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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

May. 23rd, 2016

Monocle Husky

Major Win

Hey, remember when one of my stories was nominated for an Ursa Major award?

It won!

The Ursas, or Annual Anthropomorphic Literature and Arts Awards, are open to voting by anyone, and designed to showcase and celebrate quality in the furry fandom. Or popularity, which may or may not be the same thing.

I am over the moon to have my writing recognised in this way. Thank you to everyone who read the story, took time to vote, or sent good wishes!

In addition, The Analogue Cat has been nominated for a Cóyotl, the annual awards of the Furry Writers' Guild. It means a lot to me that such a short work has struck a chord with so many people.

Hearts & paws to you all: ♥ 🐾 ♥ 🐾 ♥ 🐾 ♥ 🐾 ♥ 🐾
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May. 21st, 2016

Pertwee bike

The Late Great Johnny Ace

It's twenty years yesterday since Jon Pertwee died.

I can remember exactly where I was when I heard the news: in a bicycle shop in Oxford, with the radio playing. The newsreader described him as 'the quintessential Doctor Who', and while he may not have been everyone's, he is certainly mine.

I first discovered him on the covers and in the pages of the Target novels, and he was my favourite Doctor years before I got to see him on the small screen. This was probably the start of a lifelong weakness for prematurely grey hair, aquiline noses, and that particular combination of gentleness, humour and ass-kicking ability found also in e.g. Timothy Dalton's James Bond and Scott Bakula's Sam Beckett.

He's given me so much pleasure over the years - and that's without adding in his turns as Petty Officer Pertwee in The Navy Lark, and as Spotty in Superted. Here’s a nice article celebrating his career.

I present to you one of my most treasured possessions, signed on a Doctor Who Day at Longleat in the mid-90s. I was so overwhelmed at being in the presence of my hero that I could barely say my own name. Jon was as charming, and as handsome, as I had always imagined him.

Read more...Collapse )
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May. 16th, 2016

Dangerous Curves

Bike Normandy 2016: Day 3 (08/05)

Our return ferry left at six in the evening, which meant almost another full day's riding. We did need to pack all our luggage, however, and in my case, after a last-ditch attempt to reattach it, lash my windscreen to my pillion seat.

After a brief pause in Camembert to ascertain that there really isn't anything exciting there, we stopped at another piece of military hardware, the Vimoutiers Tiger tank, for a photo opportunity, and Howard informed me that my headlight had blown. The coffee stop was minutes away, in Vimoutiers itself, so we used the opportunity to swap in my spare bulb while the others relaxed in the shade of a café awning.

By this time I was pretty fed up with my bike's determination to fall to bits over the weekend, and the insane difficulty level of replacing the bulb (remove two panels then contort yourself reaching up inside the headset) didn't help. On this occasion, pulling the connector off the back of the bulb proved to be the trickiest part of the job.

John kindly took our coffee order, and in due course delivered our drinks.

"Going well?" he asked.

"NO," we replied in unison.

At last the replacement bulb was in the holder, and the spring clip and dust cover reattached. I spent five minutes fruitless trying to replace the connector, then handed over to Howard, who moved it half a millimeter so it immediately clicked in.

We lunched at The Best Little Creperie In Normandy (probably), where I branched out and tried a feuilleté: a vast base and even vaster lid of puff pastry, cradling a delicious mixture of cheese, sausage, mushroom and ham.

After a glorious and largely traffic-free weekend, there was no way to avoid dual carriageways and busy roads as we headed back to Dieppe. The group stuck together, overtaking slower vehicles when we could and waving to thank the driver of one van-and-trailer combo, who pulled into a layby to let us pass.

We said goodbye to John and Jen at the ferry terminal, and queued up at the booth. Howard's passport and number plate were checked and rechecked, then he was asked to produce his confirmation email.

"Ah. You've booked your return for next Sunday."

Howard had to go back round to the ferry office and change his ticket, at a cost of £10. I was shooed onto the ferry, where I was given a warm welcome by the man who'd helped me drop my bike on Thursday and spent an anxious half hour waiting for Howard to board before he eventually appeared.

We all suspected he'd done it on purpose.

Landing was at 21:30 UK time, and slowed by the insistence at passport control that bikers should remove their helmets (I, in my flip-front, sailed smugly through). Howard and I said goodbye in the middle of a roundabout, the A23/A27 junction having come up faster than expected, and I arrived home soon after 11PM.

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May. 14th, 2016

Mallory Park

Bike Normandy 2016: Day 2 (07/05)

It's not easy to get twelve bikes rolling in the morning, particularly when there was home-made Calvados the night before and someone (not me) has left their ignition on and flattened the battery.

Eventually we were all on the road, having been cautioned that it was Le Mans weekend and the police were likely to be more interested than usual in misbehaving motorcyclists.

The weather continued to be glorious, and after a coffee stop we headed for a riverside restaurant familiar from previous visits. I recognised and liked the route to the river, which went from winding and sun-dappled roads to very narrow, twisty downhills as we approached our destination.

The riverside was busy with families and dogs, but there’s always room to park a motorbike, or even twelve. John had phoned ahead and reserved a table on the decking outside, overlooking the river. After lunch, Howard and I had a quick go on one of the yellow pedaloes before we set off again, working our way carefully out of the busy town and hitting the empty country roads with glee.

There was some excitement at the final coffee stop, when a couple of riders misinterpreted Howard’s marking and went sailing past the car park. Howard set off in pursuit, but on the wrong side of the road, so Jen set off after him. Soon everyone was safely sorted out and returned.

It was getting late in the day, we were tired, and dinner would need to be cooked on our return. But we had yet to do The Triangle: three stretches of excellent road, one of which is Howard’s favourite, a fast section of long straights and favourable bends known in Bike Normandy circles as The Racetrack.

The executive decision was that we would do two sections of the route, omitting The Racetrack. The first leg was fast, with plenty of opportunities to feel as if you’re leaning all the way over when in reality it’s a pathetic amount. At the end of it I found Howard marking a roundabout and looking pleased with himself. We did the home stretch in convoy, riding through woodland and stopping to admire the tank at the side of the road.

I was pleased to note at the end of the day that my Bridgestone T30s were at last showing signs of wear towards the outer edges.

P5070024
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May. 12th, 2016

Orange Vespa Huskyteer

Bike Normandy 2016: Day 1 (06/05)

Our first stop on Friday morning was the Canadian cemetery, a couple of streets from our hotel. Stone after stone with the same date: June 19, 1942.

We had arranged to meet the rest of the group, along with Bike Normandy's John, at a bar in Saint-Saëns, a pretty little town forty minutes' ride away through some beautiful countryside. But first, we stopped at a supermarket on the outskirts to fill up with petrol and for me to pick up the Orangina Haribo requested by my flatmate.

I was still rattled by my lack of windscreen, and rather dreaded explaining it to the others, as it didn't make me look especially competent. But whatever you've done in biking, everyone else has been there and done that or something very similar, and the warm weather plus numerous towns and villages to keep the speed down ensured I was comfortable.

After coffee, a briefing, and a lunch order of baguettes all round, John led us on a loop through twisty roads and past turquoise lakes as we got used to each other and riding on the right. I volunteered as back marker for this stretch, my favourite position. An hour later we were back in Saint-Saëns and more than ready for lunch. Jeanette, the other half of Bike Normandy, was waiting to meet us, so I was relieved of my marking duties.

Now with a professional tour guide at each end of our column, we rode through increasing heat to cross the Seine on one of the free ferries. The traffic light that controlled boarding was red, but here was a ferry employee waving me on, so I rolled on board. Another bike swiftly followed, and by the time I had put the sidestand down we were in midstream, leaving half our group on the bank.

"I told him there were twelve of us," said John, baffled, "and he said fine!"

I dashed to the stern to wave gleefully at our stranded companions, by which time I had to dash back and get ready to ride off the ferry again. On the other bank was a cafe, where I had a diabolo - lemonade with flavoured syrup, in this case candyfloss flavoured - and we watched a quad biker roar past in circles, usually with two wheels off the ground.

Then we turned back towards Bike Normandy's basecamp near Falaise, stopping on the way for petrol and bread. While our hosts prepared the evening meal, the rest of us sat outside eating peanuts and admiring the view.
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