Gismo and the Inigo Montoya Hilarity*.

*This should have you covered. If it doesn’t, go and watch The Princess Bride. Now. Seriously.

Because my moods have given me a short fuse of late (mainly turning my hyper-aggressive, it’s a symptom of high functioning depression) and Guide Dogs’ party line involves a frankly spineless response to dealing with unwanted human, I suggested our little group try passive-aggression instead. This mean we can be snide but not rude and express our annoyance without using the f word (which is a huge no no).

It also might prevent me from throttling half of Norwich.

See people annoy me; they talk to me as the non-blind communicator. Don’t ask me about a dog which is clearly connected to my friend. He’s obviously blind and known for sarcasm but he’s neither deaf not stupid. Oh and they like to barge into our conversations ad nauseam. Because apparently we need the non-blind to invade our privacy or we just cease existing.

What’s worse is that this happens All. The. Time.

Take out the guide dog and you’d never randomly insert yourself into another person’s conversation. EVER. It’s the hight of rudeness. But not when there’s a dog. That nulls and voids everything. Thus is it apparently okay for non-disabled people to do that to blind folk.

No it’s fucking not. Stop it.

Paul and I were in Waterstones having a cheeky coffee (actually cold drinks) while we waited for our respective buses to come in. I did the till run and got our drinks while Paul bonded sub-atomically with one of the rather comfy chairs. He does that. It’s okay. As the differently-blind, it’s sometimes easier for me to stand in queues or grab drinks and it was my turn to pay. Yay loyalty stamps!

Now it is widely accepted that all guide dogs are beautiful. Fun fact: there’s never been an ugly one. Even Labradoodles are pretty in their own kind of special way. So this gets commented on a lot.

Yes, we know, we live with them. No you can’t touch them, they’re working. Yes, even while we’re trying to chat.

Aka: piss the fuck off and let us drink our beverages and continue conversing.

ehrm

So Paul starts dealing with Husband, an elderly chap with issues of his own walking, who seems determined to pet Gismo. I’m in the middle of paying so I only hear about this later. Husband wants and tries to pet Gismo and Paul puts a stop to it.

They’re sitting next to us, so painfully close it feels more like sharing a table though there’s a clear partition. I return with our drinks and Wife is trying to get to pet Gismo, who just wants love but is otherwise sitting quietly as he’s supposed to. He’s in harness but he’s already had some affection today so he’s after it if opportunities and people present.

Wife is given a firm: No.

Subtext: Not going to happen. Leave us alone. No asking six times in various ways will not change the answer.

She sits next to us and tells her husband off for petting the dog whilst occasionally throwing questions at us, depsite the fact we’re mid-way a conversation of her own. The hypocrisy is real: he can’t but it’s okay for her, apparently. Paul is fielding because has more patience than me. Oh it must be so hard, they’re so pretty. How old is he? Is he good? Paul replies like a star and I try to move back into our conversation bubble. I think we were discussing how to, realistically, ensure his next dog is called Karma. Because GDO jokes are awesome.

Then Cute Scottish Girl turns up. This is totally left field for me and it’s a welcome distraction as I am beginning to get pissed off with Wife and it’s been ages since we ran into each other. CSG loves guide dogs, Gismo leaps on her and it’s fine. I say the magic nickname to Paul and he knows just who I mean. Cough. CSG loves Uni, was one of the people who got me through losing her. That’s essentially been all her guide dog exposure though, except maybe meeting Brams once, I think. Obviously, it’s not a great example but CSG apologises and Paul gives her the okay.

Gismo purrs like a kitten.

Wife sees an opening.

The pair of them stand to go and suddenly she’s there, next to CSG and I’m like ‘CSG is Mars, you’re Pluto, bitch’. Because we have rungs and strangers don’t rank anywhere near people we like. Also you already tried this.

Cue, to Gismo: I mustn’t pet you.

Meaning: cat butt face It’s not fair that she can pet you and I can’t. Why can’t I pet you?

Because Wife is grasping for him, Paul starts petting Gismo to pull him back into the safe zone. Gissy collapses into a fur puddle and dog rug mode. I think he was hoping this would make her lose interest. Husband was obviously getting impatient and I was trying to converse with CSG, or at least bring her into our little chat group.

And then Paul finds that nerve, the one which makes him go silly. I gently chide Paul for tormenting him in public, Gissy’s back leg is going and then, it comes:

Wife: Oh you found his G Spot.

I’m sorry? All the WHAT?

My brain: WTF????!!!!! Did she just?

I start at CSG and then at Paul, who is giving me his ‘I might be blind but WTF?’ stare. I’m sure I misheard but then, oh it continues:

Wife: I suppose it’s easier with bitches.

I stare at CSG, whom I have shamelessly flirted with. I like girls and she’s called CSG for a reason (Scottish is apparently a turn on for me; I blame Outlander). Wife might have said something else but I’m mentally trying not to piss myself laughing and Wife mercifully goes away.

The three of us howl so hard, I’m pretty sure books fell off the shelves downstairs. We all check each other to ensure this wasn’t a shared hallucination. Nope, Wife genuinely didn’t know what she’d meant. As we all have very, ehrm, adult minds and I’m known for my flexible sexuality, we all start assuming this very crazy lady was either genuinely unaware of what she said or really didn’t engage her brain.

Regardless, we don’t do THAT to dogs. Ew.

But, oh, friends, it was hilarious. A true moment I wish I’d had the foresight to record and put on YouTube. I haven’t laughed that hard in ages.

Definitely beats passive-aggression though.

But, seriously, people, leave a guide dog in harness alone. Leave their humans alone too.

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The State of Me: Prepping for the Worst

Quetiapine and I have an interesting relationship. Technically I’m good with quetiapine, it’s when you add in diazepam and Ambien when things get fun.

This is said with as much sarcasm as I can muster. Seriously.

The problem is I have brain damage, specifically periventricular leukomalacia (PVL). This was basically a side-effect of oxygen toxicity from being premature (and it’s why I have retinopathy of prematurity as well). Now in a normal brain, you might stand a chance but as mine has severe rewiring issues caused by hypoxia, the ASD and bipolar angles as well. All this is on top of long-term benzodiazepine use. I’m screwed.

I’m screwed.

Last time I got so scatty I literally couldn’t do anything as I’d forget it ten minutes later. This time I’m aware and trying to prep for the worst. This means I’m on low-dose diazepam (for anxiety) and avoiding taking anything to help me sleep. This isn’t an issue right now as the 300mg of quetiapine is basically knocking me senseless. It lasts about a week but this has been extended because I had a party (and thus skipped a couple of doses) due to alcohol consumption and a general desire to be, you know, conscious.

I’ve already noticed a lapse in my cognitive functions; I put things down and forget them. I’m a natural multi-tasker but this has meant not even going near the kitchen, let alone leaving anything on a stove. If I do cook, I prefer the boiled egg method where you put potatoes or eggs in a pot of boiling water/slow cooker and then just let them cook. No gas involved. I forgot my potatoes for thirty minutes tonight. This is why I eat out.

In some ways, I’m in a better place to do this than I was. I write down stuff religiously as well as keeping a diary of where I was/who I was with and what I’ve done during the day. I also spent the afternoon documenting the contents of my fridge/freezer/cupboards to help me manage my shopping (lists and visits to supermarkets) more effectively. Fridgely lets me take photos of the stuff I have, note expiry dates (milk is a big issue for me, ditto eggs) and also compile a shopping list when things get low. Even better, when I restock and scan the barcode, it remembers the item so within a few weeks I should have this down pat.

But I’ve noticed my concentration is fleeting. I’m leaving tasks half-finished, unable to concentrate on anything more complicated than Futurama. I tried a couple of hours of ARIA the Animation (one of my favourite chill out anime series) but couldn’t focus on translating the dialogue on the fly and write at the same time. Thing is, I can’t sit and focus and watch something either. I need to do more than one thing because it’s how I function. I want to world build for a new fantasy series but I’m finding the ideas evaporating like smoke. Even this blog post took twice as long to write because of subtle distractions.

I want to world build for a new fantasy series but I’m finding the ideas evaporating like smoke. Even this blog post took twice as long to write because of subtle distractions. My Midori helps in a lot of ways, not only am I tracking spending and have a diary plus braindump journal in there, the very act of writing helps hammer things home in my brain. Typing can’t hold a candle to this.

That and awesome friends who were there the last time this happened and have seen me at my flakiest.

But it’s tiring. The memory issues make me anxious about safety. Cooking is right out. At the same time I really want a drink and, as I’ve been spending a lot of time in the courtyard of a very nice inn, I’m keenly aware everyone else is drinking and I … can’t. I got my story into crit this week but that’s about it and I’m frustrated that words just aren’t coming. The pressure leads to anxiety which leads to stress which just makes things worse.

At the same time, one thing I do want to do is start some kind of gratitude journal. I picked up an A5 Hobonichi Cousin Avec (which runs July to December) as I wanted to try one out as well as the Tomoegawa paper. I’ll prob pick up an A6 version in September (along with the cover etc) in order to document the coming year. I just can’t do anything until I hear about my PIP and that, too, is stressing me out. But I have started doing things and one of the bits I’ve enjoyed about having a paper diary is being able to stash tickets or postcards in it, things which were tangible proof of events.

This week, for example, I went to a book signing by M.R. Carey at my local Waterstones. I love The Girl With All the Gifts, especially the movie version, and it was so nice to get out after hours, as it were, and not have to worry about getting home. The bus stop is 3 mins from where they were having the talk and my favourite driver, Tony, tends to be doing that shift. I also had a bottle of wine which led to a fun 45 minutes of him remaking on my bladder. Git. The point is, I feel able to do things because I want to. I was going to go home at one point and I’m so glad I didn’t.

I’m not normally an evening person but, right now, that’s when I’m the most conscious.

I’m having to slow down a lot but I’m still here. I have to remind myself to do things, to take my medication with regularity but it’s baby steps until I figure out how my brain wants to play, nicely or not.

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The State of Me: June 2018

This is my new friend Henry.

Another quick one because: a) the election and b) medication.

So bullet points:

  • Latest New Dog update suggests that IF they find one for me, next class starts in September so I should hear something next month. I’m not banking on anything. 2018 is much more likely.
  • It’s bipolar redux month: I’ve just gone back on quetiapine. My mood’s been plummeting and my anxiety’s sky-rocketed. Some of it was personal but getting a rent notice three months early and paperwork from the DWP a year early (to add insult, on a Saturday) did not help.
  • I’m taking enough that I feel stoned until around 2:30pm each day. Coffee helps but only a little. Oh and I slept for 14 hours last night, right through until mid-afternoon.
  • And I missed most of the election, which turns out to be a good thing. Urgh.
  • I’ve moved into Nero’s permanently now and am accruing a lot of free coffees by being savvy (you get a bonus stamp for bringing your own mug which allows me to spend a lot less on coffee, as well as making sure it doesn’t cool).
  • When not in Nero’s, I seem to be in the Lamb. It’s a little pub with a courtyard in spitting distance of my bus stop and they even have their own cat: Henry, Lover of Dreamies. We’ve bonded and it’s not in the least bit creepy that I now carry Dreamies in my bag.
  • Yesterday was the first anniversary of the Great Name Change. I bought myself a throw in celebration.
  • Speaking of the Great Name Change, I’m still encountering issues. Like the DWP deciding to ignore the loss of a middle name in my paperwork. It’s taken me a year to notice as they seldom any middle name unless it’s renewal paperwork and they don’t usually send me large print. I’m hoping this has now been fixed. The Deed Poll was pretty clear about my old name and my new one.
  • Wonder Woman was amazing, BTW. I’ve seen it twice and, oh, the arse-kickery.
  • American Gods is, similarly, one of the few TV shows to really get my attention.
  • People have started calling me Ash in earnest now. I like it. I’ve never had a contraction of a name I’ve loved before.
  • The cats love me; D is still a bitey little shit.
  • I’m still writing but my process has slowed. I broke my Amazon account so don’t really want to go anywhere near KDP for a while, even though I spent a week dealing with Amazon and the angelic CSR who eventually helped me fix everything. Triggers are a bitch.
  • I’m writing a proof of concept story called “Proof of Concept”. I’m hoping it’ll be ready for crit next week. That aside, anything more complicated is on hold. Though I do have an idea for a fantasy series connected to this particular short.
  • It’s sorta, kinda summer. Yay!
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The Liner Notes: “Bindings, Seen and Not”

First off, a note on my year out (as we’re into May and well into the mid-year), this doesn’t mean I’m not writing. Far from it. It just means I’m not publishing, mainly because I just can’t financially or psychologically do it right now. I also have nothing I’m ready to let go yet, much less get professionally edited. I’ve not even sent out a short story yet, despite writing quite a few. This is basically just me being a little fragile at the moment so I’m focusing my sights on what I feel like writing, as opposed to a schedule which will just put pressure and stress on me.

Remember: stress + pressure = mania.

Oh and I’m horrible to myself as well, in terms of the pressure I put on myself, the limits I aim for. So I need the time.

So far, so good.

You’re probably wondering: Asha, why is there a pic of Moleskines on your post header? I found the shop in Covent Garden and was very good but stationary is my thing, my one joy. But, they’re actually here to segue nicely into the Liner Notes for my current WiP which is all about a bookbinder living in a segregated and very technologically focused society.

Currently called “Bindings, Seen and Not” it refers both to the bindings in books, artfully hidden by endpapers, skill and straight lines, but also the state of things in Taborin, the city where this story is set. Ironically, due to the fact Maxov is biologically an intersex/third gender Ubani, a progenitor, he’s effectively a member of an enslaved minority. Society uses ‘it’, the Ubani use ‘they but some, like Maxov, actually identify as one gender or another, hence his pronouns. Anyway, as he notes in the text, he can see his bindings the Directorate has placed on his people which gives him infinitely more power than most would think:

Technology could change words on the page, you could with print as well, it was just a lot more obvious and harder to ignore. Even the Ubani pretended to be blind, sometimes, to keep themselves and their culture’s existence, safe.

They were all bound in knots, except the Ubani—chattel to sterile families, passed like pieces in a game—who saw and felt theirs every day. Rough against their skin, too tight. He pitted the others, the remnants of old Atridia, because their bindings were ribbons so fine, so soft, they didn’t notice the hangman’s noose around their throats.

I do actually know how to book bind, I learnt the basics a few years ago and, thanks to YouTube, have been learning more advanced techniques. This is mainly due to my stationary fetish and my on-going love of Midori (most notebooks are staddle-stitched and easy enough to make). The story itself is triggered when Maxov’s days running a ramshackle emporium of old and mostly illegal books is interrupted.

 The story itself is triggered when Maxov’s (who’s in his late seventies at this point and very gruff expect for those he likes) ‘adopted’ daughter, Usaki, comes in and asks him to spirit away some incriminating letters and journals left to her son by his mother (Juran and Reshi Elaspe of The Fractured Era) by sending them on the Ghost Road, the progenitor-only escape route off-world and seeing them placed within the Ubani Archives. He accepts because the letters, from Juran’s biological male and female grandparents, are pre-Singularity, but also because Usaki asks and offers to pay the toll herself: by writing down her life story for preservation in the Archives. Eventually, someone else will add in the rest, how she lived, how she died, who will remember her.

So he makes her a book in which to record her story and, as he does, finds himself remembering his own past as well. He was born before the Singularity and given male gender after the pogroms and the nationalisation of Ubani and the introduction of a licensed lottery that saw the Ubani become surrogates to fertile, well-adjusted and connected, families. Good genes were welcomed, undesirables denied children and so weeded out. The Ubani themselves, referred to as ‘progenitors’ by the state, are forced into rotation, have their first child (always a progenitor) stolen from them as a life lesson and are moved from family to family, birthing sons and daughters before being dragged to another posting. Eventually, they just end up on the societal scrap heap. Just as Maxov found himself and decided to look opportunity in the face and rely on his community and himself.

Right now the story is a combination of a historical worldbuilding info dump and bookbinding porn (as in writing very descriptively about how to make a book, not literal porn). From endpapers, bone folders and signatures to binding and materials. I’m trying to evoke the emotion of a different kind of creation and it’s refreshing, actually, to focus on the enduring quality of a well made book, not just the words inside it.

As a bonus, this is the video which inspired the story:

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Time For a May Update!

So it’s time for an update, it’s been a couple of weeks and I currently have a D on my foot, which means I’m stuck.

Send help and chocolate!

But, seriously, spring is … erm … springing. We have blossom and my windows are open/the Sonos are on half-pelt. Life’s okay.

My foot is going to sleep. Crap.

But, yeah, I survived London and Easter. S’all good. My mood has been relatively stable which is nice, though my anxiety remains through the roof. Not so good but it’s a work in progress. Shall we do this through the medium of bullet points, just for brevity?

 Okay then:

  • London was awesome. I really enjoyed it. I’m still paying it off but it was worth it.
  • Hidden Figures is even more awesome in the cinema. Bonus for having an actual American with me who can explain the whole political mess around it and the Space Race. Also, it makes me want to go back to my Space Race on an alien planet novella.
  • I am writing. My current focus is still on the Atridia books, specifically on a short story I’m calling “Bindings, Seen and Not” about a neutral gender bookbinder living in a city under state-sanctioned non-binary gender oppression.
  • The Handmaid’s Tale was amazing … and severely triggering. I want to watch the rest of it (I think there are like ten episodes). I’m not sure I’ll be able to though, it’s horrifically foretelling but incredibly relevant. I know a lot of people are noping out purely because of anxiety issues with the content.
  • In election news, I’m noping out. Due to a bureaucratic cock-up relating to the Great Name Change, I’ve been kicked off the electoral roll and won’t be back on it time for the local election. I’m very angry about this but also glad I caught it as I do want to vote in the general election next month. I just don’t want to have to listen to the election kerfuffle until then. Aside: I know it’s a cock-up because they have ZERO records of me under Old Name either and I’ve lived here for a decade and voted, both in person and postal. They also have no problems sending me Council Tax bills in my new name. It’s a work in progress but I don’t expect it to be resolved in time to vote locally (I have re-registered to vote and intend to give someone at Electoral a serious talking to about the legalities of this, I’m registered as a head of household and am not dependent of anyone else so there’s no reason for me to have been removed).
  • There’s no ETA on the guide dog front either. Sigh. The cats are picking up the slack though. Bramble and Gismo hugs are also helping.
  • I got an update on Uni’s progress and she’s doing so well. She’s happy and has a beach. That’s all I can ask for.
  • My mood has been yoyoing but nothing too hard-core though I managed to really trigger myself last weekend. It was unpleasant. Oh and I’ve been obsessing again, mainly on buying things, Field Notes and food. Oh and Midori, of course. But I’m starting to argue out reasons why I should wait (example: my phone is due an upgrade but, instead, I’m going to go sim-only for a few months/til the end of the year as it’s cheaper).
  • Money-wise, I sat down and worked out my income and did a spreadsheet. I’ve worked out a rough, date by date, payment plan and should be debt free just after my birthday. I even budgeted in a new Limitless card and my rent. 2018 should start out with a nice, clean, slate. If I can restrain myself and focus on the Big Picture.
  • At some point, I’m going to write that book on bipolar or, at least, how to manage things like money while dealing with the mood swings.
  • I’ve decided to teach myself bookbinding (I started learning it a couple of years ago), thanks to the help of YouTube. Actually, I’ve been a lot more crafty of late; mostly laminating stuff and experimenting with little things like making postcard-sized pictures for my fridge (mostly of upcoming movie posters and inspirational quotes) or laminating stuff for friends. I am now the proud owner of an awl, a craft knife, cutting map, guillotine and haven’t yet done myself any serious damage. Go me. My task for this week is to learn to saddle stitch and learn how to bind my own notebooks for my wallet (there’s more variety in terms of paper and cover colour). Plus it keeps my brain quiet which is the biggest thing.

  • I cancelled my gym membership. The pressure of attendance (I’m not an evening person, especially not when I ‘have’ to do something I don’t want to do) and my continuing plantar fasciitis had been driving me nuts. Said PF was getting better, then I went to London. Sigh. On the upside, I’m not missing the place and much prefer walking around Eaton Park with my guide dog owner friends and their hounds.
  • I’m eating better food. Simple meals which are easy to cook and fast (or involve the minimum amount of prep). This week it’s garlic and bacon pasta with chorizo and lots of herbs. Healthy and tasty.
  • My faux Midori wallet is working beautifully, as is the free diary I got from JP Books (though it runs out in September and I kinda want a dated one. Dates are hard.). I’ve been playing with the inserts and now have a zipper pouch, a kraft folder and a notebook inside each other on the first string and my diary and expenses ledger held together with a band on the second. It works perfectly. Oh, I added a Neo Queen Serenity tiara charm onto the string and it sits beautifully on my yen coin.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 is freaking awesome. End of. I didn’t look at my watch once AND I’m going back tomorrow.
  • I’m looking forward to so much TV and so many movies. I have tickets to Alien: Covenant and Wonder Woman already. I’m actually going to the cinema physically and ordering in bulb because the Odeon site only lets me book two performances ahead online (in person I can book loads). It’s annoying and cramping my social life.
  • Doctor Who is actually kinda good this season.
  • American Gods starts tomorrow. YAY!!!!
  • I’m managed to keep on top of household stuff, though I’m yet to put my washing away. Small steps, Asha, small steps.
  • I’m back in therapy and it’s helping. Reddit is helping more in terms of a support group which is just odd but so welcome. Ditto my very closest chosen family.
  • Ramen is still awesome.
  • I finally got my hands on a Lindt 1kg Gold Bunny in the post-Easter sales and I don’t regret it. Not for one second. 😀
  • We are Groot, people!
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London (April 2017): Fantasy, Soup Dumplings and Secrets, Oh My!

The main reason for my visit to London is something embargoed until tomorrow (more a condition of sale, than a strict NDA) but let’s say it was Shannon’s birthday and she wanted to do a thing which also happened to coincide with some other, equally awesome things. The kind of serendipity that can only be the result of awesome karma and sweet planning.

Like, for example, the Women in Fantasy panel at Waterstones with Vic James, Aliette de Bodard and Zen Cho (moderated by Stevie Finegan). I initially told Shannon about this (she’d missed the Gollancz Festival) and jokingly suggested I come to down visit. It was something I really wanted to do but on a pipe dream level. I never actually expected it to, you know, happen. But then this other thing came up and suddenly I’m on a train heading to the capital. Score!

I came down on Tuesday afternoon and met Shannon after her shift ended, we hit Tokyo Diner for food (because it’s delicious and cheap), got our glad rags on and didn’t get back to her place until nearly midnight. Talk about dirty stop outs! More on that tomorrow though … patience, dearies.

Wednesday was my day, spent basking in gloriousness, while Shannon was at work. It was actually just long enough that I didn’t break my credit card or succumb too badly to the wonders of London’s shopping opportunities. I left her at Leicester Square, headed off to Paul’s bakery to grab my preferred lunch (it’s one of the rare times when all I want is a specific sandwich, the ancien mixte) then wandered Covent Garden. I stuck my nose in Moleskine’s store, bought ice cream at Godiva, didn’t buy any Traveler’s Company stuff at the London Graphic Company but did stock up in Muji. Finally, I headed to the Starbucks reserve for delicious coffee, my sandwich, and a few hours actually writing.

The Starbucks Reserve is fast becoming my favourite place to just sit and chew the fat. I even got given some lovely rose gold by the baristas, along with a few compliments to go with them. It sounds boring but after the franticness of London, I need the quiet of a coffee shop. Free WiFi also helps.

I made a point when planning this trip that there was one thing I really wanted to do: try soup dumplings (xiao long bao, 小笼包). We went to the highly recommended Dumplings’ Legend on Gerrard Street mainly because it was top of the list in an article I read but also had veggie options for Shannon. Soup dumplings are basically small bundles of deliciousness where the soup is inside the dumpling, separate from whatever is inside (pork or fish usually) so when you bite into them you get this amazing mouthful of soup and stuffing.

My friends, eight of these is not enough.

I actually forgot to take a picture, we were too busy eating. But they come in a steamer and the trick is to eat them without breaking them (which reminds me of the original article that caught my interest). The down-side is they come out piping hot and I accidentally burnt myself when one burst. However, leave them a little longer and they cool, the filling gets absorbed by the meat and they even more moist and amazing.

We, stupidly, ordered other dishes. Next time it’s going to be all soup dumplings.

Shannon was keen to visit the newly-opened Lego store on Leicester Square which just so happened to be on our way to Piccadilly and JP Books/Waterstones. I did the blind thing, approached a security guard and asked how long it was to get in (there was a line of children and fear-filled adults). Two seconds later, we entered my personal hell.

Now, look I like Lego and I’m sure it’s a lot more awesome when not packed out with small humans but it was just far too busy and bright for me. I can tolerate a lot but there’s a point where my autism and vision goes ‘nope’ so I took myself off back outside into the cool evening air. No problems. But it was very impressive with a two story high Big Ben, a ‘life-sized’ Chinese dragon, a mock Tube train and an underground map made from Lego. Oh and all the Batman Lego Movie and Star Wars stuff you could ever want.

It was also very, very red and yellow.

I must admit I’m still amazed by the range and some of the sets were gorgeous and complicated (think Creator ones where you remake buildings using tiny pieces). There was a pirate ship and the Simpsons house, oh and a mosaic-maker that cost £100 and rendered you, passport pictureised, into a literal Lego portrait.

I actually saw someone buying one of those and totally WTFed.

Seriously.

The important thing is Shannon loved it. Oh and it’s right across from her version of Hell: the M&M Store. We’re both okay with this. We also got to stare at the even longer line of people wanting to buy a dessert called Bubble Wrap.

Cause that’s a thing now. With a 90 minute wait.

JP Books was next, mainly so I could grab the next volume of my manga-in-progress. Oh and grab a few choice Midori essentials (another free diary, some kraft paper and a passport-sized ruler). I was restrained in my purchasing and constrained by both time and bladder as we wanted to get to Waterstones early enough to secure a good seat.

We actually scored on both points. Waterstones was packed but we managed to grab two seats in the front row and free wine. I actually didn’t realise Vic James (author of The Gilded Cage) was attending so it was really interesting as I’d heard of the book but hadn’t had any author exposure. I mainly wanted to pick up a signed copy of The House of Binding Thorns to go with my recently-won paperback of The House of Shattered Wings.

The talk was a lot of fun. Zen Cho is loud and extroverted in the best way. She’s become my hero just because she’s so confident. It was basically a back and forth between the three authors, with poor Stevie in the middle trying to keep as much order as is possible when Aliette and Zen are in the same room. It was brilliant. Much laughter and a mixed crowd which made it even more awesome. Afterwards, I got to say hi to Aliette (finally in person) and Zen as well as playing photographer because there are times when selfies just won’t do. I got my book and we were back in Harringay by 10, I think.

Shannon has the best housemates (they call me ‘Ash’; I want to take them all home with me and mother them) and, to finish the night, I ended up on their pallet sofa watching two men squealing like terrified children as Shannon tried to outwit the titular Xenomorph in Alien: Isolation. I called it a night pretty early but they were still screaming though I have to admit, the death where the Alien stabs its tail through your stomach gets me every time.

Sneaky Alien …

But it was fun. Lots of fun. I got to say goodbye to everyone before heading home on the noon train, spending a lovely hour sipping coffee and listening to my Audible copy of The House of Binding Thorns. So far I’m three chapters in and loving it.

So that is London.

Come back tomorrow when I can tell you of secret and special things.

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