The Spy Who Loved Me

Just Like The Moonraker

I've been continuing to build model kits, mostly of vehicles from the Bond films, as a way of passing the lockdown hours. Soon after Christmas I bought myself a 1:200 scale Moonraker, which I completed last week.

The parts went together beautifully, and the paint job was mostly gloss white from a rattle can; the difficult bit was making the finished shuttle look like it's been TO SPACE. I don't always weather my models, but this one needed some grime from heat, exhaust gases and debris to make it convincing. I'm really pleased with the end result:

Model Moonraker 6 space shuttle and booster rockets displayed against a blackened concrete wall.
Pertwee bike

Bangs in Beer

I spent the weekend in my support bubble, i.e. down at Howard's. We took the bikes for a much-needed scenic ride along the coast into Devon, stopping at the little seaside town of Beer.

Beer's claims to fame are its fishing fleet and its name. There's a pub called the Barrel of Beer (currently closed, of course) where, as their sign points out, you can 'have a beer, in Beer, at the Barrel of Beer'.

We made our way to a quiet spot of beach so I could have a swim. It was a mild day but the water was still cold, and ten minutes was enough. Afterwards I had sandwiches and a raspberry doughnut to replace lost joules.

We queued on the quay to buy lemon sole for supper. Soon after we finished our transaction there was a loud bang, which the fishmonger dismissed as thunder. It was only when callmemadam asked me about it the next day that I learned we had heard a fireball meteor.

Howard wasn't overly enthused by the lemon sole, even pan-fried with butter, so I took the opportunity to remind him that there are plenty more fish in the sea.

A pebble beach with cliffs in the background. A seagull on the pebbles, and three more sitting on a rock out to sea.

Wonderous Stories

Monday was my friend Nick's funeral, postponed for a month due to bad weather on the original date. I'll admit I relished the opportunity for a legitimate trip somewhere different: a ride through beautiful Epping Forest to a woodland burial ground.

Few people could attend in person, for obvious reasons, but many, many more watched the livestream of the service. There was one other furry, otherwise the attendees were all from Nick's family. They knew about his more bohemian side of art and roleplaying, and enjoyed our tales of how loved and respected our Ultrafox was in the fandom as much as we enjoyed hearing about his childhood.

When I picture Nick it's often wearing his Yes T-shirt, and we heard 'Wonderous Stories' during the service (as well as 'The Spirit of Radio' by Rush). The song was new to me, but felt very right:

He was laid to rest beside his mum. The grounds are very close to North Weald airfield (where I once took Nick on the back of my scooter to look round the small RAF museum), and light aircraft passed over frequently.

I stayed to consume my packed lunch on one of the benches, after jokes with the family about Nick's great love of food and how he would have approved. Everything there is natural - the grave markers, even the flower vases are wood - so it will return to the ground. There are squirrels, deer, and, I am assured, foxes.

Herne Hill Husky

I'd been looking for a while for someone who draws characters in the Hanna-Barbera style, as I've always loved Scooby-Doo, Top Cat, Secret Squirrel, Muttley and the rest of their scratchily-drawn, anarchic pals.

I found the very talented Inklop Bunny Art (Twitter | Instagram).

Presenting Hong Kong Phooey's south London opposite number, Herne Hill Husky ^.^

Cartoon husky in a karate gi, striking a martial arts pose
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.)

Collapse )

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.


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.

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.


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?


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.