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Don't Split The Party!

I've recently re-discovered the delights and hilarity of playing Dungeons & Dragons, and I feel the need to ramble on about the meet yesterday and how wonderfully we managed to screw the DM over!  Oh, and this could be a long one.

We're currently playing a Ninja based game, where everyone is sneaky and there's quite a lot of back-stabbing going on.  The party was sent to assassinate an evil knight that lived far away (except from me, because I joined a week later), and they decided to look around for information about the castle and then meet up at a set time and place in a weeks time, or when they had learnt what they needed to know, they would meet up sooner.  This might have worked in theory, but the hitch was that everyone had a Hat of Disguise, allowing them to change their appearance to anything they liked.  Yes.  I know.  They forgot what each other looked like and spent the whole week learning...not a great deal.  Apart from there was a secret entrance up the toilet chute and that the castle may or may not be filled with poison gas.

I was then sent to figure out what was taking them so long, and arrived to find about 10 golems peering through a doorway, and hearing lots and lots of fighting, and assumed I was in the right place.  Using my own ninja skills, I snuck past the golems and went to a corner armed with my magic Sharpie (which allows me to create any inanimate object I choose, until the pen eventually runs out of ink) and drew myself a door through the wall.  Now, everyone else at this point was using somewhat exotic measures to try not to breathe in the gas - either by holding their breath or using a Portable Hole.  They also seemed to ba having severe problems with a 40 odd foot high golem taking up most of a room.  No problem.  I made myself a gas mask, disguised myself as a golem and wandered on past, making a door within a door to get to the others, who had somehow managed to succeed in killing the knight and were now proceeding to steal the loot and stuffing the dead guy in a bag of holding.  We escaped back through my series of doorways and returned back to the Ninja HQ.  Or at least the other two did.

The party leader had somewhat neglected to tell me that at the castle he had managed to incur the wrath of The Inevitable - a very big, very powerful golem that was able to find anyone no matter where they hid.  And guess who I was partenered with for the journey back?  Being the back-stabbing git that I was, I just drifted away on my magic carpet back to HQ, drinking tea all the way whilst he fled for his life.  I still managed to arrive after everyone, because my carpet had a speed restriction og 40ft per turn, and by the time I got there, everyone was attempting to give a report to the leader - Shredder (yes, I know.  But it had to be done...ok?)

Of course the Inevitable then had to come and crash the party, declare that the party leader was going to die, unless someone could give him a very good reason not to.  Cue Insane Troll Logic.  Somehow we managed to confuse it into giving the leader a Quest instead of death, (and here's the best bit) which entailed that because he killed the knight in the castle, who was building an army that would invade this city, kill thousands of people, lead tyranically but bring peace and order to the land, he had to take the place of the knight and build an army to invade the city and bring peace and order to the land.  Oh, and any day he did not do something towards his quest would take him one step further towards his death.

Cue the back stabbing!  Our esteemed Shredder then ordered us to surround and kill the leader...and most of us did, but hey, I'd been paid already and helping a tyrant looked like fun and I'd get to kill things.  I have no idea what went through the other person that turned rogue too, but I can only assume that it was something along the same lines. Cue splitting the party!  We legged it out of the building and back towards the castle, hijacking a horse on the way out, because this was not the time for scenic travel.  But oops, our esteemed leader has managed to get himself poisoned, so it's off to the village healer with me (and the other one just went to the pub), who just about buys my logic that he fell in a patch of poison ivy and thorns that was inhabited by a purple worm, but I wasn't there, I just found him afterwards.  The healer then tells me of a temple where I can get the luckless git healed up, which is overheard by the remaining ninja and Master Shredder.

Cue: The Trap.  Shredder fills the temple up with ninjas disguised as monks and sends the remaining ninja (who is a monk) to modify our memories so that we regain our loyalty to Shredder and forget all about helping the leader become a tyrant!  We turn up at the temple, also disguised as monks ourselves, with our esteemed leader stuffed in his own bag of holding with the other corpse, asking to speak to the leader, who my fellow rogue convinces that they are father and son.  After meditating, we persuade them to take us to the antidote, and he attempts to sneak it into his bag of holding so we can leg it out of there, because something doesn't seem right.  Unfortunately he failed on his sleight of hand, and 'the only cure' smashed into a thousand pieces.

He then adds the icing on the cake by tipping out the unconscious form of the leader (who we had bluffed we didn't have with us), and the corpse of the knight.  Using troll logic once more, we are sent out to find the herbs to make another cure, whilst the ninja-monk modifies the memory of our leader, making him forget his quest and that he learnt to master a bow (just cause).  Meanwhile, we were ambushed by a large group of ninjas, who really didn't like me and bludgeoned me round the head about 6 times just to make sure I was properly unconscious, whilst my partener in crime used the acolyte as a shield, eventually being bundled and knocked out.  Both of us were dragged back to the temple to have our memories modified, but just for once I managed to not roll a natural one (having rolled about...7 so far that session) to keep my memory of the meeting with The Inevitable, but not knowing what it was that he told our leader to do.

Next session we're swapping Ninjas for Pirates, and I'm reaaaaaaallly going to have fun with the backstabbing in that one!

(All content is copyright: Kirstine Heald)

Who's that Ugly Bugger in the corner?


For every hero, there is a villain. For every daring rescue a dastardly plot. It creates the balance between good and evil, giving people a focus point to rally against, to boo and hiss at in a cheesy Christmas pantomime. A storybook villain is the person everybody loves to hate, someone to direct negative emotion towards without a hint of guilt, because you know that whatever he does, he's not going to win. Just the same as everyone needs a hero, there must also be an opposite, or having a hero is pointless. There must be someone to create the plight from which the hero must rescue his damsel.

Without the devious schemes of the bad guy, there is no plot, nothing apart from vomit-in-a-bucket cute romance to keep the reader engaged. Villains must exist, if not for just giving the hero something to do, instead of just wielding a sword and looking dashingly handsome. It's not just fairy tales that need this karmic balance, it's any story ever written. It's incredibly difficult to connect with a character if everything goes so astonishingly well for them all the time. Torment and turmoil is what gives a character depth, makes them believable, like they could exist in our own lives. People remember these 'heroes' because they had someone opposing them, kicking them up the backside when they weren't looking, not because they rode a white horse and had some fancy sword skills.

By nature villains fall into three categories – the big, the scary and the downright ugly. But in this case, big does not necessarily mean a seven foot giant with beefy arm muscles and a brain the size of a peanut. When the evil fairy godmother turns into a towering black dragon, equipped with flame jets that can toast a city with a sneeze...she goes from plain creepy to big and scary, someone who you'd normally go to great lengths to offend, if you didn't like everything turning a dull soot black colour. Then you get those who are scary looking, like the Ugly Sisters - imagine how many mirrors they must have smashed during the course of Cinderella. Yet if they weren't so visually displeasing (or narcissistic...or vain) then people would not take such great delight in despising them. Just like Prince Charming is 'naturally' blessed with blonde hair and blue eyes, the ugly sisters need to be covered in warts, have a huge nose and built the wrong shape - wicked people always have some sort of defining feature that marks them as evil. If they didn't, how else are we meant to know that they're the antagonist? It's not like the name gives it away at all...

There was a knock on the door, and when Snow White opened it, there stood a tall and beautiful (if not a tad pale) lady with an air hostess smile. 'Would you like a bite of this nice, rosy apple?' The apple was indeed rosy, in fact glowing with an almost radioactive air. Perhaps she should have coated the apple itself in chocolate, not the voice behind it. 'I think I'll pass.' Snow White replied. 'My mother told me to never accept gifts from strangers, and I've never seen stranger than you.'”

And door to door salesmen wonder why they always get their briefcase shut in the door. If the Queen in Snow White's story had not changed into the guise of the fragile little old lady, then she would not have been the only villain to successfully kill the hero in a Disney movie.

But there is a fourth, more understated type of villain. Those that are in need of sympathy and pity, not cajoling and name-calling, the ones that bungle along, trying to act evil but are about as successful as the dwarves were in doing the housework. Think about the Big Bad Wolf for a moment. All he wanted was a lunch time snack, and some psychotic woodsman saw fit to chop off his head. He was only hungry! You wouldn't go up to the slaughter house and take a lamb, spouting some nonsense that he couldn't be eaten because he'd be missed by his mother. But it's a persons life that weighs more in the balance against killing a hungry animal. Humans, especially children, always mean so much more than a creature without a voice, because we are one of them. By making a wolf out to be a slathering rabid monster, it becomes perfectly justifiable to chop its head off when it presents a danger to one of the children. It's the same in every species, that protective instinct that makes a victim into a target – the bad guy.

Disney's just as bad – take a glance at Captain Hook, with his comically floppy hat, corkscrew moustache and crooked namesake on his hand. He was never designed to be taken seriously. Peter Pan made a mockery out of one of the biggest threats in history, portraying piracy as nothing more than a song and dance, and painting Captain Hook to be the Bruce Forsyth of the seven seas. Yes, he was just a little bit cuckoo, but people like that should be given nice padded rooms with a pleasant view, not fed to a ticking cartoon crocodile. Men of his (apparent) age shouldn't be gallivanting around on a pirate ship, hunting down Pocahontas' twin sister and chasing children in fluffy jumpsuits, they should be sat in front of a crackling wood fire, feet nestled in a pair of carpet slippers, slurping at a cup of tea. He tried his best to be evil, bless him, but he should leave it to the experts.

(To be continued)

~ This is property of Kirstine Heald, anyone who attempts to steal it and use it as their own shall find their attempts met with pain, frustration and a black eye caused by my cat wielding a frying pan.

The Newbie's Guide to Survivng a Larp...

Note:  Yes I know this is something like my fifth blog post of the day, but frankly I haven't got anything better to do and there's lots I feel like writing.  So there.

I'd never attended a LARP before this weekend, and so I was told I was the perfect guinea pig to use as a 'what went right/wrong' guide with regards to people like myself who've never been introduced to the mad world of freeform roleplaying.  So here is my bullet pointed list of suggestions, do's and don'ts and general advice.
  • Don't be afraid to raise your hand and say 'I'm new, I don't really know what I'm doing'.  People are more than happy to help you, talk to you and generally point you in the right direction.  By telling them you're new means that the people that have been at this for a while know not to assume that you know exactly what you're doing all the time.
  • Talk to people.  We're not that scary, we're all here for the same reason - to have fun.  Even if it's just a matter of walking up to someone and introducing yourself, it's better than hiding in a corner.
  • Find your way around the hotel.  There's nothing worse than being told to go somewhere and not having any idea where it is.  At least if someone shows you round and then forget, you might be able to vaguely remember where you're headed and spot someone on the way.
  • Costumes:  The costume depends very much on the event theme, in that for one even you might have a very easy, no fuss costume and the next could be something you have no idea what to buy/make.  Don't worry, it doesn't matter if it's not entirely accurate.  I went to an event set in the 18th Century wearing Victorian dresses because that's all I could find in my price range.  People don't mind as long as you've made the effort to change out of jeans and a t-shirt.  Another thing to note is that if you have a big costume, mention it in an email to one of the organisers and they'll make sure you're in an easily accesible room near lots of other people who can help you in and out if necessary.
  • Do ask questions.  If not of the GMs, then one of the players.  If you have a problem, someone will be able to help you.  If you've lost something, run out of things to do, or want to do something but don't know if it'll work, ask.  There's no harm in knowing - better to ask and get an answer rather than sit and wonder about it.
  • The GMs know everything.  Well, nearly everything at any rate.  Someone on that team will know your character's plots and abilities and can point you in the right direction.
  • Read your character sheet at least twice before the event.  Once to get the general idea, and other to actually absorb the important bits.  Remember to also carry it around with you all the times, because you'll need to double check who your character knows/doesn't know/needs to talk to/wants to avoid.
  • When in character, give away as much information about your character as he/she would.  Such as "My name is Annetta Sardoni, I'm a Venetian opera singer and I run an apothecary which my father left to me when he died."  Unless it's necessary, or your character would give more than that, it's a good starting point for both yourself and the other players, because they can then go "Oh, you run an apothecary, perhaps you could help me with..."
  • Bring a pen with you, and a notepad if necessary.  Your relationships and plots will change over the course of the weekend, and as they get more complicated, it's best to keep track of them on paper rather than just relying on your own memory.  It's also useful for ticking off goals your character has already completed.
  • Don't worry about winning all your goals.  The majority of them will change, and your character might have to adjust their actions to suit, or even try something different completely.  Even if it's one of the main goals.  My character was meant to kill someone, who then turned out to be her mother, who had given her away at birth because someone was after them.
  • Remember to eat and drink plenty.  You're not invincible, and as much fun as it might be to pretend you are, it will come back and bite you in the backside at some point.  If nothing else, carry a chocolate bar or two and there should be plenty of water avaliable throughout the game sessions.  You can go out of the room in most freeforms to get something most substantial, just make the GMs aware of it if you're not planning on staying in character whilst loitering at the bar.
  • When filling out the character survey, make sure you read each question and don't tick the box that says 'Yes, I'm happy to do that', when really, you're not.  You might end up like me, singing unaccompanied infront of an audience.  Not that I'm saying don't do it at all, but more make sure you're definitely comfortable with the idea.
  • Most importantly have fun.  I'm a big supporter of the saying 'you get out what you put in' and so far it hasn't lead me wrong.  If you sit in the corner and don't talk to anyone, of course you're not going to have a good time.  If you throw yourself into the thick of it, it might get a little confusing at times, but you'll find that you don't mind because there's always something to do.  That doesn't necessary mean that you have to take the limelight, but simply going out and taking opportunities rather than waiting for them to come to you.
And there we have it.  You might decide to completely ignore my advice, but that's what I learnt from my own experiences.

~ This is property of Kirstine Heald, anyone who attempts to steal it and use it as their own shall find their attempts met with pain, frustration and a black eye caused by my cat wielding a frying pan.

The Tale of the Enigmatic Tart

Or:  How I Survived the Weekend.

Before this weekend, I'd never been to a LARP - I'd heard of it, sat in groups of people who rambled on about it for some time, but never actually went to one.  Until I got an email entitled "You might like this..." With a link to the Mystery in Mind website.  After a bit of pondering and a lot of reading, I decided that it sounded like a good idea.  Off went the envelope with my money and details, the form that specified what I was happy with playing, and a very big side note that said 'I'm new, please don't kill me'.  Oh how I bashed my head against the table upon realising that I was going to be singing - beware the boxes of which you tick on forms!

Time drifted past until the friday, when I got in my car and trundled up the A1, screaming at a lorry that was determined to turn my little car into a truck sandwich.  When I pulled into the hotel car park, I snuck into the reception, wondering if I had got the right hotel, because everyone I could see looked too normal.  Apparently I had.  Fantastic.  So I trundled up to the hotel room, squeed a little at how lovely it was, then crept back down the stairs towards the main room and proclaimed in a very small voice that I'd just got here and didn't know anyone.  I found myself propelled into the little hotel bar, and told everyone inside "This is Kirstine, she's new, don't break her too much."  Cue the little voice inside going "uh oh...".  But there was no real need to worry, because I very quickly discovered that these people were very friendly, very mad, and very quick to quell my fears that I wasn't going to fit in.

After donning my oversized teacosy of a dress, I wandered round and asked some more questions, gathering the basic do's and don'ts of the weekend that hadn't been covered in the rule book.  Armed with this, I plunged myself into the role of my character and set about meeting as many people as I could in the space of three hours.  Within 15 minutes however, I'd been swept off into a back room to accompany someone off into the back streets of Venice.  Cue the first big plot twist - Il Ragno.  By the end of the evening, I'd noticed that most of the stuff in my character sheet I'd managed to accomplish, and by saturday morning, the main plot had the metaphorical equivalent of being scrumpled up and thrown in a bin, just like that.  So I made up another one, which was well on the way to working until sunday morning when people starting dropping dead all over the place.

I absolutely loved my character to bits, and she was perfect for me to get involved in the weekend.  Annetta Sardoni was an opera singer, apothecary and feminist all in one.  The GMs had made the mistake of giving me a character that was not only smart, but had the tools to go and do basically anything she wanted.  And lo the Enigmatic Tart was born.  By the end of saturday night, she'd flattered the King of France enough that he paid for the entire theatre group to go to Paris and she was down to become Madame du Pompadour's replacement, as well as becoming a recognised female doctor.  That was until the King got nobbled and everything apart from the theatre going  to France went completely out of the window.  I can pretty much guarantee that when my character was written, the GMs weren't expecting that to happen!

My character also came loaded with a debtor problem, and was given two options:  pay him off temporarily and stay in the same situation, or pay him the full 5,000 Lira and be free.  The latter was somewhat impossible, short of begging people for money - which my character would never do - and the former just wasn't acceptable.  So, in a curious change of circumstances, she managed to get the upper hand over the bugger and then helped lots of other people who didn't like him kill him off, just to make sure that he wouldn't come back.  And after one has been shot, then stabbed with a highly poisonous dagger, it was pretty much guaranteed.

The apothecary was possibly the greatest thing, because once I discovered that (within reason) I could make anything I wanted...I did.  From burn salves to truth potions, the GMs found themselves rather mugged by requests once business started booming.  I loved my item card that said 'Opium - Enjoy' along with my other skill cards - even though I didn't use them.  Part of me wanted someone to try and kill my character purely so I could use the Run Away clause.  I did nearly cry when I discovered after the weekend that there was a possibility of my character becoming a vampire, and that it would've been the perfect time to have an Elizabeth Swan moment!

So as I don't ramble on too much further, I would like to proclaim that I had a fantastic weekend, couldn't have had a better character or better people to talk to across the weekend.  Thank you to the GMs, Mystery in Mind, UK Freeforms and especially to the person who came up with my character.  An even bigger thank you to everyone who I spoke to over the weekend for making me feel so welcome, to those who fed me with sugary things just before I keeled over, the people who gave me advice and kept me smiling on sunday night and special thanks to Tym for keeping me company on monday whilst I waited for my dad to come and cart me home.  You're all fantastic people and I can't wait until the next event!

Just a Little Dose of Insanity..

Some bunch of comedians, not in any way, shape or form crucial to the development of my sense of humour, once created a film.  In this film a King and a guard debated swallows and their tendancy to migrate when frost begins to form on their tail feathers.  Two swallows might be able to carry...a coconut, persay?  But I think it would take at least one more to carry a book.  Or maybe just one to fling it the distance of my room from the bookcase, to the shelf next to my bed.  It comes to my attention every time I actually bother to sort out my room, at least ten of the buggers have moved to form a small mountain under the desk.  Which then prompted the theory that books, like birds, enjoy a change in scenery and the warmth of a fan heater.  So I give you this.

The Migratory Patterns of Books:

Let us begin the journey of the book at the start - not in the middle, nor in the end, though it may end up that way anyway - where wood and water becomes a crisp white-ish page, then splattered with the black ink of a madman's creative musings and bound together with several other such victims to become something for the pleasure of reading, to be picked up from the display case and either replaced uncerimoniously and without care, or added to a stack and taken to a different place of residence, a different wooden shelf, with different books...you get the idea.  There it will sit until one day the person who bought it eventually realises that it hasn't been read yet and will take it down, dust it off, bend the spine and sift through the contents, sometimes giggling, sometimes crying, and, occasionally, closing it up and using it to hit someone/thing with.

It might be some time before it sits on the lofty perches of that oak shelf once more, instead condemned to sit in a dark drawer at the work place, forgotten about once more until all the paper has been shifted off it, or perhaps moved to a bedside table, where it will be read every night until finished, fall off the bed once the hands have let go and make a bid for freedom under the bed until the next clear out.  Nice and peaceful.  Most of the books on the ivory perch will find themselves in the same position, not really staying on the shelf much at all, but instead left randomly in any room of the house.

Almost like socks.  You leave them scattered around the house, then wonder why you can only ever find one half of them.  Books feel the same, and like any household object, will make itself incredibly awkward to find when someone is deliberately searching for them.  Usually by hiding in plain sight.  Gets 'em every time.  Or if it's not the books themselves conspiring against a desire to be battered about, a household feline is also more than happy to oblige.  Several shelves worth of books might migrate to coat the entire room with woodpulp with the artful nudge of a cat's paw.

It is only when one stops to think about it, that only the books that are read once, but never again tend to be saved the trauma of forced migration, it is the ones that are loved and cherished that find themselves constantly on the move between shelf, floor, handbag and table, getting several metaphorical grey hairs, and growing older and more weatherbeaten with every transition, relishing the time when they get laid to rest in a cardboard box, or remain on the shelf for fear that it 'might just fall apart next time'.

Be nice to your books, folks.  Or one day you might find they've all gone on strike underneath the bed.

~ This is property of Kirstine Heald, anyone who attempts to steal it and use it as their own shall find their attempts met with pain, frustration and a black eye caused by my cat wielding a frying pan.


Ok, so I know that ISWM has been released for nearly a whole month, but I decided to take my time reading it, because I was looking forward to it that much, and didn't want to waste a single bit of it by having it as my normal bedtime reading.  In the end I got too impatient and ended up taking it to work with me on tuesday evening last week to occupy the couple of hours I had nothing to do in.  I didn't plan on taking it - because I thought I'd get distracted...but I'm glad I did!  Most books have the ability to draw me into the story, but only a good book absorbs me to the point that I don't want to leave, that make me laugh out loud, feel that tug of sympathy or the slow bubble of anger and the desire to slap the character for being such an idiot.

I Shall Wear Midnight is - to me, and I know some people may differ - pure brilliance on a page.  I've always loved the Feegles, they bring that balance of humour into the underlying serious tones of the book, being strangely adorable and loveable and yet at the same time making me shake my head with a mixture of laughter and disbelief at the things they come out with.  I love how they can be rowdy and drunk, yet obscenely loyal to their Kelda and their Hag.  As for people I wanted to slap...well 'that useless pile of jobbies' was one, plus Letitia and her darling mother at the beginning of the book.  Oh, and I want a Horace the cheese...I reckon he'd get on very well with the kitten!

I could go into so much more detail, and I probably will once I've read it again, but for now I don't want to give anyone spoilers, because it is a book that no one should spoil for you!
Where on earth do I start?  Perhaps the beginning will do...yes, lets start at the very beginning...

It all started 2 years ago, when I was told to look at a thing called the '2008 Discworld Convention' because "I might like it".  So I joined up, paid for my membership, became lucky enough to get a room, and then turned up at the Hilton Metropole Hotel with absolutely no idea who anyone was and what exactly I was doing there.  You see, I had only just discovered Pratchett back then, and with my previous lifestyle I had never been to ANY convention at all.  But I think for a first convention I made quite an...impression upon people.  Plenty of them certainly remembered me from it at any rate.

At some point or another, earlier this year I was asked by the Monks of Cool if I would like to volunteer to be a deputy - apparently thihnking that this would not come as a suprise, which was the opposite...I was expecting something along the lines of 'not you again' - and I said yes, because I thought it would be fun, and a way of sort of keeping me out of trouble.

Lo and behold, the time of the 2010 Convention rolled around, stuck on a pair of silly glasses and yelled 'Boo' at me before I was actually ready to leave. It was slightly different this time around, because I wasn't hitching a lift up, but braving the perils of the open road to drive myself in my little black Smart car to Birmingham, where I only went the wrong way twice - once because I didn't know my left from my right, and the second because the idiot box in the corner didn't tell me what lane I was meant to be in!  But I made it, and proceeded to burst out of my car, dragging my two baby suitcases behind me, almost trampling the imaginary wildlife and some normal people in my antici..........pation.

Overenthusiastic hugging put on hold, i made a vague attempt at making myself useful a mere...5 minutes after arriving, by helping pack the last of the goodie bags (and providing more bone-crushing hugs).  The rest of the day turned into a bit of a blur for me - I recall going to the pub quiz, and doing reasonably well, acting daft and sticking origami folded receipts on my nose and ears and looking like a burke to the amusement of my table.  Oh yes, and the comment of "what I find worrying is that someone can not drink and be as insane as you" .  I chose to take this as a compliment.

Friday...friday...oh yes.  That one.  The one where I donned my corset and started the progressive track of warfare against my own body.  But it was bloody well worth the marks left in my skin, and the feeling when released that my waist should be 6 inches smaller than it actually was.  I also had the honour of meeting my fellow guild deputy, warning the Monks of the mistake they made of putting me in a position to make trouble rather than staying out of it and then assembling my hordes of conventioneers armed with corsetry, needles and double entendres to be unleashed upon unsuspecting (or willing) passers by.  I also ran a very large and very entertaining game of Werewolf - one of just a few to follow it.

Like when the Dwarf Olympics was meant to be held on saturday.  It got moved, I shouted "Who's up for spontaneous Werewolf?" and madness descended in the cavern, with mistaken identities, dropping of cards (and then making me pick them up whilst being bound inside corset body armour and ambling around on heels) and inter-family vengence battles.  I then had perhaps a couple of hours after that when the majority of the Convention buggered off inside the Dysk, to myself.  So I ditched the straight jacket and opted for camouflaging as a journalist and lurking surreptitiously in the bar, hoping and praying that i wouldn't hear the cry of 'Oi You!', summoning me to my duties once more.  Guild duties that is...gophering went mostly out of the window.  In the evening, myself and the rest of the seamstresses played a double whammy in the Maskerade, and I had the great fortune of being hidden behind a curtain with Pat and strolling across the stage to a fanfare, whilst not tripping over the hem of my skirt.  In the name of my guild I suffered through the discomfort of trying to sit in a corset to mob the stage for the final act.  But it was well worth it to see all the fantastic acts, and all the people that had so much more guts than I did!  (Maybe next time...)

But how can I forget the Hedgehog party?  When I dropped the pain and settled for something slightly more normal...that was until a sign appeared on my back indicating that I was in fact 'Pretending to be a girl' and that 'This is a cunning disguise to fool you all'.  Not everyone was convinced, but it was a damn good attempt and made people laugh, which was the point!  I stayed in the Forge until the end of it all, which was approximately 4 in the morning, playing about 3 games of Twister before giving up, grabbing all the ballons in the room and sticking them up Wotcher's skirt and glomping Mike, who's birthday it happened to be at the time!

This late night meant that getting up on sunday morning was somewhat more of a challenge, and a painkiller accompanied my normal IV drip of caffeine at breakfast time before I shuffled off elsewhere yet again to get a pen and paper and re-write my tattered sign, because I decided not to brutally murder myself with a corset until later that day.  The morning was spent reasonably peacefully, indulging in this strange thing called sitting down for the most amusing Church of Om, and How To Buckle a Swash...because I have a bloodthirsty streak in me and couldn't resist the chance to stand and pose with a sword (insert typical Seamstress comment here).

Sunday night brought the Rat Race, and crinolines, and the crazy ideas that stemmed into even crazier things that I actually did.  Such as having one of the 'rats' run up my skirt and cause a hole in one, and be poisoned an impressive 8 times, and announcing the news by going 'Bong'.  Oh, and I forgot to mention, earlier on in the weekend I asked someone at Ankh for the time, and got handed a stick and told to join in.  Then I was asked if I would be willing to carry on bashing sticks.  I said yes, and continued to perform my first ever Morris dance with a bunch of other nutters after the Gala Dinner, in front of a bunch of people who were honestly not egging me on to batter people in the slightest...  Other things what I saw were many and interesting, such as the music of Mr B, the other fantastic ideas that people came up with, and the highly appropriate 'Drag race', with its well deserved winner.  Collapsing in the bar took place, and I actually had to be carried to my room, which had nearly happened at the last con too.  I call it legs on strike syndrome.

On monday morning I actually overslept, and had to race down to breakfast and only have one (gasp) cup of tea, before I tracked down the Monks of Cool and asked them about the lunatic idea that had started when I stole people at the Rat Race and continued to fester until They made me do it.  This being none other than 'How Many People Can You Stuff In a Crinoline?' Competition.  Now, I would mention that this was intended to be an entertaining, ground based game for people to point and laugh at.  First up were the seamstresses, who proved their worth by snugly fitting 5 people and a small child under the hoops of my giant tea cosy.  The Unaffiliated Bendy Persons topped that with a sound 6, and then [Insert guild here, cause I forgot] fitted in 5 and a stuffed toy...

And then Davina came along and it all went...memorable from there.  Because I had managed to convince Sir Terry to come and watch, after a slightly unintentional comment of "have you stolen any dwarves in that yet?" and I replying "Funny you should mention that..."  It went from small scale stuffing, to me being raised up on Davina's shoulders whilst 15 people shoulder barged in under the skirt.  Now, we thought this was a damn good record, but Terry had been distracted and missed it.  So we did what all good fans did and gave him a replay.  And then shattered the record all over again.

I thought that was the end of that, and I charged upstairs to discard the oversized toilet roll cover to take my seat for the Rocky Horror Discworld Show, which was in short terms absolutely bloody fantastic.  If you missed it, i feel so sorry for you.  After that it was the Deputy debrief, where we froze to death in Morpork whilst I snacked on nachos and we all breathed a big sigh of relief that we weren't going to be doing THAT again for a while.  Then came the closing ceremony, and more suprises.  Because I had noooo idea how we won, but I'm guessing it had something to do with the crinoline stuffing previously mentioned.  It certainly lodged itself in Terry's memory, and I have the feeling that I will be remembered forever more for that.

Finally I got an evening to relax, free of the troubles of controlling my horde, I proceeded to march to the Dead Monkey Party with a small squad to the tune of the Great Escape.  From there I tied myself up in knots on a Twister board for several hours, fenced against Brian in a corridor with a couple of mallets pilfered from the Rat Race, Walked the Walk, and wound down with some fencing exercises, courtesy of the wonderful Shevek.  Brenna, I promise I will fence you next time!

Going home day.  Boooo!  Especially as I was driving, which I really didn't want to.  But I had to.  I had to say goodbye to all those wonderful people I met and return to the place formerly known as Roundworld.  The journey home was easier in some ways, because the roads were nicely signposted so I knew where I was going, but on the downside I was tired, and suffering from Post-Con blues.  I still am, and I look forward to the next Con, whether it be Ireland, Wincanton, or in 2 years time, I will find you all!

Oh, and Wotcher and I have plans to trounce the Crinoline Stuffing World Record by...hmmm, at least double!

Of Broken Whisks and Sink Plungers...

Please note that there is no offence meant in the below essay, it's just the product of an hours boredom and a piece of paper! :P

The Evolution of the Dalek


Any person who dares to call themselves a sci-fi lover knows of their existence.  They may have just heard about them, never actually watched the program, but it is common knowledge that the daleks are the biggest thorn in the Doctor’s side since regeneration.  Lately the Doctor’s arch-nemesis has undergone some plastic surgery of its own, procuring a bustle of dalekanium and an extra foot of growth so they can actually look snootily down their eyestalk at the human race before the face plunger of doom does some serious interior redesigning.

Therefore it seems quite prudent to analyse the origins of this upside down ice-cream cone menace.  Where did this loathing of everything apart from themselves originate?  Where did they decide that being defeated by stairs was a good battle strategy?  Where on earth did they pinch the technology from?  Old age pensioners on mobility scooters, that’s who.  It makes sense if you look at it by standing on your head and peering through a kaleidoscope.  Great grandma Bessie rattling on down the road in her MK Shoprover 1000 at the grand speed of five miles a millennia decides she’s fed up of being sent zooming into a ditch by a turbo-charged-likely-to-spontaneously-combust Ford Fiesta.  So, she gets Alfred from the garage down the street to build her a protective shell.  A bubble, so that when she lands in that baby chasm of brown ooze she finds it takes twice as long to get out with all the extra weight, but at least her cabbages are undamaged.  Just given a fresh coating of mud.

That was just the beginning.  The other OAPs catch on to the idea and build bigger, tougher cones, try and stick points on the outside, but have to settle for concrete macaroons to not anger the shop owners with more scrapes in their freshly painted door frames.  Some of them become fully domesticated, with a plunger for cleaning out horizontal sinks and a whisk for decorating the walls with Victoria sponge batter.  Eventually they stop coming out from the armour at all, just live through the blue tinted world of an eyepiece, giving a wonderfully Marvinesque outlook on life.

At some point a more adventurous old biddy decided that living in a bungalow was too flat, so, in order to figure out the problem of stairs, she stuck a couple of jet thrusters in the bottom…the first tests were somewhat inconclusive due to never finding bits larger than a acorn.  Old people have been rumoured to not have a good grasp of technology – although some could say they had the principles behind it but hadn’t managed to grasp the intricacies.  Another theory is that technologic ineptitude is just a cover for what’s going on in Nanageddon HQ, where revenge against the yobs is planned with malicious glee and lots of cackling.

We keep being told that the daleks are from quite the distance away, and keep coming back to earth because we’re the most stubborn species to eradicate.  Or maybe it is old Bill’s way of getting revenge for that whoopee cushion on his rocking chair. Or just because they have nothing better to do now that the scrabble club has been disbanded.

Oh yes, some of them returned to normal life – fetching tea, carrying folders, jumping up and down trying to reach the corner of the ceiling with a feather duster.  Can you imagine a dalek going shopping?  The looks on the pimple faced shelf stackers at Asda as the whirring menace storms up to them and jabs them in the stomach with a demented kitchen implement.  ‘WHERE IS THE TOMATO SOUP?  WHY IS THERE NO TOMATO SOUP?  EXPLAIN!  EXPLAIN!’ and as the dalek whirls off to join its fellow tyrant in armour, he hears a muttered ‘THE SOONER WE GET A MORRISONS IN THIS PLACE, THE BETTER!

As entertaining as the notion of dalek Khan trying to purchase a carton of milk and root vegetables for a casserole is, you must also ask yourself the question: where do they keep the cash?  Like an ATM, would you see a small pile of notes and a one pence piece spurt out of a hidden slot, or do they carry a handbag of consumer disruption?  No one’s ever had the guts to ask them for fear of being whisked to death.  There’s nothing quite as terrifying as having your brain sucked out through a plunger by an overgrown NooNoo.

And now I have managed to destroy any remaining fantasies of the daleks being the most evil, horrifying species to attempt to take over the world, made you wonder why it takes one mechanic and his sonic screwdriver so many failed attempts to send them back to the retirement home from whence they came, I shall take my leave and rest safe in the knowledge that there is nothing that cannot be brought down a peg through the use of a frilly pin apron and a feather duster.  That and knowing that they are unable to retaliate with a scathing essay on the evolution of humans from monkeys because they lack the necessary fingers and thumbs with which to operate a keyboard.



~ This is property of Kirstine Heald, anyone who attempts to steal it and use it as their own shall find their attempts met with pain, frustration and a black eye caused by my cat wielding a frying pan.

The Underestimated Foe...

Ok, so it's another piece of free writing, and I'd go so far as to say it's even wackier than its predecessor.  I have my driving instructor to blame for sticking the notion of nocturnal traffic cones in my head...

Why Traffic Cones Are Nocturnal


It's a nice, bright, sunny day. You're driving along in your fancy hatchback. The roof is down, the air conditioning is blasting at your flip flops, you couldn't give a damn about your rapidly increasing carbon footprint. But what's that on the horizon? 'Man shovelling manure for 30 yards?' No problem, the fir tree air freshener will keep away the smell. Further on down the road you see a truck. It's yellow with flashing lights, lying dormant in a lay-by. You press happily onwards, failing to hear the 'snr snr snr' and see the menacing reflective glint between the slots.

Night falls, it's time to travel home...BAM, the road is littered in little orange cones leering at you from what was previously the centre line, just daring you to run them over for the sake of humanity. It can only mean one thing – overnight roadworks. The bane of every driver trying to get home on bank holiday Monday. You think it's a conspiracy, your mother thinks that you should have left when she told you to instead of staying for that third helping of Gran's chocolate crunch.

Those little orange cones might seem harmless enough by day, decorating a grass bank here, saying hello to a lamp-post there, trailing little bits of tatty carrier bag on a street curb...but by night they become little terrors, much like a child when it comes to bed time. They jump out of hiding, plant themselves on a road and declare that no one is allowed to go there, just because they said so – and no one argues with a cone when there's a steamroller hiding behind it.

Beware the congregating traffic cones, gathering in groups of ten or more outside a lay-by truck stop. They're not just queueing for Greasy Phil's bacon buttie wiv egg and sauce, no, they're plotting which piece of road to conquer in order to take the most drivers by suprise. With a suprising turn of speed they'll commandeer a straight of the M25 and harangue the owners of ford fiestas with three hour delays until they scream for mercy and a little chef, then disappear off into the dawn, cackling maniacally and returning to their secret society to choose they're next plot of traffic domination.

Not even houses are truly safe. The cone catcher only manages to catch one in every two hundred spawns of satan in his little net and decapitate them for decorative use. That's right...the lampshade. But they're safe enough, even the ones with the frills. It's the tables you should keep an eye on – the lampshades seem like angels compared to them. It all started when the tables got jealous of the musical chairs – things took a nasty turn and furniture warfare broke out. MFI invaded DFS, Magnet Kitchens flung everything but the kitchen sink at B&Q...until, eventually the patio set in question was captured and quarantined in Homebase.

It was for the best, because a hexagon table is only a few short chops away from triangles, slipping down the greasy path to conedom. It's bad enough that the orange bastards team up with those viscous Keep Left signs without an infestation into one's own home. They block off that all important road, then enlist their evil sidekicks the Temporary Traffic Lights to make commuting more like retaking the Somme than a fifteen minute dawdle to Classic FM.

They are a driver's worst nightmare, filling one's head with nightmares about orange cones and evil mocking glares, more suited to a poorly designed ghost train. They are the night-time highwaymen, the vigilantes intent on ensuring a problematic journey home, moving with military precision to beat the Tom Tom's traffic predictor.

I know what you're thinking. Yes, you at the back. No, not you...the one in the black t-shirt that says 'I heart traffic cones'. I know what you are thinking, and it's 'what a load of bollards'.

~ This is property of Kirstine Heald, anyone who attempts to steal it and use it as their own shall find their attempts met with pain, frustration and a black eye caused by my cat wielding a frying pan.

Ok, here's the story.  Someone asks me to write their essay on Imperialism in China during the 19th Century at the same time someone else goes on about an essay on the Beatles.  For some reason this clicks in my head as to how I could relate the two topics together, which then leads to the idea of writing an essay like a game of Word Association, whereby every paragraph topic is very loosely linked to the previous one, travels off in different tangents and eventually leads back to the beginning topic.  So, this is what I ended up with.

Word Association Essay Challenge.


I like challenges. They present themselves at random opportunities – in an interview, DIY building and in writing tasks like this one. You can either attack them, flailing around with a large sword and screaming blue murder like Miss Muffet when she saw the spider eyeing up her lunch, or run away like Brave Sir Robin. There is, as always, a third option. The analytical approach, like when faced with a Rubiks cube that someone has switched all the stickers around on. The type of challenge you know you're never going to win but you have a go anyway, because you're a stubborn little git.

Much like TV show contestants really. The people that should know better but go on things like Total Wipeout just to say they've made a royal prat of themselves on national television. Bruises and mud filled shoes aside, game shows are all about the bright lights and cheesy smiles, the busty assistants in skimpy leotards mocking gormless contestants with fake sympathy for not walking away with the thousand pound cash prize which they had to go through so much effort to get. Because answering a few questions is really rocket science. At least some contestants go through the physical pain of being laughed at by viewers at home for the opportunity.

But it wouldn't work without the colour. Black and white is just a bit monotonous and sepia is just different shades of the same tea stain on a page. Without colour we wouldn't have the misconceived rainbow song, which decided that pink was the best colour to be inserted just to make it fit the rhythm, whilst indigo and violet were cruelly smashed together and stuck under the shady category of purple. Nor would we have such a vague way of depicting part of British history. Why did Richard of York give battle in vain? I dunno, but it makes a good mnemonic.

Song writers seem to like rainbows as well. The songs about them tend to come out a bit soppy and sentimental, attempting to inspire us to appreciate everything around us, embrace thy neighbour and put behind the knowledge that she just ran off with your scales. It's the type of sunny outlook on life that either makes you want to make like a lemming and jump off a bridge from the horrible realisation that no matter how many times you 'always look on the bright side of life' that it is still definitely a piece of rubbish and you can't be bothered with the smell any longer. Either that or it sends you into such a happy stupor that you feel the need to massacre a few dozen teddy bears just to regain the balance.

They are just dreams. Dreams I tell you. They belong in your head while you're asleep. Not out in the open terrorizing everyone they come across. That's when dreams turn into nightmares – other people's nightmares. An apocalypse of flesh eating zombies might seem like fun and games to you, but it's a different story for the poor bugger being gummed to death by his grandma across the street.

Aspirations on the other hand are all fine and dandy. You can have them. Wanting to be a chef, ro a hairdresser, or 'that bloke down the street that sells the big issue' are all perfectly tangible aspirations, although some of them require a great deal less time spent religiously attending an educational facility than others. For example, being a doctor takes a lot more reading of books than say being a car park warden. To be good at ones job, whether it be putting people back together, or pulling them apart to figure out in which suspicious way they dropped dead, you need the desire to put up with the mind numbing lectures, the endless pages of a dissertation on why some tiny little blob on a diagram is so vital to the function of the human body and not just a printer blot.

In other words, you have to rise to the challenge of it all. Life is one big challenge, and if you fall down the big stone steps of defeatism, prepare to live in a state of relative boredom and drudgery. Sometimes boredom leads to its own little challenges. Creating things just because you can, blowing a raspberry at failure for the sheer hell of it. This essay is one such challenge, but is nothing but an hour or so's entertainment on a sunny afternoon. Not like climbing Everest in nothing but shorts, t-shirt and a pair of flip flops. That's just daft.

~ This is property of Kirstine Heald, anyone who attempts to steal it and use it as their own shall find their attempts met with pain, frustration and a black eye caused by my cat wielding a frying pan.