Camping and Growing Up

New Forest SkyI miss camping.

All though my twenties, every weekend through the summer, old battle sites and new pub gardens, gleeful in our naïveté and never really understanding how fortunate we were… how many people get to walk the ruins of Whitby Abbey as the sky sinks and darkens overhead?

After living in London for so long, going to the New Forest and being back with the firelight and the open sky is a poignant reminder of how it felt to be carefree and twenty-four.

Add a ten-year-old son and a couple of wandering ponies, and a weekend away from every type of flatscreen is a very welcome thing.

Let There Be...I’ve missed the stars you can see when there’s no light pollution, and the sweet smell of the air in the morning. I’ve missed the haphazard cookery and the mess tins of tea. Hell, I’ve even missed the flooded tent and the pissing rain – on a British Bank Holiday weekend, you can’t do this stuff by halves.

Old SarumThe weekend included a hot day at Old Sarum (I’m sure we’ve camped in there too, at some point), where there was much foolishness and freeform Medieval Jenga, plus a visit to Salisbury Cathedral to light a votive candle for mum and to rescue an injured Pipistroll bat – and a bonus and slightly unexpected viewing of the Magna Carta.

Best Place For Him!There was the marvellous experience of sitting under our brolly drinking wine while the rain poured down all round is, and the lightning flashed under the clouds.

And on the Sunday, there was a lot of wet kit, a child tearing off round the site on his bicycle, despite the rain, and an afternoon of submarines in Gosport…

P1050406Sometimes, things in your life fall by the wayside – without you ever quite knowing how it happened. Things changed, you got too busy, and you just… didn’t get round to it.

And sometimes, having just a moment of these things back is a wonder without words.

Growing up is necessary, responsibilities are unavoidable.

But don’t lose track of the stuff that matters.

My 2012 Review of the Year

So, Ecko we pretty much know about. What else has happened during 2012?

Rain. It started when we got back from EasterCon and it fucking rained until the end of July. Between all the water, and London being awash with the Jubilee and the Olympics, perhaps this was the right summer to be fingers welded to keyboard, frantically trying to edit one book and hand in a second on time. In amidst the frenzy, there was one wonderful weekend at MidFest – a weekend in the best company, where I found family I’d not seen in far too long, and remembered a part of myself I’ve never really left behind.


Cats. In January, while during Jury Service, my poor bonkers Lilith finally went to sleep – and I missed her more than I thought possible. Fifteen years, one of my last links with my simpler life in Norwich, she left a cat-shaped vacuum that had me roaming the house, lost without her company. This vacuum led to new cat company in April – which has been something of an adventure. I still miss my Lilith, but can’t bear a house empty of creatures.


Bikes. Facing a maniacal summer of book deadlines (and rain), finding the time to pedal was not an easy thing. Once Ecko was sorted, though, I got back in the saddle – only to have my bike written off by a tosser in a Range Rover, speeding through a red light at a major junction. He would have killed me had I been a few inches further forwards.


Which brings me to the big thing, the thing I don’t really have words for.

My Mum has had cancer this year – had it, beaten it, come out healthier than she went in (takes more than the Big C to defeat my Mum). For a moment, there though, that was a terrifying thing – losing one’s Mum doesn’t even bear thinking about. And it hasn’t only been Mum – I’ve had a slew of friends this year who’ve had a cancer scare of one form or other, one at least staring his own mortality in the face.

Books are cool. Rain and deadlines are all very well.

But 2012 has been about mortality. Facing a scrape with my own, seeing Mum in a hospital bed after having several yards of intestine removed, knowing close friends have hospital appointments that tread a tight line between life and death…

Lilith left a vacuum. I feel very, very lucky that my Mum didn’t leave one too.




The Midland History Festival

What do you get when you see old friends for the first time in over a decade?  When you find yourself back in the arms of your family, in a place that your heart never really left?

What do you get if you throw in the regular ‘fives’ rhythm of training steel, the sounds of the smith’s forge, the smell of woodsmoke at night and new grass in the early morning?  The familiar rollercoaster of beer and combat, music and dancing, the fine meads of the Troll’s Bottom (you know what I mean) and the fast bodran of Greenman Rising.

Throw in being cleavaged by the Troll’s curvy wenches (don’t ask), a little woad, a lot of grease, and an excessively well-timed thunderstorm – and it seems that I’m back in the Vike.

There’s an old saying – you know who your friends are, because when you see them, no time has passed. It may be a dozen years, you may be a little greyer round the temples and wider through the middle, but you can pick up exactly where you left off. After that first wide-eyed moment of absolute culture shock, nothing had changed.

As we discovered in the car, insanity has bandwidth – you’ll know where it is, because it’s where your friends live.

‘Blue Bum’: What’s in a Nickname?

I went back to Norwich last weekend – to catch up with some of my oldest mates. Mates from carefree days of deadend jobs, shared houses, Viking re-enactment and loooong nights of gaming. Mates with whom I’ve shared dreams beyond the describing of them.

In that time, we acquired many nicknames. Among mine: Mog, Authentika the lycra Viker (something about wearing a swimsuit with a swordbelt, (hey I was young!)) and yes, the lovely piece of calligraphy above, done by my friend Alan. It actually says Danie Ware Blue Bum (another swimsuit story, this one to do with a hot day and chemical toilet and a barely-covered arse…)

@Danacea, btw, is a mix of Danie, Danae and Panacea. The only person who ever twigged it first time was Frank Wu. Go figure!

Posting this gift of art and memory on twitter last night raised some interesting responses: –

@tomiwk – in the next episode of “Neon Genesis Evangelion”…
@tompl – Eeny, meeny, miny, moe.
@Disrepdog – it’s from the underground, says “mind the gap” :)
@Surfingsue – I reckon it’s subliminal advertising ‘Buy more comics’ ;-)
@mkhall – “Objects in trousers are smaller than they appear.”
@Loudmouthman – Its clearly an extract from the ancient chinese love text showing sex positions
@125f8 – ‘good time down town tonight’ ..
@DavidTouchette – If it’s yellow, let it mellow. ??
@geosteph – Hare today, Goon tomorrow (from “little bunny Foo Foo)
@clobberTr0n – it means “Jedi love with your favourite song”
@neverwhere – おなまえわ?でも ダニワレが谷吾じゃなあいですね ;-)
@DC_Zol – “Off to the Pub, Dinner is in the Panda”? (sorry, thinking Ranma 1/2)
@AnnOhio – Three guys walk into a bar….
@twig84 – the language settings on your iPhone are fucked.
@Nubenu – “All men are bastards”?
@Herne – “May you live in interesting times” ? ;P
@daphneblake – ‘Lord Voldemort will rise again and sell Jaff cakes at the market’?

Plus a particular mention for Paul Cornell for not hitting too wide of the mark: –

@Paul_Cornell – there’s three and blue in there.

Seeing all these got me wondering… why do people pick particular combinations of initials and/or dates? Why do people choose to go just with their own names, or with a nickname? Why do others go with the modern textspk principle of abbreviation, numeration and punctuation… was it just because the name they wanted had already gone?

Rhetorical question :)

Anyway, the winner is @Disrepdog, not only because her own choice of nickname is so cool – but because ‘mind the gap’ is entirely appropriate to the whole ‘chemical toilet’ incident…

The moral of the story? Other people will not necessarily give you the nicknames you’d choose for yourself… but they remain, down the years, and can bring you back the best of memories.

Danie Blue Bum
A nickname that’s still engraved on my old Zippo lighter.