Bath, Winter 2016: The Christmas Market Mini-break

I don’t ‘do’ Christmas, too many bad memories and I’m not a fan of the encroaching darkness or the cold weather. However I’m also really keen to change my perspective on the season and rewrite the crap memories with better ones. This includes going places with my friend, Shannon, who appreciates the chance to explore other places while living in London.

Bath has a massive three week Christmas Market and the entire city takes it very seriously. I’ve wanted to see it for years but bus trips down are expensive. Also because of Uni things were difficult (coaches and dogs don’t mix, there’s simply not enough room). I saw a three day trip advertised for over £200 and the accomedation wasn’t even in Bath! Fortunately, between us, Shannon and I are savvy travellers and knew we could do a similar trip of our own devising for half that so I sorted the train and she did the accomedation. Our normal choice of the White Hart Inn was booked up so we managed to get a room at the YMCA on the northern side of the town. It was cheaper than the inn but also a bit more of a walk.

Shannon had to work so she ended up coming in on Monday night, giving me the entire day to travel down (I was down by 2pm) from Dereham, check in and do whatever my little heart desired until she got in just before 9pm. I ended up having dinner and a pint of Somerset cider at my favourite pub, wandering the market as it got dark and going to the Thermae Spa (disabled people get in for 1/2 price or with a free companion which is a bonus). I ended up curling up in a Caffé Nero by the bus station which was, to my surprise and delight, open super late till 10pm with The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.

Glorious! Oh and there were even a few, magical, flakes of snow as I wandered, sipping mulled apple juice.

Tuesday was our only actual day in Bath so we decided on our own walking tour, dipping in and out of shops, having Japanese food at a kaiten sushi place for lunch. We walked around the market (I got to explain that if you say ‘let’s get a mulled cider’ in Britain before half past eleven, people will think you’re an alcoholic; Americans and Canadians think ‘cider’ is non-alcoholic. It’s not and never should be. Especially not in Somerset). But that amused me no end; for just a second I though Shannon was serious.

I got to sit in a lovely little coffee shop that could only seat fifteen or so people, right on the bridge by the weir. This has memories for us as we passed it while walking into Bath for the first time, with Uni, along the tow-path. Shannon wanted to visit a maze so I sat and had a drink while she nipped across the bridge. I spent the time percolating an idea I’d had for a short story based on a city with a visible but hidden second one beneath it; Bath has an entire network of streets and passages under the paths that you can see if you look at the houses, most of which have basement floors. It’s in full view but no one notices it, it takes a tour guide to show you (ditto the Masonic iconography). It was just screaming to be used in a fantasy story involving magic and arcane things.

After lunch and a pit stop, we headed our again, this time to look properly at the market. It was starting to get busier and had plenty of free samples when it came to food and alcohol. I’d discovered rhubarb vodka and adored it; I’m not a vodka person ever but I do love rhubarb and this was delicious (and available, cheaper, on Amazon *grins*). I also got to introduce Shannon to good, proper, honey mead; it’s sweet as fuck but delicious in small doses. Oh and cheese! So much cheese! I came home from Bath with a wheel, quietly maturing in my spare room, and some of the best cheese straws I’ve ever tasted.

Then we went to the spa and spent two glorious hours in the healing waters (seriously, my feet didn’t ache when we left though the chlorine/walking has really agrevated my still-healing, post-op scar). One of my few happy memories of childhood/adolescence is going to Center Parcs at Elvedon and spending the dark evenings outside in the rapids, watching as steam billowed off the hot water. By the time we got in, it was black as night and dead quiet too. The pool inside, downstairs, has a beautiful light display but the pool on the roof was breathtaking, stream rolling off it and a blue, almost bioluminescence to the water thanks to some well placed lights. Actually Monday night was more impressive; it was fucking freezing and the hot water/cold night combo was really impressive. I got to watch the sunset too. We floated, we swam, we enjoyed the jacuzzi bubbles and the steam rooms. It was chilled out (bar near-obsessive clock watching).

We left at nine and were in the Odeon down the road shortly after with ice cream and everything. Shannon hadn’t seen Fantastic Beasts yet so it seemed the perfect (and free) way to end the day. Actually, on the finance front I was expecting to spend a lot more than I did. I was amazed how reserved I was when it came to the stalls but much of the stuff I had no need or use for. Though it was a lot of fun to visit.

Wednesday was going home day but we were going to enjoy the morning first. Shannon was hunting Pokémon (you can tell people who do that because of how their hands move on their phones/carrying powerpacks), resulting in some interesting pictures. Bath has some weird Christmas displays from the baubles in a telephone box to a giant deck chair and several igloo-bauble things. The cool thing is wandering the Southgate area, the modern shopping complex near the station, and just stumbling on things you don’t expect to be there.

The journey home wasn’t too bad. We got coffee and I read, then we caught the train in a nice, calm manner back to Paddington. We didn’t get lost which just proves I need a dog because I can’t concentrate on walking and trying to navigate. Uni was awesome at exits and I, sadly, am not. That said, it was nice not to have to go out in the rain or the dark so she could pee and we were able to reallty maximise our time. I still want New Dog though and this just confirmed it.

Shannon and I parted at Paddington. We went into the wrong part of the station and took the Circle line so I had to change at Edgware Road (I miss the old Circle where you could go either way) which wasn’t too bad as I had my GoBag which made steps and escalators a breeze. Despite the echoes of the called-off Tube strike, it was easy to get back to Liverpool Street so I took myself off for ramen. I’d actually specifically scheduled a food break and I ended up with time to sit in Starbucks with a cold drink as well. Oh, my train home wasn’t cancelled and I managed to catch my bus perfectly.

The cats missed me (despite not starving) which was nice. They’re all being super-friendly and affectionate in acknowledgement that, sometimes, I vanish for a few days. I admit, I really should have bought that wooden plaque which said ‘dogs have owners but cat have staff’. It’s true and I’m glad they appreciate me.

I’m looking forward to going back to Bath for a writing retreat in the spring, it’s a nice place to go for a few days and it was great to be able to go to the movies for a late showing without having to worry about getting home. Bath is a tiny town compared to Norwich but it has a lot more in it, oh and all the designer stores you could want. I don’t but it’s nice to have the constrast between the modern shops and the little indie stores selling random stuff as well as the Roman and Georgian sections of town. Next time I do want to visit the Temple of Minerva though.

Overall an awesome trip. Definately some good memories to put into the bank.

The Great Name Change of 2016: The Quick How-to Guide

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It’s been nearly a year since I became Asha and six months since it was a legal thing. I still don’t regret it but I did want to do a short post for anyone else thinking about doing it.

First off a quick disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer and this is just how I did it. There are other ways. You don’t need a deed poll to be known as someone else (and you’re perfectly within your rights to name yourself whatever you want) but if you want a passport or other legal documentation, then I suggest doing it this way rather than going via one of those up-selling websites which promise to do everything for you.

Also bear in mind the personal backlash. As a society we’re groomed to accept the names we’re given at birth, gods forbid we chose one ourselves. Your reasons for changing your name are your own and you don’t have to explain or tell anyone why you decided on the change. If someone can’t adjust, that’s their problem and not yours. If you have parents they’ll probably be mortally offended but again, not your problem.

I’m going to assume, for the sake of this, that you’re over 18 and a UK citizen.

  1. Think about it: a name change isn’t something to jump into with no consideration. Test run your name first (social media is a good way to do this) amongst a circle of friends (and for a chunk of time: six months is a good length). Remember there is no shame in tinkering with your name until you find the right one, or changing both your first and surname. Do take your cultural background into consideration and try to pick something simple or, at least, easy to spell because you’re going to spent a lot of time doing this over the phone.
  2. Read the government website on changing your name and download the Deed Poll documentation.
  3. Finalise your name.
  4. Get an appointment with a notary, this a particular kind of person who deal with documents and whatnot. Google one in your local area (solicitors can do this; notaries are basically a kind of solicitor, but are more expensive). It helps to have the forms filled out and emailed over, as well as bringing copies to your appointment. Make sure you have identification and can confirm your address, it also helps to bring your brith certificate as well.
  5. Find somone you trust whose known you for ten years (I know) and who has ID (a passport or driving license) and a utility bill to confirm address). They’ll be your witness.
  6. Go get the forms notorised, you should send the original forms via Recorded delivery, along with payment, to the Royal Courts of Justice. You can ask for a copy of the forms to tide you over until the enrolled deed poll gets back and it doesn’t hurt to digitise these or photocopy them.
  7. Celebrate!
  8. Wait.
  9. Once the enrolled deed poll arrives you can then use it to apply for passports, driving licenses and whatnot. Banks will update your account name (which is actually the least important detail; it’s the sort code and account number which matter).
  10. Get official ID and celebrate again, then ring around everybody from HMRC to your dentist to let them know of the change, providing the form. Also don’t forget your local council and the Electoral Roll so you can vote!

That’s basically it. The cost to change my name was, including postage, around £150 which isn’t too bad for such a drastic change. It’s definately a worthwhile one just be prepared to spend a lot of time on the phone (look for free numbers!) ringing people to explain what’s going on.

But that, in a nutshell, is how you change your name and enroll a deed poll in the UK.

 

Hey, I Have Superfast Internet!

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I realised I’ve been with Sky for over a decade now. This was partly as, when I moved into my own place (as opposed to renting), I had a TV, a Sky DVR and loved the newness of WiFi and being able to do things without having to switch on my computer (previously routers needed machine on to connect to the net).

Ten years later and I’m on 7mbps, not bad for Norfolk but not fast either.

Ten years with the same router …

So, on a whim last month (after seeing a friend and his Android phone), I wandered into Carphone Warehouse and it turns out they do broadband now. Or rather they act as a third-party seller allowing me to look at all the options from different companies and find the best. I admit, it wasn’t actually the promised speed, it was the switch over handling which seduced me (essentially it follows the bank model where all the leg work is done for you, you just sit back and wait for the switch date).

My new router arrived last week but I was able to use my existing ethernet and longer telephone cable (the power cord and the filter are the only things I’ve used aside from the new router itself). This means, rather than sitting on my bookshelf, the router is on my desk right next to my computer. Wireless is fast but I prefer Ethernet unless I’m on my laptop.

The set up was easy but there was a gap, or at least there was supposed to be Sky ‘stopped’ my service last week but the change over didn’t happen until yesterday. Oh and I was anticipating a full on net black out but no, it was actually surprisingly easy (and gave me a weekend to see Allied and catch up with a close friend I don’t seen any much as much as I’d like too). I’d prepped for this, backing up my data and watcing lots of offline movies, but the net started cutting out yesterday afternoon but I was all prepped for it and then, bing, an email dropped in my phone telling me Fibre was now live.

I got 37mbps …. yeah, safe to say I’m currently happy.

I dislike change, especially when it comes to making ‘adult’ decisions like changing providers for things or getting new tech. WiFi is like running hot/cold water in my personal hierarchy of needs. I’ve not been this chuffed since I got my Nest thermostat (and that’s still the best decision I made). Actually, while we’re on that subject, the big thing I had to do was update the router’s name and password (because having a router called TalkTalkRandomNumbersandLetters isn’t the easiest thing to find) and then my devices. My laptop auto-updated but I had to tell my Nest there was a new network, it detected the loss of the usual one and it was actually cool to do. You put your password in as if you were cracking a safe, by rotating the dial and selecting letters/numbers. It was this little moment of Mission Impossible-style coolnesss that my inner geek really appreciated.

Just FYI: my Nest is not yet sentient, which was the biggest concern when it came to allowing it access to a faster internet speed. We’re all good, even if, when I told it about my name change and email address the other day on the net, the info was auto-fed to the Nest itself. That’s a tad scary but also awesome.

So now I’m enjoying watching a Final Fantasy XV Let’s Play, calm in the knowledge the video won’t stuffer and it’s full 1080p, rather than the usual auto of something stupidly low like 420.

The weird thing, aside from the little things like YouTube awesomeness, it’s hard to see the difference. Except when downloading stuff, anyway. Things are definately much faster but that’s about it. We live online now, as opposed to dialling up, so it’s very much a under the hood thing.

But I’m pleased. I hope I stay that way.

Alien: Covenant and the Art of the Iconic Poster

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This poster is, in my humble opinon, a thing of beauty.

I’m a huge fan of the Alien movies (Aliens is my favourite, Alien however is a seminal classic). Family lore says on of my relatives on my paternal grandmother’s-side was involved in the production of the original movie (specifically the effects on the chestburster scene). I don’t know how much credence to give to this (my father’s claim to fame is that he was invited to be a member of Pink Floyd and while he did go to school with Dave Gilmour, was never known for playing instruments. He was, however a big Pink Floyd fan and quite rightly so).

Anyway I grew up with the Alien movies, even though I didn’t see the first one until I was probably thirteen or so. My Dad, well he was a stickler for the classification system when it came to his daughter). He didn’t give a crap what my brother watched but I wasn’t allowed to watch anything interesting (it took me about three months to convince him, at 11, to let me watch Ghost, a 12). So I did what any smart kid with her own VCR and TV does; I went through his collection of movies.

I take more after my father in that I love technology and books. He had an expansive library of music, books and VHS tapes (all neatly labeled, so perhaps he was a little on the spectrum too?) in his living room that I went through over the course of a year or so. He was out of the house from 6am to 6pm (the Parental Unit worked nights; leaving at 8pm and returning as we left for school the following morning) so it was easy to nip in, pilfer a video tape and see it returned before he got home. I watched everything from Total Recall to T2.

I suppose, in the pre-internet age, it was my version of binge-watching.

Alien creeped me out long before I saw it and this is when I learned a key point of any medium is that the scariest stuff is what you don’t see, not what you do. My cousin told me about the movie and his description of it—never the titualar Xenomorph—disturbed the crap out of me. The idea of being stalked by a creature which implanted eggs in your stomach and then burst through your stomach … it was horrifying. Of course, later, I looked into the creation of the movie (again thanks to my father, who had a couple of books on the making of the movie as well as the novelisations of both Alien and Aliens) and realised it was basically designed to scare the crap out of men because the Alien was essentially raping and impregnating the poor souls aboard the Nostromo. Pregnancy is a beautiful thing, as is birth, just not when it happens to a gender who haven’t been doing it since time immemorial.

It really is the perfect horror movie if you’re male. In fact, he told me a story (again; pinch of salt) about taking the Parental Unit to see the movie in 1979. This kind of film had never struck me as her type but I know he did, in fact, take her. As he told it to me, there was a long queue to get in and everyone was expecting a sci fi movie. Everything’s fine, the audience laughing and joking, until that scene and, as he told it, you could hear a pin drop along with retching and people running out of the cinema.

No film could ever be that scary.

Anyway, I stole the tape, along with Aliens, and watched them. Alien was beautifully filmed and the Nostomo had that perfect aura of claustrophobia. Yet it was the poster which stuck with me, that single egg hanging in a voice and the tagline: In space no one can hear you scream. It was iconic.

alien-movie-poster-1979-1Now, post-Prometheus (beautiful cinematography, shitty plot, nice cameos and easte eggs), it’s time to have a new Alien movie. Granted, I loved Alien: Isolation (which makes it the first good franchise game in forever) for its atmosphere, the creepy AI and the movie-based DLC but movie is where the Xenomorph belongs.

Alien: Covenant‘s poster is abosolutely gorgeous; plain and direct, menacing and artistic. The single word tagline, the Xenomorph, which I prefer to the various Latin names, even though it’s a generic term meaning ‘alien/other (life) form’, is remiscent of the original egg and oh-so-Giger. Giger’s Alien, the original, was a beautiful creature and Prometheus at least tried with the Deacon, even if the logic of its creation made zero-sense. But this isn’t just a movie ‘loosely’ tied to the mythos, this is an actual movie with Alien in the title. Until the new one with Ripley comes out, I’m praying this is going to be good.

Because we need something terrifying.

I’m all for the Engineers, for the lore to be expanded. I loved AvP because it was a Versus movie, you knew what to expect and on that front alone it delivered. But it wasn’t scary; we need something unsettling, just as the original was nearly 40 years ago.

I am so hoping Alien: Covenant delivers.

Asha’s Adventures in Getting a Guide Dog: Attributes = Time

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I am Gismo, you must love me.

This week has been all about getting me back, officially, on the list for New Dog. This would probably been a tad easier had I not had surgery the proceeding week but when is my life that simple?

This blonde 40kg battering ram is my friend Paul’s dog, Gismo (he isn’t too be fed after midnight and for the love of all the gods do not get him wet). Gissy loves leaves, he also really likes me and could probably knock me over if he tried. However he is the perfect example of the colour dog I want.

This is important because when I met my GDMI earlier this week, I had my list to hand. The thing you need to understand is there’s a process in all this, a reason for the madness. There is paperwork to be filled in and boxes to be ticked off.

A came prepared with the standard paperwork which interested me as it’s been at least eight years (I had to wait 18 months for Uni) since I last did this. The form covered everything from my home environment (including things like the fact I live alone and have cats) to suitable spending areas (Uni’s pen is still there) to the important bit: What kind of dog did I need.

A and I had a very frank conversation about my matching with it essentially boiling down to extrovert dog plus introvert human equals ‘never again’. We have those a lot though this is the first time we’ve openly admitted to each other that Uni, while awesome, was never a good match for me.

A’s been my GDMI for almost as long as I had Uni, taking over from his similarly named arsehole of a predecessor who, thank the gods, no longer works for the organisation. I fired his predecessor but it did mean that while I qualified, I had to learn the ‘advanced’ stuff on my own or with the help of Mhairi and Paul.

Before we got to the ‘choose your dog’ adventure though, there was a little practical stuff to do. To be fair, it was quick and I explained I was in a post-surgery place of pain, also it was cold and drizzling. Basically, GDMI’s pretend to be a dog, giving you a harness to hold and seeing how you move and respond.

The thing is anyone who’s had a dog will tell you it feels all wrong; the level of the harness, the weight, the gait, the pacing. It’s not meant to emulate being a dog, just make sure you can move with the ‘dog’ and to assess pacing (mine is normally slow but due to my wound I wasn’t quite hobbling but still much, much slower than usual). Most people hate this bit because it’s embarrassing; you would through a crowded place with a human, harness and potential-GDO and have to use commands and reprimand the ‘dog’.

But, this time, I didn’t care. This was a momentary thing, done thankfully in a quiet corner but it’s one of those things you do in order to get back on the list. Mainly I was just cold and wanted to get back inside. A is well aware I do not do winter, indeed one of my specific requests was not to do Class during the winter period. I hate ice, snow and sleet and my SAD is my worse enemy.

Having a harness in my hand again, though, was weird. I’ve just gotten used to my cane again. It feels wrong but when you walk with your potential match, well it just feels like flying. There’s a freedom and it’s natural, like two pieces of a puzzle slotting together. I still remember how magical my first walk with Uni felt (character-wise we were a bad match but she and I always worked brilliantly together).

I made clear my desire for a ‘calmer’ dog which instantly excludeds Shepherds, retrievers and labradoddles (they’re weird, end of). I wanted something a bit more like Bramble, Mhairi’s dog, a labrador who is Uni-sized and calm (the cat thing is key as I’m not having the guide dog versus cat discussion; Isis and Ceri are fine but Dion would lose). At ther same time I won’t say no to a darker dog, my preference is simply for a lighter coloured one as, due to my specific brand of visual impairment, dark is hard to see.

One other disturbing thing I did learn about however (to the disgust of myself and every GDO who’s heard about it) was that someone (ansd I know precisely whom) sent a poison pen email anonymously to Guide Dogs giving them a list of ‘reasons’ why I shouldn’t be allowed another dog.

The disciplinary proccess for GDO’s works a lot like employment; you get unofficial warnings, official warnings and the last resort ‘stop fucking up’ written warnings. Taking a dog from their human is a last resort and is only ever done for the welfare of the dog. Sometimes it’s a temporary thing (in cases of, for example, over-feeding) but other times there are other reasons. If the dog is young (around 2), they might be able to be re-matched but any older than that and it’s a flunk and the dog is retired.

This is general, by the way, it’s a lot more complicated and situation specific as well.

The sheer fact I heard about it at this juncture shows how seriously the Mobility Team were taking it. Anonymous stuff is seldom given credence and every guide dog owner breaks ‘rules’, or rather we bend them as far as we know we can go. There are no perfect GDOs and there are some situations (my personal favourite is the four pram plus guide dog plus trolley on the bus situation which was the fault of the bus driver and forced me to put Uni onto the seats because that was the only room for her).

Anonymous listed stuff, I never saw the email but it was enough for identification. Fortunately, because I’d been very open with my GDMI, they were already aware one person now no longer in my life took Uni’s retirement very badly. This is purely because of timing and the fact it happened so fast. The irony is, had they bothered to actually identify themselves rather than using a burner email, then it might have been taken more seriously.

Some of that stuff is true but all of it was minor; I’m known for bending rules but I know how far I can go. And yes, I fed my dog, but we all do that. Big deal. My friends, even the non-guide dog owning ones, were all outraged when I told them. It’s the equivalent of trying to take away a person’s wheelchair or ringing up the DWP and dobbing in a disabled person because you saw them doing something stereotypes say they shouldn’t.echnically, a disability hate crime.

Technically what this person did is a disability hate crime.

Yep and actually I don’t think that one note occurred to the writer. That they were not only being malicious but also committing a crime. I confronted the person, I don’t expect anything to come of it nor do I care.

I’m on the list and that’s all that matters.

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D is taking the dog-free zone rather well.

The one thing we have been trying to do in the mean time is remind the cats (specifically D) is that the lack of a dog in the house is a temporary thing. Isis and Ceri are fine, the former ignore everyone bar me and the latter just loved Uni so I’m hoping New Dog will find a similar place in Ceri’s heart.

This comes from a cat who, for the last six years, has met us when we come home at the end of the day. Ceri has little fear of dogs but she’s also smart, she knows just how far away to sit in case an unknown dog tries to go for her. Plus, despite being rotund, she’s also fast and good at running under cars.

Isis … well, she’s just a ninja and a fan of high places and dark corners.

D on the other hand, well he’s confrontational. This is why we’ve been using Gismo toi put him in his place. Gissy is basically a wuss but he’s also a typical male dog (aka not a genius). If the cats sit still then he ignores them entirely.Him and D have had a couple of showdowns, all carefully choreographed with the right amount of enthusiasm and hissing. Oddly, even when he has an out in the form of a cat flat, D would still rather wait for a human to open the door.

Maybe he’s not as smart as I’ve been giving him credit.

The upside of all of this is the sheer amount of cat love I’ve been getting. Ceri and Isis were pre-Uni. D came about six months after Uni and so the two grew up together.I know Ceri and Isis will basically chill, acknowledge New Dog, and get on with business. D has one choice and I get to be the one who acts as New Dog’s protector. I’m assuming eventually equilibrium will be reached and all will be well because that’s the only option.

Dogs and cats can live together and quiet happily too. It’s all about time.

I’m hoping the London list is short (rumour has it that it’s one of the shortest in the country). I should find out in a week or so but I’m going to assume it’s six months. If it’s shorter then it’s a bonus. Generally speaking, though, rematches are a higher priority than first timers and I’ve tried hard to keep my wants and needs down to a minimum because, as previously discussed, the rule of thumb is the more things you ask for in a dog, the longer it takes to match you.

So, for now, with all the medical forms done and the paperwork filed, all I can do it wait and watch lots of movies and survive the winter.

Limitless: Yeah, Odeon Were Serious

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For the Day of Which We Do Not Speak (aka my birthday), I got a Limitless Card. Odeon introduced the scheme earlier this year and I’ve always loved movies. There was a period where I didn’t go in cinemas due to an anxiety trigger relating to a specific person and how they treated Uni (Guide Dogs do not, for some reason, include ‘how to take dogs into the cinema’ as part of advanced training). But, thanks to various friends over the years, as well as Bramble and Gismo, Uni got to the point where she just saw the place as a chance for a two hour nap.

I officially registered for the card just so I could see Doctor Strange on the day of release (28/10/16) and the rules say I can see any 2D movie, regardless of day and time, for free at any Odeon in the country (excluding the inner London ones). I can go into the Gallery as it costs extra and, frankly, most of those movies are too late for me to get home. Since signing up for the card I’ve seen

  • Doctor Strange (x2 with at least another viewing coming. Iron Man reskinned but OMG the graphics and the Inceptionness!)
  • Storks (Amazon pastiche that completely ignores sex. Also animated.)
  • Inferno (I wouldn’t have paid to see it, frankly. But I know BFF did and it wasn’t that bad.)
  • Nocturnal Animals (Freaky and weird but also compelling and will appeal to authors on a narrative bent. Should have been an 18)
  • Arrival (x2. Gorgeous.)
  • Next week I’ll be seeing Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them at least twice.

Oh and that’s not even going into the long list of films which are coming out in December: Moana. Rogue One. Passengers. Next year has Assassin’s Creed, Rings, Ghost in the Shell, at least three Marvel movies and some DC ones … you get the point.

I paid upfront and, assuming I pay £9.75 for a movie this means I need to see 22 movies to cover the cost. Assuming the cost is higher, for newer films (£12.95): it’s 15 movies. Assuming I go with someone else and use my CEA card to get them in, well I’ve basically justified the card now. In less than two weeks.

The weird part is I find it calming. I can book for myself via the app, on the way to the cinema. I can book for me plus someone else on the website. I can sit in the Costa AT the cinema and book tickets. It’s remarkably freeing, especially when you add in my obvious autistic traits of liking dark large spaces that are quiet and my love of repetition. If I’m with another friend, we’ll use Audio Description and sit up the back at the cinema but, usually on a second screening, I like to sit in the disabled seats right at the front (with bonus bag and dog room). I like to feel like I’m in the movie and being so close, it means I can compensate for my crap vision. I can actually see what’s going on.

The best part is, being chronically ill and disabled actually plays in my favour, I can see movies when I want to. In cinemas with perhaps five other people. I can see what I want when I want, especially on Saturdays when it’s possible to get in early and watch several movies. I miss doing that and it wasn’t something I could afford. Also I’m seeing movies that, if I was paying, I’d never normally consider which is introducing me to some really interesting movies.

There is a line through and that is Trolls. And the Smurfs.

In this case though, it’s not about the money (though the monthly DD option was a nice addition). It’s about the freedom and frankly the timing was perfect: what else am I going to do during a long, cold winter without a dog? I don’t have to worry about anyone but me and I need to be selfish in some ways, it’s part of the interim phrase before New Dog coms along, especially with the name change and whatnot. Plus it’s a gift I can share as I have a bunch of friends who love movies as much as I do and, while I do prefer the watch at home with a pause button option, nothing beats the big screen.

The best thing it’s nice to have gift I can use and (hell) abuse. Most people work, I don’t and the cinema is an hour away with a bus which deposits me a few minutes away. Bonus points go to Morrisions being just around the corner for on the way home shopping and a choice of places to eat. Riverside is also the ‘quieter’ part of Norwich, at least on every day when Norwich isn’t playing at home.

Yes, I think, I chose wisely.

So I Had Surgery … (Don’t Panic!)

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Things are slowly getting better but I had a minor surgical procedure (local, not general) on Thursday. It’s kinda been the last in the long list of ‘shit I’d rather not do’ over the last three months. However I feel all the better for it, or I will once the wound heals and the bruising goes down. The pain is minimal, more discomfort (my tolerence is high) and sitting still actually helps. This is something I’ve been waiting on for the better part of a year and involved the removal of a benign cyst, a fibroma. This isn’t the first time I’ve had this kind of op but it was the first time I’d had it done consious.

Actually it was pretty fast. I’d planned the day specifically with this procedure in mind which meant using the morning to finish a new secondary world story (inspired by the election), have a proper lunch (ramen) and then, calmly, get the bus from Norwich to the N&N.

I was at the hospital for 1:30, half an hour before my official admission (there’s an unspoken rule about being early so nurses can do their stuff). I was in a gown by 3, devoid of my watch and phone, in the operating theatre by 4 and discharged just after 5. The only downside is I left my MedicAlert bracelet behind … oh the irony. I should have it back in a few days though and have a necklace, it’s just the principle of well … I wear it because I have conditions.

I must admit to feeling fine except for fatigue. There was a lot of local involved and I’d managed to intriegue the surgeon enough that she was the one who did the op. That’s like an honour, normally you get some consultant doing it. I’d also expected the removal of several fibromas where as, in fact, it was just one big one. I got to see the little monster before it went off to be tested and … wow. I’ve never actually seen a whole one before. Medical stuff doesn’t gross me out but even I was stunned that I’ve basically been harbouring this thing for three decades with change.

Frankly I found the whole experience very calm (mainly because of the personal pre-med of 20mg of diazepam) and the fact that I know how hospitals work. Plus they confirmed my identity at least six times which just ended up being funny (in truth it’s a serious thing: gotta make sure there’s consent and you’re operating on the right person). My pulse never went above 80 the entire time. It’s very A, B, C, D, though I was a tad surprised to get a team of ten, a massive OR and to pass through the same kids OR where they tried to get a line in last time just as I was telling the ‘time they tried to put a cannula in my right foot because I have the veins of a heroin addict’ story to the nurse who was escorting me.

There’s something really bad about yelling ‘fuck, that hurts’ in a kids OR.

Also, I’ve never done heroin. I just have no decent veins. At all. And cannula’s in feet really hurt, even for me.

That big, scary exclaimation mark on the band is basically a ‘hey this person has conditions/allergies you need to look up’. In my case it was to do with a medication which is no longer made and every dressing known to medicine (except the weird spray dressing they eventually elected to try. Not that).

Weirdest of all, I’m lying on a table in a gown and my shoes and socks …

I did specifically ask for audio description purely because I’m curious. I didn’t feel a thing bar the initial injections and a lot of tugging. The surgeon compared this to a root canal, something I’ve not experienced and have no desire to do. But it has to have been the least painful procedure of my life, even if I had to endure the pointless ride in a wheelchair afterwards.

So how did I recover from this?

I went to breakfast in the city, on two consecutive days with my two closest friends, and then saw Arrival. Again on two consecutive days. The movie is amazing, BTW, a beautiful adaption of an amazing story, it’s basically up there with Shawshank. I admit to spending Friday night on the sofa with pillows and a duvet but that actually made things more painful, plus D kept sitting on my shoulder which makes working difficult.

Coffee, my nook and food is helping. No Zumba for two weeks and the wound is healing nicely, I can basically keep an eye on it as it seems nigh impossible to get the mandatory wound inspection in seven days at my GP (despite being there that morning to have some bloods drawn). I’m pretty sure it won’t get infected, it’s nice and clean and I’m very good at post-injury maintenence. In fact this is precisely why I bought and crafted my first aid kits to be a little more advanced after the Great Swan-dive of Eaton.

The nicest thing for me has being able to sit and write, in relative comfort with the knowledge that I can’t actually do Zumba for like two weeks. I’ll go back when I’ve healed up. I can be in bed by six if I want, watching movies on my iPad or Let’s Plays as Dishonored 2 is out. I’m not sleeping but then I don’t and I’m too busy this week to take my last ditch medication because that comes with two days of brain for. I have various adulting things to do, including official paperwork, meeting my GDMI to formally get back on the list and seeing Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them at least twice.

Oh and I’ll probably do Arrival again. Just because wow. Even the soundtrack is gorgeous.

I’m keeping my regular schedule and that in itself is calming. Coffee, Westworld, words and quiet. The baristas at Nero are learning my particular order and BFFs are gently steering me away from those tiny urges where I’d quite like a drink but it’s probably not a good idea, especially not given the whole surgery thing. It’s a tiny craving which will go away if I stay in my chair, do my things, watch movies and drink fizzy apple juice instead. Frankly all I’m craving is decaffa mochas, meals someone else cooked and croissants for breakfast.

The good thing is all the stuff I need to do involves a minimum amount of time, walking and effort. Each is on it’s own day and I have the option of going to see movies afterwards or taking a trip to Waitrose for some cheese. It seems busy but it’s actually nicely spaced out, culminating with my first trip to the cinema with Beloved Niece which has quite excited me. Seeing a film is always fun but when you’re doing it with a Harry Potter loving kid … it’s awesome.