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Jul. 19th, 2016

Orange Vespa Huskyteer

Cider and Scooters

Many thanks to porsupah for alerting me to Saturday's Cider Dog festival at the Miller, near London Bridge!

I went along with televassi and slightlyfoxed. We enjoyed a few decorous halves and some excellent writer chat, despite the efforts of the miniature digger which was eating the road a few metres from our table.

There were 75 ciders, so we were never going to make significant inroads. I enjoyed a ginger and chilli cider from The Orchard Pig, then tried a pineapple and grapefruit that was too sweet even for me. Regretted not trying: elderflower gin & tonic cider. (They did have a comprehensive range of sweet, medium, dry and perry; I, however, am easily seduced by novelty.)

On Sunday I rode down the A21, through some annoying roadworks, to the Route 1066 Diner ("Get your chips at Route 1066"), where the Honda NC700 forum was having a meetup. Put some names to faces, was bought a frothy coffee by my fellow-Integra owner Tex, and managed this lineup of three big scooters. Mine is on the left, facing entirely the wrong direction:

Three Integras
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Jul. 14th, 2016

Dogfight [by the_gneech]

Those Planes Were Fast As Lightnings

Farnborough International Airshow is this week, but I have already had my aviation thrills at the Royal International Air Tattoo in Gloucestershire.

I dragged Howard along for both days, meeting wardy and silverwindblade on Saturday and establishing a base camp from which to catch the action or mount expeditions to look at the static display and trade stands.

Here's how it feels to watch the display:

Belgian F-16 taking off

And here's what it's like wandering about:

Fighter lineup

The big attraction this year was the long-delayed F-35 Lightning. This is a supersonic, stealthy fighter that can hover, so it's not surprising it took Lockheed Martin longer than expected to sort it out. In the air and on the ground it looks thoroughly futuristic, alien and sinister, especially in company with the F-22 Raptor.

I SEE YOU

Howard is very keen on the Eurofighter Typhoon, and this year there were four to enjoy. The plane is manufactured by a European consortium and operated by the UK, Germany, Spain and Italy, each of whom provided one.

This was a great year for F-16s, too, with Turkish, Greek, Belgian and Polish examples in eyecatching liveries. I think the Belgians had a slight edge in both performance and colour scheme, though I ended up buying a T-shirt from the Poles.

We were privileged to witness the last ever display of Ramex Delta's two Mirage 2000s, performing in such a tight, close formation that one plane appeared to be the other's shadow. A punchy performance from the Polish MiG-29 Fulcrum (the type is as old as I am, incidentally) was another standout.

Sunday's weather was more changeable, with some heavy showers that sent everyone dashing under the wing of the nearest tanker, or into the Royal Jordanian Air Force's tent for some Turkish delight. Towards the end of the afternoon the sky cleared, and the final few performers - the Gripen, the Italian Typhoon and the Italian Frecce Tricolori display team - really seemed to revel in it, powering vertically towards the sun. In 'Red Arrows fly with something unusual' news, we got two Typhoons and an F-35, together with the red Hawks representing the past, present and future of the RAF.

I don't think I heard the word 'Brexit' uttered once all weekend.

Past, present and future

Jul. 7th, 2016

Hope's Huskies - Bunty cover

I Prefer The Term 'Book Pimp'

"You are the go-to person for book recommendations. You have a talent for picking out exactly the right book for the right person and enjoy chatting with friends who love books as much as you do. You especially love battered old paperbacks that can be passed around and enjoyed by everyone."



Quiz here, via callmemadam.
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Jul. 6th, 2016

Orange Vespa Huskyteer

Riding West

Saturday was another X9 Forum ride, this time the annual West Country Ride ably led by Paul.

I left work at 4pm on Friday and arrived at the hotel in Calne at 7:30, having taken 3 hours to do the first 100 miles of my journey and half an hour to do the much nicer final 30 (which included cresting a hill at Avebury to see a Hercules flying low and slow across the fields towards me).

I found the rest of the party about to head from bar to restaurant, and tagged on. Howard appeared soon afterwards, having travelled over from Dorchester, and we enjoyed a really tasty meal followed by a couple of drinks.

In the morning Steve led us to the start point, glamorously located in Morrisons car park, but the sight of Paul coming the other way on his Integra told us we'd gone wrong somewhere. After a scenic tour of the local roundabouts, during which I formed part of a splinter group that somehow ended up at the ride's finish point, we were all gathered together just in time for it to pour with rain.

Waterproofs donned, we set off into a mixture of sunny spells and heavy showers. Paul had arranged some lovely country roads, scenic views, and only one U-turn. It was lovely to wind our way through the hills with a white horse in chalk appearing and disappearing ahead, and to pass through villages waving at the tourists.

It stopped raining after lunch, but I played it safe and kept the waterproof trousers on until the tea stop. Lunch was in Frome and tea in Marlborough, both very pretty. (Tea included a meringue the size of my two fists; I had to take half of it home in a box.)

Although we are still the X9 Forum, very few of our members still ride X9s, and on this trip mine was just one of an unprecedented three Integras. Here they all are:

Three Integras
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Jun. 27th, 2016

Muskehound

Groundlings

Have you been to the Globe? OMG you must go to the Globe. I don't care if you're several continents away.

My visit yesterday, to see A Midsummer Night's Dream from the £5 standing area, was my first, but we all came away plotting to go again as soon as possible. Everyone in our six-strong, three-generation party (ranging in age from seven upwards) was utterly enthralled.

Usually I like my Shakespeare very traditional (or what I fondly imagine is traditional; lots of velvet and facial hair, please). This version was a little bit modern and a little bit Bollywood: rude mechanicals recast as Globe staff led by Rita Quince and Health & Safety Officer Nick Bottom, and the quartet of lovers as Hoxton hipsters with Helena gender-swapped to an adorably camp Helenus.

It was totally fresh, and made me feel that Shakespeare was living and relevant in all those ways that English teachers unsuccessfully bang on about.
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Jun. 20th, 2016

Monocle Husky

400 Rabbits

Many of you know I'm a big fan of my local pizza place, 400 Rabbits.

Not only do they serve tasty sourdough pizza, Gelupo ice cream and craft cider, but they introduced me to the four hundred drunken rabbit gods of Aztec mythology.

This in turn enabled me to write a story about what happens when Eighty-Six Rabbit begins to wonder whether getting hammered every night for all eternity is really the way to have fun...

'400 Rabbits' appears in Gods with Fur, available for preorder from FurPlanet.

My earnings will just about buy me a celebratory 400 Rabbits pizza.

patten08
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Jun. 7th, 2016

Snoopyteer

Milestone

On May 17th, I made my 50th blood donation.

I started giving blood soon after I turned 18, having seen National Blood Service stands at airshows. That's twenty years ago now - more than half my life. I've given blood in any number of places, from church halls to mobile units, and much has changed, both in the way the system operates and in my world.

I don't find donating especially pleasant or comfortable, but the time you spend with an actual needle in you is under ten minutes and then you get crisps. The psychological benefits of knowing you've done something positive are huge, as well. I will be keeping the letter the Blood Service sent me with my new badge and card, thanking me for saving or improving at least 100 lives.

It struck me some years ago that '50 donations by the time I'm 40' would be a pretty good life goal, and I'm delighted to have achieved that.

100 by the time I'm 60?

blood

Jun. 6th, 2016

Dangerous Curves

Riding East Riding

I spent my weekend in Whitby, on the X9 Forum Annual Bash.

There were a good number of us, with a couple of people who have hung up their helmets coming along by car to see old friends. Howard joined me this year, and was warmly welcomed despite not owning and never having owned any sort of scooter.

We travelled north on Friday, meeting four other southerners at a cafe on the A1, whence we proceeded to Squires, Leeds's biker hangout, for lunch.

From here we took smaller, prettier roads, climbing up to the moors until the temperature dropped and the fog rolled in.

We were staying at Sneaton Castle, hosted by the Order of the Holy Paraclete, whatever that is. It was very pleasant, with a slight youth hostel vibe (supper was at half-past six and you got what you were given, which was chicken one night and scampi the next, plus pudding).

We strolled down into the town, where we found an ice cream shop apparently run by some relatives of mine and Howard bought me one of those ridiculous furry hats with a dog face on, which horrified and delighted our companions when I insisted on wearing it to the pub on Saturday night.

Eponymous ice cream shop

Howard wanted to climb the 199 steps to the abbey, which was looking suitably creepy in the foggy dusk. We visited the gift shop and were encouraged to sample the array of meads, cider brandies and fruit wines on offer.

Whitby panorama from the Abbey steps

Saturday was a group ride, on which we excelled ourselves by getting split into three groups within a quarter of a mile of the start point. Eventually we were all reunited, and stopped to gaze down at a foggy Robin Hood's Bay before setting off again for Scarborough. We stopped again at the Flamborough Head lighthouse, but it was so cold, foggy and windy we made haste to our lunch stop in Bridlington. Here it was sunny, and we ate fish and chips outside.

The afternoon's riding took us up on the moors, into more mist, and to Goathland, also known as Heartbeat's Aidensfield and Harry Potter's Hogsmeade.

In the evening a group of us strolled down to Whitby's Wetherspoons, returning in a seven-seater minivan for a pound a head.

On Sunday the sun came out as soon as we left Whitby. We stopped for lunch at Howard's brother's place, and ate it in the garden. Then it was a slog back down the A1, parting company at Peterborough so I could jostle with all the other traffic returning to London after half term.

Total mileage: 691.

X9 in the courtyard at Sneaton Castle
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Jun. 2nd, 2016

Something So Right

The Best Babysitter

Last night I went to see Dar Williams at the Borderline, which wasn’t the best timing immediately after the four-day extravaganza of ConFuzzled, but I regret nothing.

Dar is really good value live. She’s been gigging for over twenty years, but she still seems delighted and embarrassed to have fans, and tells funny, self-deprecating anecdotes between songs.

On this occasion, as well as making a joke comparing her own experiences on British Rail to Paul Simon writing ‘Homeward Bound’, she delighted my soul by doing perhaps the loveliest acoustic cover of ‘Comfortably Numb’ I have ever heard.

Here you go - though this pales in comparison with last night’s version, which was accompanied only by one guitar and a few hundred people singing along.

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:)

ConFuzzled 2016

I spent my weekend furrying it up at ConFuzzled, held at a hotel not far from Birmingham's NEC.

Beforehand, I got my hair done specially:

hair

I arrived in good time on Friday, thanks to my cunning plan of making a work trip to one of our Birmingham sites (hello petrol money). A valet helped me park and I waved to the lovely Agrajag, who came bounding over to deliver my first hug of the con.

This year, I spent most of my time just hanging out in the bar. There were 1500 attendees, and I knew maybe a tenth of those, yet there was always a familiar face or two with whom to drink, chat, and watch the fursuiters wandering by.

My obligations included forming part of a couple of writing panels with fellow-authors Kandrel and Jeeves, and reading out the entries in the Flash Fiction competition. Usually I manage to maintain a poker face for this, despite some mangling of grammar, spelling and reality, not to mention comma abuse to fit in with the five-sentence limit, but on this occasion one especially unfortunate piece of phrasing broke me completely.

I also found time to visit the hotel pool (including at 7:45am on my first day, because I was too excited to sleep) and to venture outside the convention for dinner with Ultrafox (including a ride on the MONORAIL!!! from the station to the airport).

It was nice to be at a furry con the week after winning a furry award, too. Special love to jm_horse, who addressed me as "Ursa Major Award Winner Huskyteer" all weekend ^.^

Inevitably, I didn't catch up with everyone I wanted to, but I did spend some quality time with schnee, amongst others.

I left around lunchtime on Tuesday, following a final breakfast and swim. Home around half-past three; two-hour nap. The mark of a good convention. Still working on weaning myself off the booze and 2am bedtimes.

As well as catching up with old friends, I put faces to some online handles, and met some lovely new people too. This fandom just keeps on giving.

Several friends, including televassi, were attending for the first time, and one of the nicest things about the con was seeing them enjoy themselves. Here's my pal Billy in his roommate Walter Wolf's fursuit; I lent him my bike for a photoshoot:

billybike

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