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End of an era. Again. Dammit.

I’ve been going to the Wednesday night meetings of the Wycombe Games Club since 1976 when I was first exploring the peculiar hobby (role playing games) that I had just stumbled into. In those days it met in the upstairs hall at the British Legion and we role-gamers were only sort of tolerated by the figures wargamers who were the majority of the membership.

A fair proportion of my life has been tangled up in those Wednesday night meetings and a fair number of my friendships over the years. What events stick in my memory? The great ‘cardboard crack’ wars when MAGIC THE GATHERING was the subject of rage and dispute. The time the local paper popped round to ask if we were Satanists. The time the then President had to be asked to leave because his habit of beating people up had come to our attention. The time I got stuck in the lift and because it was my luck with a bald man with a pram and not a beautiful woman.

And many, many games, so many. All the adventures through time and space run by me (mostly) and others. All the memories.

We trailed all over town seeking affordable rooms we could hire to hold our meetings and they kept getting fewer. We ended up in the Guildhall in the High Street, rolling our dice and laughing our heads off under the stern gaze of St Paul preaching to the ancient Britons. (Illustrated)

And now, all of a sudden, when it looked as though I would die in harness as the Secretary and the Oldest Member, the number of tables of gamers who wanted to come and pay us £3 a head for somewhere to play on a midweek evening went from four or five, which meant we kept our heads above water and even built up a small reserve for lean times to two which means we’ll be wrapping the club up forever and giving our remaining funds to charity at the end of January.

Two tables didn’t even say goodbye but went and got themselves space at the new local games shop. Which is mostly big minatures in a semi-Games-Workhop way. I’m not sure it will be there for them in six months but the club can’t keep going long enough for it to fail.

One table left, slightly shamefaced, explaining that their GM had actually built an extension on their house to act as a gaming room and it was getting a little awkward dragging their infant daughter along to games… We said we quite understood.

So there it is. I’ll write a letter to the Council tomorrow and once we get the final bills that will be that.

My group’s games will go on, sometimes at my flat and sometimes at Martin’s place across the Rye, but dammit though it may be more comfortable (the heating in the Guildhall isn’t always reliable) it won’t be the same and we won’t pick up casual gamers or help keep the hobby going on into another generation.

Double dammit! I’m going to have to find someone else to leave my games collection to!

On found art.

One of the things I meant to say after my visit to Bermuda.

You know those people who say that they can’t get SF and superhero genre ficiton? Youknow the ones who say that superhero movies are tedious and full of pointless violence and posturing and unconvincing melodrama? (And those of us who say, no! No! There’s a lot of good stuff here, from BUFFY to AVENGERS ENDGAME?)

Well, I’ve finally seen the movie they are talking about (thanks to my Cabin Class priviliges on my recent flight to Bermuda) and it’s called AQUAMAN. And I cannot but agree. Because the stuff in there though it takes extreme  care to include the ‘soap opera’ elements of the legend of Arthur Curry, Bastard King of Atlantis, still sounds like unconvincing crap. Melodrama in the true 19th Century sense and without a touch of the psychogical realism that BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (to take a random example)  chose to build into its structure.

On the other hand I took advantage of the fact that Netflix membership is not the same the world over to take the chance to watch the first series of THE FLASH. And though the actors there sometimes fail to live up to the full potenial of the characters. nonetheless they do their best to live up to the ambigouus possibilities of the tension between the Flash and the Reverse-Flash.

This what I hope for from the people who are taking the stories generated from decades upond decades of serial storytelling and trying to make sense of them. I have always argued for the script editors of DOCTOR WHO (to choose an example not entirely at random) to take the inherited mass of stories and not disavow them but take as much as they can and run with them.

This is why it is always better to say: OK the Doctor is half human and not to say This is something we are going to pretend never happened.

Excuse me. It is the small hours of January 1st and I am fairly drunk.

A Happy New Year to all our listeners.

Among the one (or perhaps two) percenters.

I spent Christmas at a very nice resort in Bermuda, gazing out at the ocean, eating four star meals and occasionally going and doing the less vigorous bits of the tourist thing.

I bought three nice shirts (that’s a lot for me and caused purely by the hotel’s dress code for the posh restaurant) and finally found some light weight knee length socks I liked: that shouldn’t be too surprising given this is the home of Bermuda Shorts.

The island seems to survive just about entirely on tourism though I’m told that off-shore banking helps too. I did wonder what was going on away from the main roads and in the places actual residents live but didn’t get the chance to find out. Perhaps it’s rude and intrusive to want that.

The rich people were mostly very nice, especially the two sets of Canadians who invited me to join their Christmas Day and Boxing Day meals. (Mind you what I was thinking before that was that the place needed an infestation by an unexpected SF convention.) There was one Loud American who kept turning down the menu at the restaurant and playing ‘Just Bring Me A Burger’ games with the wait staff who did their best to endure his showing off.  And charge him extra for the privilege.

It really was ungracious of him because on of the hardest things to do was to make up my mind which fabulous meal to choose. I still regret giving up the chance to try osso buco because there was lobster on the menu. And if only they had offered the goose on Christmas Day with something other than Brussels Sprout and some other member of the brassicae. Ah, well. Regrets of an aging gourmand.

Still, eating meals prepared by a master chef did great things for my digestion though discouraging things to my waistline. I could tell that by the increased difficulty I had squeezing into my seat on the flight back. My thanks to my brother for the Christmas gift of a seat in Club Class.

One of the things I noticed there and at the hotel was that in the high flying world the waitstaff don’t just say ‘The mushroom soup and the New York Strip Steak: very good sir.” They say instead: “Excellent choice!” Are people with money in need of that much reassurance that they have good taste? And perhaps my lower middle class manners are too polite for these circles: saying ‘thank you’ when they cleared my plate or brought me a new dish bought an overly sincere “No, not at all, sir!”

Would have been better if they had taught the waitstaff the way the British like their tea presented to them: in a pot, already made with boiling water not in the shape of a pot of cooling water and some teabags. I felt a bit of a heel making a fuss every breakfast time after the first. I didn’t regret taking my own supply of Marks & Spencers’ Extra Strong though.

The people of Bermuda are really very friendly. It seems to be a reflex.  Even more in your face about liking you on sight than Americans.

On the whole I’m unlikely to go back unless I come into some more mad money soon but I can see why people move there.

The illustration above is of the most Bermudan sign I came across. Apart from the chickens the local bird life is both slightly more colourful than you’ll find in England and a lot more unafraid of humans. At the pub where I dined on the last day the local sparrow equivalents (though I think they may have been finches of some sort) nipped in and hopped around the feet of the diners without any of the nervousness being near a human brings in the UK.

Some other tropical or semi-tropical paradise the next time though.

A rant about Christmas Muzak

In the wake of Brexit I have left the country in a fit of liberal pique.

Only for a week though and for a long planned Christmas Holiday at a posh resort on Bermuda.

Now, I am paying a fair bit for this pleasure. The food is mostly excellent (they do not know how to make tea and I really regret not putting my travel kettle into the suitcase) if a bit nouvelle cuisine when it comes to portions. (A cry of ‘no bad thing that!’ comes from the peanut gallery and my doctors.)

Conversation isn’t the strong point of my stay so far: I keep thinking that what this place needs is an unexpected science fiction convention.

Howver the thing I didn’t expect to experience in such exalted circumstances is Christmas Muzak throughout my meals.

I could have stayed at home and dined at Morrison’s cafe if that was what I was after. I still have the complementary earplugs that British Airways gives you in Club Class but sticking them in would be a little eccentric and cause the waitstaff to have to perform interpretive dance to attract my attention rather than cough politely.

Still, I’m a bit peeved. I shall definitely comment on leaving…

The Muzak isn’t quite as bad as Morrisons but still had pop singer voices trying for transcendence and just achieving bathos. There was one who had Christmas lyrics set to the Ode to Joy. I can’t really complain: it’s out of copyright. But the voice… I can hear Beethoven under the pop whine and it just isn’t good enough.

The same may be said of the recording of ‘Have yourself a merry little Christmas’. I would as lief the town crier performed it as the people who feel they have to ‘cover’ it for their Christmas compilations.  The song should not be sung unless a) it is your intention to break the hearts of your listeners and b) you have the technical means to do so. The second clause means you shouldn’t do it unless you are at least as good as Andy Williams and preferably as Judy Garland. Since you won’t be, don’t do it.

I often think that were I the proprietor of one of our major supermarket chains I would put large signs up outside my stores on the day after Remembrance Sunday (for that is when the Christmas season starts these days) saying “No Yuletide Muzak inside”. It would answer a need in the souls of the nation.

I post a picture of the view from my quarters in Bermuda just to make you jealous. And a Merry Christmas to all our readers.



On this day in history…

I’m in need of something to cheer me up.

I’m not planning to get a new cat until the New Year and I’m not leaving on my Christmas break for another week.

I’m seeing the country turn towards folly and to quote Kipling (as the Prime Minister is wont to do):

…the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire —

How  do people cope with this shit?

I’d accept meaningless and frivolous sex but the trend in my life recently has been away from that sort of thing.

The thought  of getting drunk just makes my stomach twinge.

Maybe I’ll go for a walk.

On the Horns of a dilemma

I’m coming toward a moment of decision.

I got my postal vote today and I’m going to have to decide what to do with it.

Now, normally I’d have no difficulty. Not only are the LibDems the largest English party that is firmly saying they are against Brexit (the issue of the hour, I think you’ll agree) but they also favour electoral reform, the only thing I can think that might prevent the sort of political paralysis we’ve seen in the past two years and the right wing entryism that led up to it.

I don’t favour their whole program: the current LibDems are too right wing for me but if you insist on absolute ideological identification with your chosen party you’ll either never vote at all or lose your own identity in the fleeting and ever changing one of the organisation.

But, but, but….

My friend Chris whispered in my ear when she was driving me back from her and Roger’s place last week that Labour could, maybe, just possibly have a chance of winning this one and deposing that odious git, Steve Baker, our current Tory MP and the chair of the ERG. Oh, the seductress and her silken words!

Certainly on the evidence of the last two elections Labour is a lot more popular in the constituency than the LibDems.

Trouble is if I vote for Labour then I’m encouraging them to think that I approve of all their policies and stances whereas I only want Steve Baker gone and there not to be another Conservative government.

Their leader is precisely the sort of tedious left-winger I felt depressed by in the 1980s and their stance on Brexit is Schrodinger’s stance: we can’t know what it is until we open the box… I won’t comment on the anti-semitism though I’m sure it’s there. The left is as subject to conspiracy theory thinking as the right and conspiracy theories always smell of anti-semitism.

My ideal situation has Labour needing the co-operation of other parties to form a government.

But I don’t get to make that decision because of our accursed electoral system. Which Labour is also bad on.

No, I’m not going to tell you what I decide: I just want you to sympathise with my agony.


I find myself involuntarily undergoing withdrawal. Cold turkey. Well, cold-ish.

My desktop, source of so much of my daily entertainment, information and political activity has gone tits up, thankfully just before the two year limit on its warranty.

The C drive, which is a fast solid state drive has gone to meet its maker, which in this case is Dell Computers. It will be missed but replaced: Roger, my partner in podcasts, to whom I turned for advice and help in a panic last night, suggested that the fact that I never gave the computer a name made it more likely to turn its face to the wall but I am resistant to anthropomorphising my machines. I’m quite sentimental enough when it comes to pets…

Roger, bless him, gave me sage advice and did an emergency back up of my Data drive at no little inconvenience to himself. His best bit of sage advice turned out to be: ‘ask Dell if they will mind if you take out the D drive so it doesn’t get reformatted when they fix the C drive’ and to my surprise and delight they said yes. I must make a note to consider his advice about how I should do backups in future. He isn’t happy with the idea of me relying on my ‘HomeCloud’ external backups. I think he distrusts everything Windows based and would be happier if I would learn Unix or at the very least consider going Apple.

Bless his wife Chris too, for shuttling me to their place and back. My tendency to panic and go all ‘fluttery old gentleman’’ was in full flow last night and the two of them handled it wonderfully.

Still, there’s so much I can’t currently get to. I’m not used to using the iPads for everything… (Which is one reason this posting has no picture to it.)

Grit your teeth man! You lived for decades without the comforting embrace of the World Wide Web and Microsoft gazing over your shoulders….

But, but…. (my less worthy self replies) there are people out there commenting on my posts! There’s stuff that’s updating… And how much will my passwords and security settings be lost…. And will the couriers lose the poor crippled thing? They didn’t ring beforehand when they were going to pick it up the way they promised….

Calm down, for goodness sake! Be British! Stiff Upper Lip!