Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Big Birthday Bash

So me and my friend Styna got together for a joint birthday party a couple of weeks ago, which was fantastic. Loads of people that we hadn't seen in ages (and a
few that we see all the time) got together for a weekend of food,
games, drinking and a copious amount of giggling.

We kicked off with a phenomenal (if I do say so myself) lactose free fish pie (well, except for the cheese, but you only live once, eh?), which was ready just in time for Styna and Bones to arrive, served with a healthy amount of gossiping and sufficient wine to make pretty much anything funny. Honestly, though, we don't need that much help to make things funny. Then we swapped
our crafts (for the full Imbolc craft swap story, see my other blog Lazy Days), resulting in a lovely crocheted spring scarf from Styna and a fabulous teapot necklace from Bones (which matches my teapot earrings that she made). If you don't already know, Bones makes amazing bespoke jewellery, which lives at her Etsy shop, Autumnal Skies - what are you waiting for? Go check it out!

And then the giggling started, because we got out the wii games. Styna brought down Guitar Hero and Sports Resort, which were
excellent fun. We properly sucked at Guitar Hero, which was hilarious, and it brought out the fiend in Bones, who started telling the wii what for in no uncertain terms. It was a bit like hearing your primary school teacher swear - needless to say, Styna and I were rolling about for most of the night :) We also discovered that Bones shouldn't be allowed to ball yarn....

We spent much of Saturday playing Sports Resort with the boys, watching movies and crafting, before heading out to Leeds for a mild drinking session and an all-you-can-eat buffet. I nearly exploded :D

We headed out to Ilkley on Sunday, where we painted pottery and rummaged in the wool shop at 'Create!' before having a scrumptious afternoon tea at Bettys. We're quite fond of Bettys. :D

All in all, it was a wonderful weekend, and I can't wait for more adventures in the future!

(Images: My Mr, stealing Styna's hat and getting glomped; why Bones shouldn't be allowed to ball lace; Such concentration!; Pottery painting at Create!; Giggly death.)

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

A New Adventure

Ok, so many of you are probably aware that I spend a good deal of my time writing fanfiction. In fact, over the last three years I have written close to four hundred thousand words of fanfiction, in three novel length stories.

I know it's nerdy, but I love it. I'm using it as a means of practicing writing, trying out different styles and getting feedback. It's been fabulous, and I've made some great friends :) I've also accrued a small army of proof readers, which is useful.

Last November I took part in NaNoWriMo, which - for those of you that don't know - is a month of 'literary abandon'. Basically, you and countless others around the world give writing a novel a try, all at the same time, and all with the same goal: get to 50,000 words by the end of the month. It's something that I've wanted to do for a long time, and was a brilliant experience, with everyone supporting one another across the world, picking each other up when they got down and egging everyone on. If you love writing, or think that you have a novel in you I'd definitely encourage you to give it a go :)

I've always known that I wanted to write (I rather foolishly chose archaeology, which is my other great love, as a back-up plan), and I used NaNoWriMo 2011 as my starting point. I planned my novel out in October, having finished up what was supposed to be a short fanfiction (apparently I don't 'do' short) earlier in the month. By the end of November I was at 60,000 words and having a whale of a time!

The novel is by no means finished - there's about another three quarters to go at least - but it confirmed what my fanfictioning had led me to suspect: I can actually write! And it doesn't entirely suck! *boogies* So here I am, still applying for work, but with much less conviction than before (and depressingly, with exactly the same level of success as before), and writing away to my heart's content. At some point this year (how exciting is that?) I will be taking the terrifying step of sending my novel to publishers and seeing how far I get.

You know, some of the time I'm really scared that what I'm doing is screwing up my life, but most of the time I feel like I'm exactly where I need to be, doing exactly what I need to be doing - and I'm having more fun than I've ever had while working. So I've just sort of decided to go with it.

Anyway, in honour of this decision, I thought I might share a couple of excerpts of my work-in-progress, 'House of Vines'. Needless to say, all this text are belong to me, and if you steal it, I'll set untold demons on you. Or possibly just my mother. Your decision.



He could understand why, now that he held it in his shaking hands. He had never fully comprehended the lure, the power of the thing… now, with its wrappings coiling across his knees and the enticing planes of the Chalice in his grip… as he ran his fingers along its edges he fancied that he could hear it calling to him.
He shuddered, involuntarily.
Almost without meaning to he caressed the artefact, running his bitten fingertips over the strange, seductive designs adorning its surface. It wanted him.
He could feel it.
But he wouldn’t make that mistake, not where countless others had before. He had seen what had happened to them, through the myopic lens of history, glimpsed the smoking ruins of their lives…
He would not let it happen to him, to his family… or anyone else’s, he told himself, sternly.
Ignoring its delicious temptation, he wrapped it once again in its plain, linen, bindings, and folded it, almost lovingly, amongst the straw.
The infernal thing had caused so much pain, bred so much hatred… it could not be allowed to continue.
He remembered the night – such a long, bleak night – that he had tried to destroy it, and he had wept as the flames licked at the Chalice, the core of his – and so many others’ – desires. But no matter how the flames had leapt and crackled, no matter how the tinder smoked and smouldered, no matter how much fuel he had stoked around the thing, it would not burn.
To him, that had been a terrible, dreadful confirmation. If he hadn’t already enough proof… something so wicked that could not be touched by flame… it had to be the work of the Devil himself.
With the knowledge that he was safeguarding the fools of the future, he sealed the box and concealed it deep in the shadows. For a long moment, he gazed at the box.
Think, it said.
Think of what we could do, you and I… together…
He pressed his lips together in distaste, and touched the hollow in the wall. He waited until the grinding cacophony of stone on stone ceased, and inspected his work.
Satisfied that his hiding place betrayed no crack, no sign of itself, he turned and walked purposefully away.
He would not look back, he had sworn that to himself, and that promise, at least, he would keep.
No matter how it whispered to him.
Face pale under the waxing moon, and feeling curiously lighter now that his burden had been laid down, he closed the great oak doors with a resounding thunk.
Some things were better left buried.


Excerpt from chapter four:

Quietly, Christopher stole across the room and pulled out Cunningham’s Herbarium, letting it rest in his hand for a moment before allowing it to fall open at random. He glanced at the page. The brilliant blue of the Aconite flower stared back up at him. Closing the book, he checked the spine: it was in excellent condition, no cracks or creases that might make it open to the same page.
He held it away from him and let it fall open again: Aconite. Frowning, he repeated the action several times, before closing the book again.
The atmosphere in the shop was suddenly tense, as if several thousand books were holding their breath, waiting to see what he would do.
“Alright,” he said, softly, knowing that whatever he said would eventually reach even the highest pages. “You know what I am. I accept that… But I would appreciate it if you didn’t fly open to Wolfsbane every time I brush past you.” He smiled slightly as the paper equivalent of a snigger flowed around the room. “And in turn, I promise to keep you as well as I am able, and not sell you to people who intend to turn you into up-cycled, Bohemian furniture. Deal?”
There was an acute silence for a moment, then he felt the book in his hand wriggle a little; he let it open. This time it displayed a sprig of Geraniums, a flower associated with friendship.
“I’ll take that as a yes,” he said, and returned to the desk, intending to read through the Herbal while he had the chance.
As he placed it on the desk the scent came back to him, strong and insistent.
He exhaled in annoyance.
Cunningham’s Herbarium flew open, pages turning themselves until they came to rest on a page covered in tendrils of ivy.
“Oh, shut up,” he grumbled.


Excerpt from chapter seven:

But he didn’t find out what she needed, because she gasped and pulled him around to the other side of the counter. The door had turned pitch black, and it was beginning to spread out across the walls. It was moving slowly, ponderously – like hot pitch, sticking to everything in its path. Christopher was strongly reminded of the air filters in the clean room at the Records Office, sucking all the life out of the room when the doors were shut; the darkness on the wall smelled like that: cold, empty, of nothingness. If oblivion had a smell, that would be it.

More frightened than he had been in a long time, Christopher took a step back, nearly trampling on Ivy, who was still unconsciously holding onto his arm in a mixture of surprise and horror.
In the back of his mind, Christopher heard the books start and rustle in panic; cases started rattling as the volumes tried to get as far away from the encroaching darkness as they could. They started to fall to the floor with dull thuds, trying to pile themselves up against the far wall. He felt Ivy turn around.
“My Gods,” breathed Ivy, pressed against his back. “They’re screaming…”
She meant the books, he knew, because although he could still hear the Barracloughs roaring themselves hoarse in the office, the noise coming from the thousands of terrified books was almost a physical force now, and still building...

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Have Some Flowers

Just because :)

Adventures in London

As a sort of new years treat we headed down to London for a few days - Erador and his friend Steve had an Education Technology showcase thing to attend, and as a self-respecting archaeology graduate I felt that I really ought to visit the British Museum.

We zipped down on the train on Wednesday, and by tea time I was in a bookshop in Covent Garden, waiting for the boys to finish mooching around the first day of conference. On reflection, a bookshop was probably not the best place to have left me, but I certainly enjoyed myself (THEY HAD A WHOLE POETRY SECTION!) and brought back several books that I've been after for a while, including Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People, The Canterbury Tales (in the words Chaucer wrote them, too, not a translation), The Tower (a history of the Tower of London) by Nigel Jones and The Moving Toyshop by Edmund Crispin. Ooh - and a book of Norse Myths to go with my Icelandic Sagas :)
We even got to go to Carluccio's (he's one of mine and Erador's very favourite chefs), which was excellent.

The next day Steve went back off to the conference for a good look around and I dragged Erador off to the Natural History Museum (actually, it didn't take that much dragging), where we both had a really good time looking around. I got to say hello to the blue whale (my old friend) and see the replica of Australopithecus sediba, which I'd read about in National Geographic before Christmas. I was particularly impressed by the minerals collection (being something of a closet geologist) and the giant sequoia, which I know must have been there when I went to the museum as a child, but I can't remember at all. I was probably more interested in the dinosaurs then, anyway. That shows how much I've grown up, actually - when I was little I loved the dinosaur bit, with its interactive displays and giant roaring T-Rex, but now I'm much more interested in the architecture of the building :)

It really is stunning, and I was quite annoyed at myself for forgetting my camera that day (though it was quite nice to have the freedom to look at things without constantly wondering what would make a good picture, and being annoyed that really, my camera just won't do it). I read a fascinating book about the Natural History Museum a few years ago (Dry Stone No. 1 by Richard Fortey), and it was really interesting to walk around the building with those stories in my head. I particularly loved the different species of trees painted onto the ceiling of the entrance hall, and the way that in some of the rooms each window sill was made of a different type of marble; it was fascinating to see all the details that went into the planning of the museum as a building. I really liked the fish bricks in the Minerals Gallery, too.

We were intending to head to the Victoria and Albert Museum that afternoon, too, but after a cursory glance at some very beautiful sculpture we discovered that we were all museum-ed out and headed to Harrods instead, to see what all the fuss is about. I have decided. on reflection, that Harrods is one of the weirdest and most unpleasant places I've ever been to, with the exception of the food hall, which was magnificent (the chocolate section reminded me strongly of Honeydukes). We got lost for an hour on a floor of the building that could have held my entire street that was filled with nothing other than overpriced handbags - and we escaped (hah) into the perfume section, in which neither of us could breathe.

Eventually, we found two bits that we were actually interested in (though not to necessarily buy anything from): I lost Erador near the cameras and spy equipment (there was even a one man submarine!) and he lost me to the roving Harry Potter shop, which looked just like Diagon Alley and was full of Lego. It was a little bit like finding nerd-vana. I may have bought a Marauders Map... as soon as I got it home, me and Bones spent a good half hour poring over it and deciding that we needed to improve it (I suspect a long-running craft project in the making) since not all the floors, classrooms or secret passages were on it, cool as it was.

We caught up with an old friend from my masters course that night, Jenny (the only one of us with a proper job, and a really cool one at the NHM, at that), in a really good pub that none of us had heard of before. We were tempted to classify it as one of those magical shops that moves whenever you look for it. Anyway, the fish and chips were great, I have it on good authority that the mulled cider was excellent, and much giggling was had :D

Friday was definitely BM day. I really can't believe that I've never been before, given my interests and (attempted) profession, and the fact that my Dad lived in London for years. It was spectacular - I loved every minute of it, and I can't wait to go back again! Admittedly, there were bits that I was much more interested in than others, like the Portland Vase and the Lewis Chess Men. I loved the Medieval rooms, and the Japanese ones on the top floor (the Samurai armour was amazing), and the Elgin Marbles, and the Mayan carvings, and the turquoise snake, and the statue from Rapa Nui, and the Assyrian wall sculptures, and there were these enormous gates that I can't remember anything about other than that they were awesome, and... well, you get the picture :)

It was odd seeing the Rosetta Stone, having heard so much about it... a bit like seeing something out of a fairy story. Actually, the whole of the trip was a bit like that - it's as if all of these places didn't seem at all real until you were on the same page of the map of them. I kept finding myself going: 'oh, that's Whitehall, I didn't really think it was a real building', or 'Covent Garden? Gosh, that's in stories...'.

I loved seeing the statue of Ramses II, which inspired Percy Byshe Shelley to write my Grandad's favourite poem - he'd always be wandering around the house quoting a bit of it:

My name is Ozymandius, King of Kings,
Look on my works ye mighty and despair!

I even found things that I was interested in in the Roman and Greek galleries (though admittedly I was more interested in the pre-Greek and pre-Roman bits), and I hate classics (I think there's just so much surviving material that my mind gets swamped with it): Erador and I loved the giant wooden water wheel that would have been used to pump water out of a Roman mine, and the really rude 'lucky' windchimes, which I won't go into details of here...

The only part I didn't really like was the mummies. I hate mummies. It's not that I think they're going to pop up and chase me or anything (though admittedly the fact they were in hermetically sealed glass cases helped a bit), it's more that I think they're a bit too close to being corpses to be on display - and we make a complete circus out of them. They're dead people, and we should respect that, not get all flashy about them. We're a lot better about skeletal remains, and I know it's awesome that their organs, skin, hair, nails and even eyeballs have survived several thousand years, but - when you get right down to it - they're still dead people. It's weird, for an archaeologist, I know. Anyway, Erador made me go in, and some of the sarcophagi were pretty cool, but I don't really feel the need to revisit that particular section.

The only thing I didn't get to see that I wanted to was the Bronze Ife Head that featured in the Radio 2 series A History of the World in 100 Objects, by Neil MacGregor (which if you haven't downloaded from the Radio 2 website I would encourage you to go and find). It's such an interesting and beautiful piece, but unfortunately it was on loan, so that will have to wait until next time. I really liked that things were travelling around the world, helping people to find out their own stories all over the place.

That evening we met up with two more old friends, Tiggs and Alex, and had a bit of a wander about London in the dark. We saw the Golden Hinde (a 1/3 replica of a Tudor ship), the remains of Henry of Blois' palace, the Southbank, St Pauls, Millennium Bridge, Tower Bridge and the Tower. We had a fabulous time catching up, and found lots of things that we're looking forward to doing next time we come down.

We spent Saturday morning roaming around Covent Garden Market while we waited for our train, and saw lots of very odd people performing street theatre, magic and mime (*shudders*). It does make for a vibrant place... but mimes? Really? Anyway, I found a great shop that sold interesting maps, and I got a nice one for the office wall that has the literal translation of every place name - including one in Mexico that simply reads 'Here are people!'.

We stayed in a hostel converted from an old prison and courthouse (the one where Charles Dickens got some of his inspiration to write Oliver Twist) - the building was awesome, and the hostel facilities were more than adequate. Well, except for the showers, which could have done with a temperature control, really. The beds were comfortable, even if the boys were referring to our room as 'the nuclear bunker', and the breakfast was ace.

All in all, it was a brilliant trip - and we can't wait to get back!

(Pictures: The London Eye and a view over the Thames; Horus and Erador; Ramses II; St Pauls and the Millennium Bridge; the 'Nuclear Bunker')

Wednesday, 18 January 2012


Yes, I know I'm a few weeks late, but shush, this is the first chance I've had, so there.

Well, it's been one hell of a year, with one thing and another, and not all of us have made it, but there have been bright spots too.

One such bright spot was Graduation, and it was absolutely wonderful to see everyone again. The Masters was one of the hardest things I've ever done, and
on paper it doesn't seem to have been much of a help in terms of employability, but the people I had the opportunity to meet have more than made up for it - and I suppose it taught me what I was capable of in extraordinary circumstances... and some ordinary ones. Anyway, we all had a great time meeting up, bemoaning the lack of work, drinking a fair bit and letting our hair down. Most refreshing.

Another bright spot that involved the letting down of hair was Chi and Mat's wedding - the first of my school-mate's weddings. It was a bit scary being all grown up, but it was fantastic to see everyone again after so long - and the church where they had the service was beautiful.

This year also heralded the creation of Lazy Days , the craft blog that me, Bones and Krystyna occasionally update. It's been a lot of fun finding and sharing things to talk about on there, including giant pom-poms, sock monsters and do-it-yourself corsets - and hopefully this will only get stronger as time goes on!

Another highlight was the visit to Alnick Castle (HOGWARTS!) with Krystyna, and going to Beamish the next day - all good fun, and probably the subject of a belated post in the next few weeks. As will the trip to Litte Moreton Hall with JacAbsolute and Erador :)

I also took the difficult decision to actually start writing this year, and have been religiously practicing on fanfiction, and planning my original stuff. I wrote
an entirely new fanfic this year - it was supposed to be really short, and turned out to be 37 chapters and 200,000 words long. Suffice it to say that I don't appear to 'do' short. The fic, Much Ado About Hogwarts, is a very silly teenage romantic comedy, and is the complete antithesis of what I normally write - which is what made it so much fun :D It lives here.

I'm having great fun with my own stuff, and live in a weird combination of excitement and dread of the day that I have to actually show it to people :) I started it off during NaNoWriMo, which was great - it was so good to know that all of us were pushing ourselves together.

There's also Erador, who continues to be the man of
my dreams, and puts up with me for reasons best known to himself.

The next year, well... it looks busy, from here, and like it will last forever (which of course they never do)... But there are Big Things afoot, and the world is waking up again. Hope yours is a good one :)

To absent friends.
(Photo: Cuthbert, kicking it back in Biddulph)