Jul 132015
 

So to my great surprise, I seem to enjoy ‘street photography’ more than the other kinds of photography I’ve tried over the last few years.  I’ll be the first to admit however that much of my street photography is ‘photographs taken in the street’, rather than the more classic street photography.  By that I mean, the form is really about capturing ‘decisive moments’ in a candid way, usually at quite short focal lengths.

At the moment, I tend to use longer focal lengths, and often my results are more candid street portraits than actual street photography.

Despite that, and with all the respect due to the real tradition, I’m enjoy what I do none-the-less, and over time hope to improve my confidence, and my technical ability, to switch to shorter focal lengths and capture more moments rather than interesting faces.

When I bought a DSLR, I really thought I’d be spending my time shooting pictures of animals and wild life, and early on, I did that.  However, wild life photography (good wild life photography) requires a large investment of time, spent waiting, watching, and planning for the moment in which to capture the animal.  Taking a thousand pictures of swans, however beautiful they are, isn’t in the long term wild life photography.  As such, I haven’t invested the time, or found a place in which I want to invest the time, to carry out high quality wild life photography.

Landscape photography is as time intensive as wild life photography, and certainly requires just as much planning.  Taking an occasional picture of a stream, and capturing a brilliant image of a landscape are two different things, and the latter requires a lot of planning, preparation and timing to get the right light and the right shot.

Portrait and event photography both interest me, probably for the same root reason as street photography – they’re about people and I find people fascinating.  However, I don’t have the confidence yet to take portraits and I don’t have the opportunity to take shoot many events (although I take the chance whenever I can).

So I’ve found the immediacy and unpredictable nature of street photography to be the most engaging activity I’ve been involved in since getting the camera.  I love looking at the pictures and finding hidden gems of human behaviour that might not have been obvious at the moment I pressed the shutter button (see the guy on the left in this picture, https://www.flickr.com/photos/eightbittony/19423003901).  I love seeing the emotions of people’s faces, and I love building a narrative that may or may not be real based on the instant the picture was taken.

I’ve always been fascinated with the idea that truth is based on your perception at the time, and street photography really encompasses that philosophy for me.

Hopefully my confidence will increase, and I’ll get better at shooting at short focal lengths.  I’m not going to stop trying to improve at wild life, landscape, event, sport, portrait and the other forms of photography of course, it’s just that street photography is both accessible at any time, and more thrilling so far than anything else I’ve tried.

Apr 212015
 

This is the letter I wrote, but never sent to my MP. I never sent it because writing it took so much energy, that I couldn’t face going back and proof reading it, and by the time I was ready to do that, we’d completed the appeal and Greté had been moved to the Support Group. So apologies in advance for bad grammar, repetition and typos.

I wrote the letter the day we got back from the interview at the DWP, which is a mandatory aspect of being in the ESA Work-Related Activity Group.

“I appreciate this is a long letter, but it is written from the heart, and I implore you to read it.

Myself and my wife (Greté Evans) have just returned from a mandatory interview with an employee at the Job Centre. Firstly, I want to say that I have the utmost respect for the staff working there, and that despite the rest of this letter I have no complaints about how any individual has dealt with our case.

My wife suffers from a condition which used to be called Dysthymia, but is sometimes known as Persistent Depressive Disorder. The Wikipedia link for the condition is,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dysthymia

My wife also suffers from a Panic Disorder, Agoraphobia and a number of related conditions. Additionally, she has chronic back pain due to an issue with her spine.

In the mid to late 90’s, while undiagnosed but still suffering from dysthymia, my wife continued to try and work. Sometimes those were paid roles, sometimes they were voluntary. However, around 1997 my wife’s health deteriorated and she was laid off from her last paid job. Although she was diagnosed (again) as being depressed, and given anti-depressants, the diagnosis was not for dysthymia and the anti-depressants in question were unsuitable.

After a number of months, Greté tried again to get work, with a temp agency, but during her first day suffered a severe panic attack and had to leave the office to which she had been sent. This crushed the last of her remaining self-confidence and over the next year or so, her health suffered even more greatly. Over the following 2 years there were periods in which she considered suicide as her only source of relief.

Over subsequent years, Greté had severe bouts of depression on and off, over the top of the constant dysthymia. Eventually, she met a GP who understood her condition and together they finally found a diagnosis for Greté (tragically, the GP was Dr Elizabeth Kinston). With the right medication and support, Greté has been able to manage her symptoms for a number of years now.

But she is not cured. Every day she battles depression, every day she battles panic attacks and crushingly low self-esteem. Some days Greté is able to go out to places she knows well, with people she trusts, and those people might think she’s perfectly healthy. Greté can go shopping to Tesco, but if something out of the ordinary happens, or the aisles are busier than she was expecting, she might well suffer a panic attack and have to leave. Other days she battles to even get out of bed.

During all of this, Greté has received various benefits, and until recently was receiving the non-means tested benefit introduced before ESA. During those periods we have both suffered the shame and dehumanising health assessments, carried out over the years by decreasingly qualified medical staff. In 2006 we appealed when Greté was told she was fit to work. Within minutes of the appeal board interviewing Greté, it was clear to them the decision had been made in error and her benefit was re-instated and back-paid.

Earlier this year, Greté was informed she would be moving to the new benefit system, and would need an assessment. We received the forms and completed them honestly, as best as we could. Within a few weeks Greté was notified she was being categorised and placed in the Work-related activity group. We were told we had 30 days to appeal.

But we didn’t know what to expect. Greté doesn’t want to spend her life not working. She already suffers from severe self-esteem issues and not being in work in the current climate and current ‘scrounger mentality’ government stance makes those feelings ever more acute. We both hoped that maybe the process would offer up some help, some assistance. Greté could speak to people who understood her condition and together they could work through the options and perhaps begin the process of understanding how, if possible, Greté would be able to get back to work.

This is all against a backdrop of my deepest fear. Greté’s condition means that she can’t handle change, confrontation, unexpected situations or some social interaction without severe panic. A panic attack at work so severe you can’t breathe (let’s not even talk about getting through a job interview), and leads to you running out of the building will only lead to a tough conversation the next day. So maybe Greté has a panic attack and a few days of severe depression and then goes back to work. Maybe it happens again a few weeks after, and another conversation with her manager results. But Greté’s illness prevents her from handling that as well, and she’s signed off for 2 more weeks. Combined together, this causes Greté’s ever present real illness to worsen, her self-esteem to crash and her anxiety to take over her whole day, and suddenly she’s considering suicide again as the only option.

Despite that fear, we didn’t appeal immediately, we waited and we went to the first interview with the DWP. Of course, Greté couldn’t go on her own, but I went with her and we listened to the member of staff tell us what this process entailed.

Her first comment was that most people miss the bit in the letter that says benefit is only paid for 365 days before becoming means tested. Indeed, we had both missed that. Greté immediately suffered a panic attack, began crying uncontrollably and would have left the building had I not been there to basically physically hold onto her. I got her calmed down, and we listened to the rest. Basically, there is no support, there is no officer who understands Greté’s mental illness. There is someone who can help you find work, but finding work isn’t the problem.
The issue is Greté being physically capable of attending an interview and holding down a job with her current illness without eventually becoming suicidal.

Even if we don’t engage with the process, and just go by the numbers, in a year my wife’s benefit will stop. I work full time, and earn a salary. I’m sure we’ll still be able to eat, but that’s not the problem. My wife’s illness leaves her with no self-esteem. She already considers herself, during the worst of her days, a burden on me, and those around her. The fact that she currently has her own money with which she can contribute to bills, gives her some sense of worth. When that last thing is taken from her, when she feels as worthless as she can, it will be the final act of a government that doesn’t care about her.

So today, while my wife recovers from her ordeal and tries not to slip into a further depression which may last weeks, I am going to start the process of appealing the initial assessment.

We tried to engage this process constructively, we wanted and hoped that we might get some help, and that Greté might get some support to work despite the significant challenges she faces. But it is clear to me that the process itself is not constructive, that actually it doesn’t care about the effect working for a living might have on someone’s health, it cares only about getting that person off benefit and into a job. Should they fall sick again afterwards, or indeed, God forbid, should they become so sick they commit suicide, the process doesn’t care and for a short time at least the person is off benefit and killing themselves slowly in a day job.

I will not allow anyone to make my wife more ill. No matter how healthy she appears day to day, the very act of working for a living could put her life at risk, and I won’t allow it to happen. Ironically, if she were in work right now, she’d be signed off sick due to the anxiety and additional depression the recent few weeks and months have brought on.

You may feel I am being melodramatic. I have no idea how much you know about mental illness, depression, anxiety or any of the other issues that myself and my wife live with on a day to day basis, but I promise you, there is no exaggeration here, no drama for the sake of it.
Just an amazing wife who suffers from a terrible, invisible illness.

I do not know what I expect you to do with this letter, I guess I just mostly want you to know how current policy is affecting real people.

Thanks for taking the time to read this.”

Apr 202015
 

My wife suffers from Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia) and does not work.  We appealed a decision to move her into the ESA Work-Related Activity Group in 2013, and that appeal was successful.  This is the e-mail Greté wrote, and rather than writing some long blog posts about Greté’s illness, I’m posting this to give you an idea of what she battles with daily.  Tomorrow, I’ll post a letter I wrote (but then never sent) to my local MP.  I’ll explain why I never sent it in that post.

Again for clarity, this letter is from and about Greté.

Dear Sir / Madam,

On the 6th November 2013 I (Greté) was placed into the ESA Work-Related Activity Group. I am writing to you, to formally ask you to look at the decision again.

I do not believe enough consideration has been given to my mental health and how both looking for work and then trying to hold down a job will affect me.

I tried to answer the questions in the questionnaire honestly, but feel they have not been reviewed fully in context. For example, I would not be able to attend job interviews on my own, and would be unlikely to be able to attend my first day at any new job on my own either. Which prospective employer is prepared to let me attend my first day at work with my husband or someone else I trust so that I don’t have a panic attack? Which employer would let me attend with someone for the first 2 or 3 months until I built up enough confidence and trust in the place of work and the people present so that I could go on my own? Who could even spare the time to attend with me in that situation? That is the reality of my mental health. Can I go to the local Tesco on my own? Yes, because I have been there literally hundreds of times before with my husband. Could I go to a shop I have never been in before? No, and if I were made to it is likely I would suffer a panic attack before I even made it in through the door.

My conditions (dysthymia, panic disorder, agoraphobia) are not cured. I am not well. I suffer from those conditions every day. At best, I manage my surroundings to try and contain the symptoms and ensure I don’t dip into a double depression. I thought that the work-related activity group would include support and counselling to enable me to begin to move towards the process of looking for work. However, in discussion with the Job Centre Plus staff (I attended the interview with my husband) it is clear that level of support does not exist. At best, the process would help me looking for work, but looking for work is not and has never been the issue. As it happens, I had a panic attack during that interview, despite the presence of my husband, and only his presence stopped me leaving the building. Instead, I just sat and cried uncontrollably throughout the whole interview.

The issue with the mental illness that I suffer with daily is that I can not deal with change, stress or pressure, and under those situations I am likely to have a panic attack and essentially ‘run out’ of the workplace. Perhaps, through some miracle, that would be tolerated once or twice, but it would lead to difficult conversations with the company, and those conversations in their own right would lead to more stress and anxiety.

Ultimately these situations would inevitably lead to further depression, self harm and potentially suicidal thoughts. I know this, because it is exactly what happened the last time I tried working in the late 1990’s. I ran out of the work place after suffering a panic attack on my first day, and the following months were some of the deepest depression I have ever suffered, including suicidal thoughts, which led to referral to a psychiatrist.

Although my condition is now fully diagnosed and managed day to day with medication, that only allows me to operate literally day to day. The pressure of work, interview rejection, deadlines, change, and social interaction would inevitably cause the symptoms of my ever present illness to flare up.

The mere thought terrifies me. The whole process of engagement from the ESA terrifies me. In the last month, my desire to self harm has never been stronger and it is only the safety of my own home and family that has helped me rein those feelings in.

I urge you to reconsider my case and place me in the Support Group.

Apr 142015
 

Polling_station_6_may_2010Here’s what I want.

I want a society that protects those who can’t protect themselves.
That supports those who can’t support themselves.
That helps those that can’t help themselves.

No matter the fiscal cost. I want to pay tax so that someone who can’t work can have an acceptable standard of living.

I reject the idea that the country is full of scroungers.

Frankly, I don’t care if there are scroungers, because for every thief there are many, many, thousands of legitimate people in need.

I want a government that ‘interferes’ enough to keep people alive, housed, warm and fed. I want a government that gets the fuck out of my private life.

I want a government that has scientific integrity.

And most of all, I want an NHS that gives the worlds best care to everyone who walks through the door – no matter the cost.

It’s not hard

(Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/25834786@N03/4585036818)

Feb 122015
 

I’m sure there are a hundred blog posts about playing evil characters in D&D games.  I’ve read some.  I just wanted to get my own theory down in writing.

Firstly, and most obviously, D&D is generally about playing heroes and heroines, and neither of those tend towards evil.  Yes, some great heroes and heroines have been a touch vengeful, and some have done things you might consider rather naughty, but they tend to get redeemed at the end.  If you’re starting out evil and your intent is to roleplay seeking redemption, congratulations, you’ve found the only time I’d be comfortable letting someone do it, and it won’t be easy.

Otherwise, I don’t think you should play evil characters in D&D.  Some people disagree.

Apart from the issue of heroes and heroines though, I think the real problem for me is that people playing evil characters don’t actually mean evil, they mean chaotic, or troublesome, or selfish, or greedy.  Those aren’t purely evil traits.  There are plenty of good people in the world who are selfish.  Plenty of greedy people who are inherently good.  Plenty of people who cause chaos but don’t have a bad bone in their body.  Yes, in the polarised D&D world most evil people tend towards being selfish and greedy, but they aren’t exclusive owners of those sins.

Evil people do evil things.  Not mean things.  Not naughty things.  Not unpleasant things.  Actual, evil things.

People who want to play evil characters should have to recount their childhood when they grew up killing the neighbouring villager’s pets.  Or, how they betrayed their own brother and threw him down a well at the age of 7.  Or you know, evil stuff.

Evil is the thing we should be fighting against.  Evil is all the shit that’s wrong in this world and every fantasy world there has ever been.  Evil is the great tyrant.  There’s no space in heroic adventuring parties for people who are pretend-evil, and actual evil people wouldn’t last long enough to make it out of the tavern with their first job.

Jan 302015
 

wallpaper_BeholderI really wasn’t that impressed with 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons.  To be fair, I’d pretty much stopped playing by the time it was released, and only got to play a few fitful sessions.  I spent more time playing 3rd Edition (and 3.5), but no where near as much time as I spent playing 2nd Edition AD&D.

The MMO origins in 4th Edition were clearly evident, and the intent to ‘gamify’ the game to make it appeal to MMO players was both interesting and also frustrating.  It become more mechanical than 3rd Edition without any major advantage and utterly obscured the roleplaying aspect behind book-keeping.  Not everyone will agree, naturally.

When I heard about D&D Next, or 5th Edition I wasn’t really that excited.  We didn’t have time to play anyway, the friends we played with had mostly moved away, and I’d become a bit disillusioned.  Spending a good number of hours to prepare for a game you only played two or three times a year was hard and not doing enough prep meant the games weren’t as enjoyable for anyone as they should be.  We tried Warhammer FRP, we tried Call of Cthulhu and we tried D&D 4th Edition, but nothing had stuck, so 5th Edition seemed like it had come too late.

However, I read the freely released PDF’s when I got around to it – and they’re exciting.  They’re exciting because they garner a feeling in me similar to that when I read the original Dungeons & Dragons Basic (red) and Expert (blue) books.  Here was a light set of rules, that supported play, but encouraged roleplay.

Gone are mandatory 5 foot squares and military precision during combat, back is the option for purely narrative combat, but with the added light-weight structure if you want or need it.

At the same time, a friend introduced us to Roll20 (http://www.roll20.net), which doesn’t look perfect, but looks good enough to actually do some roleplaying without needing to be in the same room as all of the other players.

So for the first time in a long time I’m excited about roleplaying and I’m especially excited about it being Dungeons & Dragons, which is how I got into this hobby in the first place.

monstermanual_th_0

Oct 272014
 

Saxophone BuskerI think I’m improving at the whole photography lark.  I mean clearly, I still have a very long way to go before I can consider myself ‘good’, but I’m certainly better than I was a year ago.  Ironically, a lot of the photographs I’ve taken in the last year are worse, to my eye, than those I took in previous years with the bridge camera and the little point and click.  There’s a reason for that, in fact, there’s probably two reasons.

Firstly, I’m taking photographs in situations where I wouldn’t normally take them, and I need to learn how to do that successfully.  For example, walking around a city centre trying to take pictures of people.  I never really did that with any previous camera and so the first few (hundred thousand) times the pictures turn out a bit shit.  Secondly, I’m in control of much more of the picture now – and that means I fuck it up more often.

With the bridge, it was a pretty decent camera, and I shot most (all?) of the time in what was referred to as Program AE.  That mode automatically picks an aperture and shutter speed that will correctly expose the image.  I never even looked at shutter speed and aperture on the bridge, I just let the camera pick them (and ISO, I’m not even sure it ever showed me what the ISO was on any particular shot).

Windows to the SoulThe result is that I spent more time thinking about composure and making sure I was focussed in the right place, and less time wondering if I had the ‘right’ aperture, shutter speed, ISO, etc.  So I’m having to train myself to think of those things, and change them when necessary, and that means sometimes I don’t and the shot is crap, or I think about them too much and miss the shot I wanted.

However, when I get everything lined up, composition, aperture, shutter speed, ISO, hand-shake, focus, the shots are better than I could have ever gotten out of the bridge or the point and click – so while some of my output is worse, when it works, it’s significantly better, and I’m really proud of some shots as actual pieces of photographic art.

Young LoveI’m also getting to grips with Lightroom and RAW post-processing, something which was super daunting at the outset, and also lead to a number of ‘it’s worse than I used to do’ moments.  Image processing, even in the bridge camera, was pretty good, so the JPG output was pretty good (low sensor size and pixel count not withstanding).  Certainly, the 600D’s JPG process is pretty excellent, and for the first few weeks of shooting in RAW and JPG, it was really hard work to make myself process the RAWs because the JPGs were so good.

The best thing I ever did was give up JPG totally, because that crutch was stopping me from learning to do the processing myself.  Now that I’m confident about getting an acceptable basic image, being able to fine tune it for artistic and aesthetic purposes is a really exciting part of the process for me.

Skateboard Love PhotoshopOne of the most frustrating issues for me early on, was low light situations.  I don’t mean ‘night time’, I mean days without bright sunshine.  You don’t realise how much compensating bridge cameras or point and clicks are doing, and how much they’re slowing the shutter speed down in order to get enough light into those shots.  So for a long time, I was shooting in low light conditions with shutter speeds which were far too slow, and getting very blurry shots even with expensive lenses.  That was very off-putting.  In combination with that, I’d been ‘pixel peeking’ images a lot.

Pixel peeking is basically blowing an image up to a size on your monitor no one would ever actually view the image at (say, 100%), and then deciding how blurry or how much noise there was based on a really exaggerated section.  In the real world, people are likely going to be looking at JPG’s, at their monitor’s native resolution which pretty much makes lots of images look better than they do at 100%.

When I was shooting in low light and using high ISO’s, I was distressed at the amount of noise in the images when looking at them blown up to 100%.  At regular sizes, they looked fine, but I couldn’t get over the 100% view.  So I avoided shooting with high ISOs, but that meant long shutter speeds, and that meant blurry shots which also looked terrible at 100%, and not as good at regular viewing sizes.

Nice Hat!It was a throw-away line in a magazine I was reading which saved me from this.  A reader had written in to a photography advice column, and asked which setting was more important, aperture or shutter speed.  The query was aimed more at an artistic point of view I think.  Anyway, the staff writer who answered the question basically said that aperture (which affects depth of field, as well as the exposure) never ruined a photo1, but a too-slow shutter speed was a definite cause of rubbish shots.  In essence, shutter speed matters more than aperture if you want ‘acceptable’ images.  They might not have the artistic aesthetic you were aiming for, but they’ll have sharp edges.

Despite this being obvious advice, it really resonated with me, and a few days later while I was out shooting some street photography in Sheffield, I used ISO’s of up to 1600 to ensure I was getting shutter speeds faster than the rule of thumb required for the focal lengths I was using.  When I got back, I was really pleased to see that most of the shots were sharp.  Sure, blowing them up to 100% showed a lot of noise, but using noise reduction in Lightroom and viewing them at regular sizes, especially as JPGs, hid all that noise, or at least reduced it to the point where it’s a part of the image, not ruining it.

That gives me the chance to get out in a much broader range of situations and take pictures and that can only be a good thing.  Obviously, there’ll be times when even ISO 1600 or 3200 won’t be enough to cope with the light at shutter speeds I’m comfortable at, so I still need to practice holding the camera and not shaking as much, but generally, I’m feeling much more confident after the last few days.

So I’m still thinking about the shots, and I’m still getting the wrong combination of settings at times, or missing the moment, or over-reaching, but I’m enjoying it and I’m learning so much.  It’s a lot of fun!

  1. clearly you could debate this, but in general, I get what he was saying []
Oct 272014
 

In 2013, I started writing a blog post about my experience going to the MCM London Comic Con 2013 in May.  However, I started it in such a way that it took far too much effort to finish, and hence it languished here in my drafts folder.  Rather then let it rot, I’m just posting it as-is, without any additional editing.  It’s all over the place, out of sync in terms of timelines, and a bizarre mix of narrative styles.  I make no apologies (except for this one).


The quality of the light outside has changed.  Gone is the pitch dark of night, replaced by an ever hopeful dawn glow.  The much promised sunrise is not far away now, and the birds are all poised, ready, waiting.  Two cats begin to stir; confident another day will begin much like all the rest.

But this is no ordinary dawn, this is will be no ordinary day, and 20 minutes before the sun rises properly the silence is shattered by an alarm clock.  Harsh, electronic, loud.  From beneath the duvet, hidden from the cold of the previous evening, a hand snakes out.  It would be easy, once the noise has stopped, to pretend it had never started.  To hide, to retreat, to leave the dawn to the cats and the birds.  So very easy.  On any other day perhaps.  On a week day, or a normal weekend, at 7:00 maybe, to wait for another 10 minutes before the alarm goes off a second time.

But not this day.  After the hand, an arm, and following the arm, a torso, and before you know it, an entire person has crawled out from beneath the duvet’s warm refuge.  Blinking in the dim, but increasingly confident dawn light, barely able to make out the digits on the alarm clock, the voice that belongs to the face, that is attached to the body, which has just emerged, croaks out, “Four thirty, time to get up.”

Silence.  A pause, a breath to speak again, but just then, a response, “okay”, voice muffled by the same duvet, another person speaks out.  Another arm, some legs and then another entire person escapes from the captivating duvet.

It’s 04:30, and our trip to Comic Con is about to begin.

I’ve never been to a comic, movie or anime convention before.  I’ve been to a board game convention, but it was a while ago, and it was quite small.  I see pictures of the San Diego Comic Con or DragonCon each year and suffer pangs of jealousy.

So I was happy to go with Greté to this years MCM London Comic Con (2013), to see what all the fuss was about, and maybe take some photo’s of people in impressive costume.  Overall, it was a mixed experience, enjoyable, but with other emotions smushed in.  Here’s how it played out!

Firstly, the actual tickets are very reasonably priced, we wanted to go only for Saturday, since we couldn’t stay over anywhere, and the only real things we had on the agenda were a chance to see Mark Meer (the voice of Commander Shepard, among other things) and for Greté to meet Emma Vieceli (illustrator of the Vampire Academy graphic novels, among other things).  However, in terms of cost, the actual event tickets are the minor part.  The travel (train) was £140 for the pair of us, despite booking around 6 weeks in advance.  Some of that is because we wanted to be able to go early, and come back any time we liked without being tied to a specific train.  Our tickets also included all travel across London.  Still, that’s a fair whack for a day out.  The other issue, and this is something you can mitigate if you plan better than I did, was food and drink.  We were in London all day, and either in the convention or in train stations, let’s say that just ‘having a bite to eat’ was a rather expensive process.

The sun eventually rises.  The cats have been fed and are clearly confused, it’s too early for them to even beg to go out, so they put themselves back to bed, oblivious to the fact that they’ll be indoors all day.  Bags are packed and ready.  Two sets of tickets (self printed at home, two sets in case one set is lost), train tickets, portable pharmacy, cameras, extra batteries, a kindle.

The streets are empty, it’s 05:20 and no human in their right mind is out wandering this early on a Saturday morning.  The sun has risen, and the sky promises a dry and bright day.  We stop at the road before crossing, a habit, a good one, but wasted this early.  There are no cars, I wonder briefly if I am in Shaun of the Dead.  There is anticipation now, a definite sense of something about to happen.

Early entry tickets allowed you to gain entry from 9am, two hours before the general opening times.  We had to get from St Pancras to the Excel by tube.  Greté doesn’t like the tube, I hate being in a rush, and we didn’t want to get stuck in a huge queue at the event – and that meant only one thing.

05:35 train to London!

So we got up at 04:30, put on our favourite genre t-shirts (no costume for us, this year at least, because 6 weeks isn’t enough time to do anything justice), and headed south.  The train was almost empty (although there were more people on it than I thought there’d be) and we arrived on time, in London at around 07:30.  We grabbed some (expensive) breakfast, and got the tube and DLR over to the Excel.  We saw one person on the tube we hoped was in-costume (otherwise her working day must be exciting), and by the time we got onto the DLR it was clear we were going the right way.  Our carriage was shared with some anime characters and at least one superhero.

Once we arrived the Excel station, it was obvious we were going the right way as a sea of humanity, heroes, comic book characters, computer game characters, movie heroes and who-knows-what-else slowly streamed in to the Excel halls.  We followed the crowds, had our tickets scanned, and stood in a designated row of people, near the entrance.  We’d made it, in good time (~08:30), and were near the front of the queue.  A steady stream of people followed us in, and as time wore on, that became a flood.  I’m glad we made the choice to head out early.


 

Added today: We queued for a while, we finally got in.  We met up with friends.  We spent so much of the day walking around that I litterally had to go and see the doctor a week later because my little toe on the my left foot was still numb.  I took a lot of pictures, some of them were even okay ( https://www.flickr.com/photos/eightbittony/sets/72157635466091441/ ).  It was fun, but very hard work, and although I’m not sure I’d look good in *any* costume, I think if I go again, I might make the effort.

Aug 182014
 

I’m trying to avoid reading any spoilers about the whole Wheel of Time series.  My intent is to finish the books before I learn any of the significant details about how it all turns out.  This is mainly because my anger, and reason for stopping when the books were new, is that it appeared Jordan wasn’t going to answer any of the questions he himself had raised.  I now hope that Brandon has, but I want to RAFO, not see too many spoilers.

That means I have to be careful when searching the web to see if any of my new theories, spawned during my re-read, are original.  I risk finding out that they’re true or false but only based on later stuff I’ve not read.

So here’s a couple of random thoughts that may be true or disproved already.

One Man – Three Bodies

Lews Therin was a mighty man, battle leader, strong in the One Power, etc.  However, Rand doesn’t really seem to know much about battle, no reason he should, he’s quite young.  He is however very strong in the One Power.  Mat on the other hand, can’t channel, but has come into the possession of an awful lot of knowledge that makes him a great battle leader.  I’m not totally sure where Perrin fits in yet.  But perhaps this time, the Wheel has spun out three men, all ta’veren, and split the skills between them.  This seems to have confused the response from the evil guys, never knowing if they should be killing all three, or working with all three.  It’s almost as if the Light needed a way to get an edge.

One Woman – Three Bodies

If the theory of Lews Therin is true, I wonder if the Wheel has spat out Ilyena Sunhair as multiple women?  Perhaps Elayne, Min and Aviendha?