Casino Royale

Little Bookroom

To my great excitement, I worked out a way to fit yet another bookcase into my home. Then I had to wait several months for IKEA to admit they would deliver one to my postcode. It finally arrived this week and I spent a happy Saturday assembling it then arranging the contents.

The bookcase on which I was keeping spy stuff was in imminent danger of collapse, with overflow stacked on the floor, so I separated James Bond from Everything Else. This allowed me to tidy up the collection a bit, and to put the Saint, who's been hidden away for a few years, front and centre. (I've run the numbers and I am missing 12 Saint books, mostly the '70s and '80s ones that were more a team effort than 100% Leslie Charteris.)

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Yet, somehow, there are still stacks of books on the floor.
Cross stitch

Just Like The Moonraker

Here's a project I started in the first lockdown and completed yesterday (working on it in meetings, mostly).

It's the first edition cover of Moonraker, my favourite Bond novel. I used an online pattern creator on an image I found through Google, and variegated floss to make it more interesting. (The black thread is slightly sparkly and looks really good.)

When we can go non-essential shopping again I'll get it framed.

Cross stitch version of a book cover showing red and yellow flames, with 'Moonraker' and 'Ian Fleming' in block capitals.

Original:

The original first edition book cover.
This IS me (by schwitters)Default

Something Nice

I'm asking those who love the outdoors to post a picture on your page. A picture that YOU took. Just a pic. No description. The goal is to regain peace and harmony without negativity. Please copy the text, put a picture on YOUR page, and let's look at these beautiful pictures.

(via st_crispins)

A big wave breaking on a pebble beach under a grey and yellow cloudy sky.

(No description, but there is alt text for those it helps.)
This IS me (by schwitters)Default

My heart has joined the Thousand, for my friend stopped running today

Nick, a man with long ginger hair and beard, standing in a leather jacket in front of two 1940s warplanes.

This week I had the horrible news that my dear friend Nick/Ultrafox had died of cancer.

He was so very kind, gentle and wise, funny and enthusiastic; nobody ever had a bad word to say about him, and he was greatly cherished and respected in the furry community and by all his many other friends.

We met at a Londonfurs meetup in the early '00s, and bonded over our shared love of aviation. He introduced me to another wonderful friend, Steve, and to the furries-in-fighter-planes role-playing game Steve would run by email for the next decade, which brought me enormous joy. We made group excursions to military museums and air shows, including two trips abroad, to Denmark and the Czech Republic. We shared laughs and nerdy passion and sad times and meals and booze.

It was Nick who persuaded me to go to my first furry convention, ConFuzzled in 2013, and we were roommates for every ConFuzzled I attended.

When his housemate emailed me with the news, he asked if I would contact Nick's friends in furry. This was a tough job, but it was warming to see how much he was loved, and what great friends we shared (many of them have been checking in to see how I'm doing, too).

He was a skilled and popular furry artist, and I'm glad I commissioned this from him a few years back:

Artwork showing Huskyteer wearing the leather jacket worn by Ace in Doctor Who.

Furries often use this quotation from Watership Down when a friend passes, but this is the first time I've fully grokked it:

"My heart has joined the Thousand, for my friend stopped running today."


I'm sad and angry that COVID robbed us of one more ConFuzzled in 2020, and meant I couldn't see him in his last months. But we had plenty of great adventures.

Blue skies, Nick.
Swimming

Get In The Sea

I've mentioned several times that open water swimming was a highlight of my 2020, and in the absence of my usual ways of releasing energy and tension, did a lot to keep me sane and cheerful.

Howard suggested I bring my swim stuff when I visited for New Year, and indeed I had already thought of this. When I actually turned up with my wetsuit etc he back-pedalled and asked if I was serious. I was.

New Year's Eve was bright and cold, and a swim seemed like the perfect way to say goodbye and Up Yours to the outbound year, so Howard drove me to Weymouth and guarded my clothes while I paddled up and down for ten minutes.

I quickly went from "I don't want to swim where PEOPLE can SEE me what if someone SHOUTS at me what if they LOOK AT ME FUNNY?" to cruising parallel with the promenade, waving at dog-walkers.

This time of year there's a lot of dressing and undressing, preparing flasks of Ribena, rinsing out neoprene and so on for not much time in the water. Worth it for the glow, though.

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Coffee!!

2020 Hindsight

1. What did you do in 2020 that you'd never done before?

A 1-mile open water swim!

2. Did you keep your New Year's resolutions?

The only one I can remember is to put something in Sainsbury’s food bank once a week. I ended up going shopping less than usual, but I was pretty good about donating when I did go.

3. What countries did you visit?

I had a day trip to France with my friend M in late February, and boy am I glad I did!

4. What would you like to have in 2021 that you lacked in 2020?

A European motorcycle trip.

5. What date from 2020 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

Can't remember the date, but the first time I got to see Howard after lockdown

6. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

The Hever Castle swim.

7. What was your biggest failure?

I tried to check in on all my friends but there were people I forgot or didn’t get round to. One of those people died in June.

8. Did you suffer illness or injury?

No thank goodness. Never have I lived in such a constant state of hypochondria.

9. What was the best thing you bought?

A framed print of the Royal Mail’s Living Daylights stamp. Utterly pointless and self-indulgent. I love it.

10. Whose behaviour merited celebration?

My employers and colleagues were wonderful at adapting our working life and making sure everybody was OK. Howard was very considerate and supportive in a difficult year when we couldn’t see each other as often as usual.

11. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?

Other people at the supermarket, mostly.

12. Where did most of your money go?

Model aeroplane kits? I didn’t notice the huge savings everyone else is reporting; I certainly didn’t save much on commuting, although I put less petrol in the bike than usual.

13. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Support bubbles: getting to hug Howard, and spend the weekend with him, for the first time since lockdown. Going to the ZOO! with M.

14. What song will always remind you of 2020?

'Chan Chan' by Buena Vista Social Club. I listened to this one a lot.

15. What do you wish you'd done more of?

Writing. Gone to the cinema in the brief windows when you could.

16. What do you wish you'd done less of?

Meetings. When you can’t just pop by someone’s desk for a chat, every work conversation becomes another bloody meeting.

17. How will you spend Christmas?

I spent Christmas Day at home with my flatmate. We ate a lot of roast potatoes, then I went for a walk in the park with my friend R and we had mulled wine from a Thermos.

18. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?

Nah.

19. What was the best book you read?

Either Salman Rushdie’s Quichotte or David Mitchell’s Utopia Avenue.

20. What did you want and get?

I passed my internship and was promoted to Junior Content Designer.

21. What did you want and not get?

I was turned down for another position I applied for.

22. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I was 43 and I climbed the Millennium Dome!

23. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

My furry novella getting published. Conventions weren't on the cards this year so publishers didn't bring a lot out. This year, hopefully!

24. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2020?

I have embraced elasticated-waist trousers. On the days I actually bothered getting dressed, that is.

25. What kept you sane?

My flatmate. I was afraid we'd get on each other's nerves, as normally we're both out a lot, but having coffee breaks during the work day, ordering a pizza on Friday night, experimenting with cocktails and watching Remington Steele became very important.

26. Who was the best new person you met?

The External Comms team, with whom I spent 4 months on a placement. I joined during lockdown and only ever met a few of them in person, but they made me feel welcome and one of them straight away.

28. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2020.

Don't put off the things you want to do.

29. What were your favourite moments of the year?

Riding up the drive of Stonor Park. Throwing myself through waves at the beach, then having an ice cream. That time I made a joke so dreadful that my flatmate spent a full minute yelling at me to GET IN THE BIN.

30. What are your plans for 2021?

More swimming. More writing. More biking.
This IS me (by schwitters)Default

Christmas Who

Hey! if you like any of the following:

  • Christmas

  • Dr Who

  • giving money to charity

  • my stories


may I direct your attention to Twice Upon a Time Scope?

This is an unofficial and unauthorised ebook anthology of fact, fiction, poetry and artwork by Who alumni and fans, sold in aid of Scope, the disability equality charity.

I don't write a lot of Who, but when your brain wakes you up at 3am to ask 'what if the Third Doctor had to dress as Father Christmas for the UNIT party?', you go with it. The result is Red Velvet, and, in a year when I have had much more free time yet got very little written, I am very happy with it.

(Can you see my name? It's under the TARDIS!)

This IS me (by schwitters)Default

Ref Sheet

I've been in the furry fandom for nearly 20 years and never had a ref sheet until now.

A ref sheet, for the non-furries, is a blueprint or style bible for your character, showing their colours, markings and so on. It's what you show artists if you're commissioning them to draw your character.

And here's mine.

huskyteerref

It's by Ed B. Collie and I love it. Perfectly captures the Huskyteer in my head.
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Cross stitch

L Minus One

Things have been a little miserable around here, what with Saturday bringing the announcement of 1) a second national lockdown and 2) the death of Sean Connery. Although he was 90 and died in his sleep in the Bahamas (goals!), the Bond community is obviously very sad about it.

On Sunday I met Howard for lunch in Petersfield. We did Christmas presents early, both as a just in case and because Christmas is, for me at least, cheering.

On Monday night I joined several brave souls on Twitter in watching Zardoz, widely regarded as one of the world's worst and most peculiar films and famous chiefly for Sean Connery running around in knickers and a bandolier:



Karate classes have closed again. At the end of Tuesday's, Shihan thanked us for our commitment and dedication, and praised the way we'd thrown ourselves back into training over the last couple of months. I got a bit choked up. Then I sang the song from the end of The Sound of Music and legged it out of there.

In good news, my one-year internship with Home Office Digital, Data and Technology has come to an end and I've had to, essentially, apply for the job I was already doing. It's very embarrassing being interviewed by your colleagues, since everyone on the panel knew full well I am not normally so polite, enthusiastic and smartly-dressed, but I succeeded and am now a fully-fledged Junior Content Designer.
Swimming

Winterswim

I've been continuing to swim in the Beckenham lake, switching from a swimming-costume to my shortie wetsuit and adding a pair of neoprene gloves as my hands were getting cold.

I ride my motorcycle all year round, and benefit from improved skills and greater enjoyment in the good summer weather. Why shouldn't the same apply to swimming?

PTP Coaching, who operate the lake, offer swim sessions throughout the winter, but you need to complete a Winter Induction first. I had mine yesterday.

The half-hour talk from one of the coaches was very helpful and reassuring. We were not required to demonstrate we could swim, despite what the website said, so I wore my new Captain Marvel cozzie for nothing. Some useful things I learned:

  • It takes twice as long to warm up as to cool down, and the cooling starts when you get undressed. So 5 minutes changing + half hour swim + 5 minutes changing = 40 minutes cooling, 80 minutes to warm back up.

  • If someone's shaking with cold, don't be tempted to give them a rub on the shoulder - this creates a hot spot and the blood will go there instead of where it's needed.

  • Carry something sugary in your bag in case you overdo it, like Kendal Mint Cake or a treat size bag of Haribo.


Next purchase will be neoprene socks, I think.