationsim - it'd be nice to have someone to blame for the joys of female biology, sometimes, and one cannot really get a proper rage up against evolution. . .

Still, at least I have something to look forward to  - Thursday will see me off to Dublin for Octocon and, even more importantly, seeing the Fabulous Lorraine, and Nathalie and Louisa and Hellie. And hopefully to meet others, too.

If I can just get through the next three days.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Which is mostly about family

Last weekend saw me driving  down to Essex, for a family party.One of my uncles turned 60 last month, and decided to celebrate in style. It was lots of fun.

The party was on Saturday evening, which meant that there was time to hang out with family first. It was great - I don't see these particular cousins very often, and it is always startling to realise that the person you remember as a bump (he was born the year I went to university) is about to turn 18, and is planning his own university applications...

The party itself was good fun - lots of E&T's friends, plus family, food, live music, dancing, champagne...

And  then having shared a hotel room with No1 sister and her other half meant we got to have baklava for breakfast, as some people have relatives who return from Turkey bearing baklava.

Then Sunday involved more family socialising, including listening to my mum & two of her sisters discussing their childhood, and different memories and perpectives of the same events. Very interesting.
Most enjoyable.

Then this week came news from my cousin's husband, that my cousin has had her (first) baby - a beautiful baby boy (6lb 12oz)

VERY happy news.