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"I've served you before," the woman at the ticket counter in Piccadilly said when I said yes thanks I was fine changing at Huddersfield, I'm used to it. "Because not many people want to go to Brighouse, she explained, as if to offer a reason (maybe one that wasn't "oh yeah, you're the blind one"). "Yeah, boyfriend, Brighouse, you're an old hand at this aren't you," she said and we both smiled.

She handed me my tickets and said "poor thing, can't you get him to move closer?" My smile changed to that of someone who'd just remembered she is presumed monogamous.

But even without that, why say I should make I'm move here, why couldn't I move there? I'd love Brighouse as a place to live if it didn't mean being so far away from the rest of my friends.

Even if it weren't for the fact that we've both got established households where we are, I don't really mind traveling to visit. Yes it'd be nice sometimes to just be able to see somebody for an hour or whatever or without having to plan it, but I like the train journey (in the daytime at least) and I think the change of scenery does me a lot of good.So much that at first I was wary of how much I liked James, recognizing the possibility that part of what I liked was an afternoon's vacation from my normal life every week.

Turns out I do like that but James is even better than I thought he was at first.
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For my birthday present this year, [personal profile] magister bought my ticket to Haunted Studies: The Ghost Stories of M.R. James. We'd been along to the tail end of this last year, when [personal profile] sir_guinglain was interviewing Lawrence Gordon Clark before the showing of one of the things he directed, A Warning to the Curious. We had free wine and it was the first time I'd seen any of those "ghost stories for Christmas" kinds of things (heretical foreigner that I am; I got the box set last Christmas/birthday, though, so I shall catch up eventually and be ever-closer to a proper person, don't worry British friends), so I had a great night.

The venue added a lot to it, too: the conference was held at The Leeds Library...not a public library, a subscription library. It's small and picturesque, a great atmosphere for the kinds of people who go to M.R. James conferences -- be they academics like [personal profile] sir_guinglain and [livejournal.com profile] strange_complex or not, like [personal profile] magister and me. The four of us went along this year, and had a great time.

The four of us all went along to the whole day conference this time, and really enjoyed it. First we heard from the chief exec of the Leeds Library, an unassuming guy who told us about the history of the place -- longest-surviving subscription library in the country, able to be so because it built itself above a couple of shops that it also built, from which it gets some income. As wonderful a thing as it was, I'm glad he didn't seem at all precious about it. "You won't find a white glove in the place," he said, and the books were clearly there to be used. I hate it when you see books on shelves behind glass or otherwise reduced to a decoration, a status symbol, or a way for some kinds of rooms to tell you what they are; it makes me sad to see the books denied their useful purpose. That was certainly not the case here; we even had drinks and lunch (sandwiches and fruit were catered for everyone) in admist all the books. And readers! The library was open its usual hours (just with signs saying the New Room was being used by the conference); people were reading newspapers and chatting and taking books out as we meandered about on our breaks and lunch. By the morning break, I think, [personal profile] magister was already talking about wanting to present a paper next year, and he had a couple of great ideas for one. Conversations about which, and the kind of company and environment I was in, woke up long-dormant English-major parts of my brain and made me probably over-enthusiastically offer to help.

[livejournal.com profile] strange_complex seemed to know most of the people there, through the Dracula Society she belongs to, or I guess just living in Leeds and being the kind of person who'd like a conference about M.R. James...either way there were always friendly people to be introduced to and chat to during the breaks as well. There was also Art to look at, in the form of a work-in-progress Haunted Dollhouse (from the James story of the same name, natch) that lit up and everything, and a M.R. James-themed top-trumps card game called Monsters & Miscreants, which is even more beautiful in real life than the (somewhat-unfortunately-rendered, for me at least) website makes it look. I ended up buying a copy for [personal profile] magister (having to leave my cup of tea in a rush at the afternoon break, having heard that the guy'd almost sold out all that he'd brought with him), and the four of us ended up playing it in the pub (where I couldn't resist a pint of the Ghost ale due to the force of nominative rectitude, and very tasty it was too!)that evening before we had to catch a train back home.

It was a fun game, and it's really beautiful as well. We ended up missing our first train so had time for another pint and a lot more laughing and me shouting things like "Guardian of the Treasure!" which I'm sure made everyone in Foleys think we're even weirder than we are.

My favorite speaker of the day was Jacqueline Simpson, who talked about folklore. She started out by saying that people always expect folklore to be some grand dame telling stories to a collection of children sitting on the floor in her little cottage -- that the best stories are always thought to be two generations in the past, to have happened to our grandparents -- and ended up making me and at least one other person I chatted to think that she should be that grand dame and we wanted to hear her stories. She's also the person who co-wrote The Folklore of Discworld, which I'd read part of a few years ago, the person about whom the story that'd stuck in my mind, from the book's prologue about how Terry met her when he was going through a time of asking everybody in book-signing queues how many rhymes about magpies they knew, got a pause from her and an answer I can't remember but somewhere in the high teens. She was very interesting on the subject of how James's stories fit or differed from Danish folklore, particularly -- the padlocks in "Count Magnus" and the post in "The Rose Garden" are the ones I particularly remember (I meant to write this up much sooner, before I'd forgotten quite so much, but life has not been friendly to me lately).

My favorite part of the day was watching [personal profile] magister wander around the books in the library during all the breaks, eventually inquiring how much membership cost and how it worked. It ended up being one of those things where you can pay an instalment each month....except for the first year, which they want all of up front. I well recognized the kind of problem this left him with -- basically another kind of Vimes's Economic Law of Boots: he could pay the monthly fee easily, but couldn't pay enough to get to the monthly payments in the first place. After I checked the logistics with Andrew, though, I was glad to be able to tell him we could help him out, and that he could pay us back one month at a time. So by the wine reception at the end of this year's conference (there was no director to interview or film to watch this time; there was some kind of video art installation but basically the evening finished a lot earlier this year than it had last), he was disappearing among the books with a much more note-taking air about him, clearly piling things up in his memory to be taken out, and with many hugs and thank-yous to me for helping make this possible.

It was more than worth it to see the look on his face -- plus he's brought me along as a guest twice already now. That I live an impractical distance from Leeds is the only reason I didn't keep the membership for myself; I am in love with that place almost as much as he is I swear. Both times I've been with him to look around, I've eventually had to stop and sit and wait for him because I feel buried under the sheer weight of books I really really want to read there!

Of course I know there are other libraries available -- one at the end of my road now, for which I've even managed to get a library card (not having had one of those since I frequented Withington Library, according to the details on the computer system), but that library's not as big, not as well-loved, and not even as staffed: as with so many things, there's starting to be a big difference when you go private! Which might be there's something of a resurgance in subscription libraries (there is a lovely picture of the room we had the conference in from Leeds Library in that article).

The whole thing had got me thinking there must be a subscription library closer than Leeds...and I should've known having seen the sign for it often enough when I'm in one of my very favorite pubs in the city centre, but it's The Portico Library, which also has public areas like a gallery and a café. I've often thought I should check it out but I haven't yet.

Anyway, [personal profile] magister was showing everyone his M.R. James Top Trumps the next day, he's taken at least his own weight in books out of the library in his many trips there so far, I've not only sped through The Folklore of Discworld (liking it all the more now that I'm able to imagine bits in both authors' voices) but I'm reading other stuff thanks to [twitter.com profile] FolkloreThurs and everything it links to... I think it's fair to say this day left a pretty big impression on us. I'm really glad we got to go.
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So it turns out 70s TV The Incredible Hulk is a thing.

James and I are watching it and he says "I love how he turns into the Hulk when he gets 'angry or outraged.' "

"Good thing they didn't have Twitter then," I said.

"I was gonna say: 'Damn, someone's been misgendered!...oh shit. I really liked that shirt...' "

I then imagined a comic or something about Hulk spending his evenings mending shirts, thinking to himself "this is the one where [twitter.com profile] DHLinton got called 'a fucking feminatzi' and they thought there was a t in the middle of the word 'nazi'...this was the one I was wearing when I learned that Chibnall got the Doctor Who job, this one is where England lost three wickets in the time it took me to eat breakfast..."

The possibilities are endless.
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It's been a busy, sometimes weird, but I think mostly-good week.

Saturday I spent six hours in the car, keeping Stuart company on a road trip to pick up something drum-related. I love riding shotgun for things like this. We listened to a CD of Squeeze's greatest hits and shouted at the satnav and generally had a fun, if tiring time. When we got back I bought us takeaway and we watched a splendidly horrible 50s-style B-movie, one of those about radioactive monsters.

Sunday Andrew and I went to the cinema, I already told you about The Good Dinosaur.

Monday I seemed to spend all on buses. Andrew needed a replacement bit of his CPAP mask, which had broken on Friday night so we'd had a few nights of terrible sleep before the Sleep Service at Wythenshawe hospital was open again. The hospital's a pain to get to by public transport from here, though: you can avoid the frustration of getting unfamiliar buses and it taking two or three to get there by getting a bus that's pretty direct but only goes once an hour. I didn't mind the length of the journey there -- it winds through the part of West Didsbury we first lived in after we got married, and since I never have reason to go back there now it's strange to see things that remind me of a not-terribly-happy time in my life, when I was broke and lonely and really mental most of the time. But by the way back, after a 40-minute wait for the return bus, I was lulled by the tedium and the nights of poor sleep into dozing off and waking up at the end of the route -- which luckily is close to my friend JT's house, so I stopped in for a cup of tea and helping his six-year-old with his homework before coming back home.

Tuesday morning I was on the radio! I also had a nasty panic attack, though, and ended up being on the phone with my friend K most of the time that I was on the radio, so while I heard snippets of it (enough to be weirded out by what my accent apparently sounds like now!), I wouldn't properly listen for a couple days (I have an edited-down recording of just the bisexuality bits of the show, if anybody wants it let me know). I went to Brighouse that afternoon, where [personal profile] magister was happy to help me feel better with cuddles and food and beer. We watched documentaries about David Bowie that James had recorded the evening before. I told James thinking about Bowie had been making me want to watch Life on Mars again, because that show really helped me learn to like some of his music, and just when I was thinking this was a weird reaction James said probably a lot of people could say the same, which was nice because I felt a little less weird.

Wednesday James and I mooched around Bradford for a bit, got lunch from lovely Czerwiks with [personal profile] miss_s_b, and just as I was thinking about falling asleep for the evening, Jennie asked if anyone wanted to go to the pub quiz with her and her parents, so James and I did. It was a lovely pub, cozy and full of dogs, or at least it seemed so in the corner where we were, with Jennie's parents two lovely dogs who I'm glad I finally got to meet. We did really well at the quiz (including knowing Phil Collins was the answer to the question about two seconds after Jennie and James had mentioned him in conversation; their predictive powers didn't work so well after that, which is okay because we didn't nee them) and won some free beer, which was handy as I hadn't brought the cash I thought I had.

Thursday I came back to Manchester with James, who was on his way to see his parents. Since I got into town at just about [livejournal.com profile] diffrentcolours's lunchtime, we went to Koffee Pot together, and had breakfast and coffee to warm up on the bright but freezing day.

And today I've woken up to tiny patches of snow, where the sun hasn't burned them away yet, for the weather is similar. I'm waiting for a bus to take me to a friend's house: he's cooking lunch and we're going to play games, possibly even including the ones I'm bringing for [twitter.com profile] SurvivorKatie because I haven't seen her since I got her Christmas present (and even then the dog tried to chew the cellophane off so they look a bit...well-loved already, but I'm sure she'll understand!).
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[personal profile] magister and I managed to have five or ten minutes of reasonable conversation about Jeremy Corbyn (probably not either the messiah or the death of the Labour Party, we reckon) and the future of his party (dunno yet) before something made me say "And I wish people* would stop comparing him to Bernie Sanders. He's nothing like Bernie Sanders!"

"Yeah." I was relieved to hear James agree with this. But then he added, "His brother doesn't make fried chicken."

We carried on talking about how anyone called Sanders could be Colonel Sanders because we don't know whaat Colonel Sanders' first name is, until James said he really wanted some fried chicken. This is about the level and amount of political commentary I'm happy with, right now.

* Mostly Britsplainers, but I read it in at least one American article too. Parliamentary politics is different enough from presidential politics that I find a good comparison really difficult; the best I've got this afternoon is "Nancy Pelosi but with the hype of 2008-Obama."
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Having told [personal profile] magister I'd rather do things than have things as presents, he arranged for us to go visit his sister and brother-in-law, who live in Hove, for a long weekend.

Yes, nowhere near my birthday. I knew it'd be in the new year. March was the first time everybody's schedules coincided and trains conspired against us then, so it got pushed back a month. Which seemed devastating at the time (my ambitions for this year having led me only to frustration and the conviction that nothing was ever going to get better and I wasn't capable of any of the tasks confronting me...in other words, I really really needed a break), but probably meant we had nicer weather for it than we would've otherwise. Which is good since our interests are mostly wandering around, looking for bookshops and nice pubs and parks to sit in and suchlike.

We arrived not long before James's sister and brother-in-law finished work on the Thursday. I'd seen their house extremely briefly when we were there for their wedding last summer, but this time it really left an impression on me. I loved almost everything about it: the black-and-white paving on the front walk which I said reminded me of dazzle ships, the wooden floor, even how white all the walls were painted.

Having helped and talked with my friends a lot about decorating lately I am compulsively noticing the color of everyone's walls, but I think this would've been striking anyway: everything was white. Which my fellow DIY friends have both described as "cold" or "clinical" lately, but to me this looked simple, clean and elegant and bright, especially with the ridiculous amounts of sunshine that greeted our arrival. I spent the whole weekend admiring this and wanting to make it work in my house, though I fear we, and our house, are too scruffy to pull it off.

I do want these shutters, though.



This isn't a great picture of them (oh look, there's my finger in the corner of the shot; I am so good at this) but hopefully you get the idea. They can be folded over the windows, and the slats on each section can easily be turned to whatever angle you want, too. It'd get rid of the horrible net curtains (which Andrew insists on but I hate), would keep us from slowly pulling the horrible curtains off the horrible curtain hooks, and just make me really happy, I think.

Our white room had (in addition to more of these shutters) a lush white duvet and white towels neatly laid out on it when we arrived. I could easily have believed I was staying in a B&B. Only it was, for me, way better than a B&B: it wasn't bed and breakfast, it was bed and dinner. I got my own cornflakes and tea for breakfast, but I couldn't help with dinner beyond the extent to which hanging out in the kitchen with a glass of wine and chatting was help. Of course there are few things I love more than someone else cooking for me, but even so I luxuriated in the food and drink I got this weekend.

[personal profile] magister and I even managed to find a great Italian restaurant that gave us simple food made from amazing ingredients at a price that didn't make our poor northern wallets cry. (Poor James was horrified at the price of the beer we got while waiting in London between trains, and at everything in Brighton. I knew Brighton was as bad as London but this kept coming as a shock to him.)

That was on the Friday, when we were on our own while normal people were working. We walked from Hove to Brighton. Having been given the directions "go to the seafront and turn left," we only realized when we left the house that no one had exactly told us what direction the sea was in. James said we could stop and ask anyone and I said I was not going to go up to a stranger and say "Where is the sea?" Anyway we struck out and found we were heading in more or less the right direction.

We walked along the seafront until I started recognizing stuff from the other time I've been in Brighton, Autumn Liberal Democrat Conference in 2012. I loved Brighton then: getting up at eight to be on the LGBT+ Lib Dems stall by nine, talking to people all day who thought we already had equal marriage or wondering what the acronym stood for, wanting all of Jen's badges (especially "Vince was right" and "coalicious," though), getting Jeremy Browne's photo taken in front of our banner holding a little teddy bear, forgetting to eat, arguing with people on one subject and agreeing vehemently with them on the next, shouting Awkward-Squad things in the debates, having someone (probably [livejournal.com profile] diffrentcolours remind me to eat, going back to [livejournal.com profile] plumsbitch's where I was staying, where he'd have likely made something amazing to eat and we'd stay up until four in the morning drinking wine, listening to music, chatting...and then I'd wake up at eight again the next morning and start the whole process over again. I was almost dead by the end of it, especially after Glee Club that last night, but I loved it.

So anyway, I knew by the time we walked past the cinema it was time to turn left again, off the seafront, because after that it was just tat and fish-and-chips shops, so we walked down what I now know is Queens Road and found a secondhand bookshop and two chocolate shops on the same road. I bought myself a book there on the history of women in the Middle Ages, and then I bought a bunch of chocolate -- I didn't know Montezuma was based in Sussex but having learned this I now think they're keeping all the best stuff for themselves. We bought white chocolate for [personal profile] miss_s_b and mint chocolate to share because that's my favorite, and oh man it was the best mint chocolate I've ever had in my life.

After the lovely Italian lunch, we went to the toy museum.



It was only little, and I was expecting a lot of stuff-I-didn't-recognize, but they had a bunch of trains too so that was all right.





But I got nearly as excited about the freight trains as the passenger ones; my sentimentality about trains knows no limits.





I took this picture thinking I don't know what the Great Dorset Steam Fair might be, but it sounds like I'd like it:



There were dolls and toy kitchen appliances and baby buggies there too, but we of course ignored all that stuff.

We got a bus back and spent a quiet afternoon with TMS on the internet-phone-radio. Helen came home from work, we all went to the pub and then had Lebanese takeaway, which was gorgeous. And an early night, because we're rock-and-roll that way.

Saturday morning we walked to Brighton again, going a different way so that we could look in on Sussex Country Cricket Ground, which we'd seen signs for the previous day and we'd even checked if they had cricket we could go see, but the last match had ended on Wednesday. Still we walked up to it and poked around a bit, took a peek at the grounds through a fence, found an open door and admired some action shots of cricketers and plaques with the names of all the chairmen and captains and England players for the county until someone heard us and told us in the most polite British way to go away, so we did.

On to Brighton, then.

We walked through some markets that seemed half-Camden and half-Longsight to me. There was a shop with a couple of t-shirts I liked, though; one James suggested I get for Andrew that said "Normal People Scare Me" (which would've been true but not at all in the sneering-goth way it was intended by the look of the rest of the shop) and one I wanted for me so much that I'm really sad they only had one in a tiny size.



"It's not about how you look, it's about how you see" seemed particularly apt with me using my still-novel white cane a lot and making tons of comments about how the numbers on buses were easier to see and James noting that I got a lot of double-takes when I walked down the street with my cane in one hand, looking down at my phone in the other. He said he really wanted to stage-whisper at me "You're supposed to be blind!" but didn't because he knows I don't have much of a sense of humor for these things. But we both agreed that's a shame, because it would've been really funny. I worry enough about being thought a scrounger or faker as it is anyway, though, because I use it some-but-not-all the time and because I do stuff (like stare daggers at people who sneak in front of me in queues thinking I won't notice) that "gives away" that I can see at least a little.

We did eventually walk down the pier, either because we hadn't before or because the amusement arcade in it featured toilets we could use; I can't remember which. I didn't take a picture of the almost-life-size plastic cows or the tables with legs that look like cow legs this time, because I was pretty sure I had done that last time, but I couldn't resist a photo of the tin-can-knocking-over game which was decorated with minions.



(For anyone who hasn't seen Despicable Me, this video will illustrate why I wouldn't think you'd want to remind carnival-game players of that movie:


)

Also, at the end of the pier, there was a wagon with steps leading up to it wherein, apparently, you could get a tarot reading.



Ivor. Ivor the tarot wagon.

I bought overpriced doughnuts because they smelled so good, and we ate them walking back up the pier and watching people in those bungee-jump chairs which I'm always tempted to try, but I didn't think they'd be very good on a day when I was wearing a dress.

I did enjoy Brighton, but I felt a bit out of place, too. It's very white and very middle-class, and I'm...not. I mean, I am white, of course, but I feel uneasy in such overwhelmingly white company. I know Brighton prides itself on its diversity but I also know people who find it frustrating or damaging because they're too far from the white, straight, cis, non-disabled norm: being gay is okay but being anything else seems less so, and heaven help you if you're more than one other thing. I had a nice visit and I'd happily return, especially to the generous and accommodating company of James's sister and her husband, but it did make me appreciate my scruffy, beloved Levenshulme all the more on my return.

Plus, the water doesn't taste like metal here.

Saturday night we had a barbecue: lamb koftas for the others and mushrooms and halloumi and corn on the cob for me. Well, I think they all had all those things too! Then we watched a movie from a set James had picked up in CEX that day. It was called Homecominmg and it was completely amazing. Very funny, in that way that horror movies sometimes are which may or may not be intentional. It's about a thinly-veiled version of the U.S.'s recent wars in Afghanistan/Iraq, full of cynical, bald-faced lying politicians who are shown up when soldiers start coming back from the dead as zombies who want nothing more than to...vote for someone else to be president. I thought I'd seen every possible take on zombies but zombies voting absolutely charmed me. I loved it. And considering how much my horror-loving friends overlap with my politically-involved friends, I think a lot of people I know would like it too.

Then we went to bed early and woke up early and spent most of yesterday traveling back. Getting the trains to and from London via Brighouse was ace -- the Grand Central trains there are cheaper and better than the Virgin trains from Manchester in every conceivable way, except it does mean it's a long day for me if I make the whole journey back at once. But we broke it up a bit with an hour in Brighouse, with a late lunch from the chippy and a nice pint of beer in our favorite pub there, basking in sunshine the likes of which we'd not seen in the last couple of days by the seaside, no doubt an indication again that Yorkshire is God's chosen county.
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"Very nearly" because it won't technically be two years until Saturday, but on Saturday he'll be working and I'll be painting [livejournal.com profile] haggis's kitchen, so I consider today, with pizza and Doctor Who and beer, to be a much better celebration.

This afternoon we sat in the same pub in the same place (only me sitting where he had been and vice versa) where he first said he'd like to kiss me and my life changed for the better.

Brighouse

Nov. 6th, 2014 01:38 pm
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For a variety of reasons, I haven't gotten the train from Levenshulme very often lately, but I'm glad I did today. The ticket seller was the old man I'm most familiar with, the one who commented I was dressed up one day and congratulated me when I said I was going out to celebrate getting a job.

Today when I said tiredly, automatically, "Return to Brighouse, please," rather than just asking if I was coming back today (often I remember to say this, but today I didn't), he said, "What's it like, this Brighouse? Is it lovely?"

"It is!" I said, excited both because that is true and because this guy was the first worker at Levenshulme train station who I taught to recognize the word "Brighouse." (All those months ago! Aww.) I think all the ones who work in the mornings are pretty used to it now, but there used to have to be lots of spelling. 

I've seen [personal profile] magister have trouble getting train conductors to understand "Levenshulme" as well, so we're even there (oonce I just showed the conductor my train ticket so she could copy off that). 

One thing I do like about getting the train from Levy, as opposed to getting the bus in and having a ticket that says Manchester, and then getting a train from Piccadilly to Huddersfield. These trains go from Manchester or Liverpool all the way to Hull or Middlesbrough or Scarborough or Newcastle, and I can tell sometimes the conductor checking my ticket has no idea of where either Levenshulme or Brighouse is, of whether I belong on this train, but they always just scribble on the ticket and hand it back to me without saying anything. But I like to think that James and I are slowly educating the Trans Pennine Express train conductors by increasing their exposure to these strange words in this combination. ‎

"Is there a house with a brig there?" this Levenshulme ticket seller asked me, back in the present. I laughed and confessed I didn't know how the place got its name. "It's a nautical term, isn't it? Brig?" he said. I agreed, but I'd been about to say that I expected it was more likely to have something to do with "bridge" (indeed for the longest time I could never remember if "Brighouse" was pronounced with a hard or soft g, and I don't feel completely stupid about this because there are places like Brigend where it does still sound like you're saying "bridge" at the beginning). 

On the train now I've looked it up, and sure enough:
The placename is recorded in the Yorkshire Feet of Fines of 1240 as "Brighuses", and means "the houses by the bridge", from the Old Norse "bryg(gia)", bridge, with the Olde English pre 7th Century "hus", house.
I don't think I can credit my exposure to first-millennium languages in the north of England (which is never as good as I'd like it to be) as much as the fact that I walk across a bridge over the River Calder every time I'm in Brighouse. 
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So yesterday people are turning up for the wedding feast/party and milling about with drinks and such (I have now tried Pimms! it just tasted like cucumbers...) and I find myself close enough to where [personal profile] magister is standing that I hear my name so wander a bit closer and find him laughing at something someone-I-can't-remember-who-it-was said. She explains to me that she was just telling him "we'll have to get you married off", so I hide my startled open mouth behind my hand, but can't keep from giggling, and the more I think about it the funnier it gets and it takes a while for me to stop laughing.

We hadn't really thought about how this poly thing might complicate things. I only got told once that I'm probably called Janice (close enough...) and that I live in Brighouse, but people seemed to have the rough idea that we lived together and have been together possibly longer than we have. James rightly didn't want to scandalize or confuse his relatives on a day that was supposed to be about his sister, and it wasn't really a problem, but that 'we'll have to get you married off" line is still making me giggle for so many reasons.

This is the second wedding I've been to since my own and the first one I enjoyed. Probably not being invited to The Actual Wedding helped. But also enough time has passed now I think that my own doesn't make me so sad any more (I'm happy I'm married, but everything about my wedding was miserable and I hated it). I was a little wistful hearing the father-of-the-bride speech, but I realized this is more because I couldn't imagine my dad doing anything like that. I'm mostly content with the alternatives that choice and circumstance have led me to, but sometimes I I do get a twinge of longing for convention.

Then we raised our glasses in a toast to the bride and James jogged my elbow just as my glass touched my lips, sprinkling cider (we were using a lovely dry fizzy cider for champagne) all down me and, worse, making me laugh which caused more ripples in my drink that sloshed onto my borrowed posh clothes and up my nose. Yes it would be nice to do everything "right" but that's never gonna be me, and at least I was laughing.

The food was amazing. My hopes were not high when I found out it was a hog roast, but everything else was vegetarian, and there wasn't a thing I didn't devour --lentils and beetroot, new potatoes with chili flakes, green beans with some very light orangey dressing, butternut squash with a bunch of lovely stuff I don't remember (everything was really well labeled but I couldn't see the labels so James read stuff out for me and I basically forgot everything immediately after I was told), including some kind of actual nuts. And gorgeous moussaka! If aubergines were always like that, I wouldn't have to work so hard at trying to like them (I taught myself to like mushrooms cos they're in so much veggie food and that worked so well I'm now trying courgette and aubergine, with less success so far). I basically ended up eating two platefuls because James gave me his and went back for more moussaka.

Oh and our table won the quiz, much to my astonishment (not least because James, who set it, was told by his mother to fix it so someone (I can't remember who but I think it might have been the person who called me Janice) won because he'd put a lot of effort into it). We might have been at something of an advantage what with the bridesmaids being at our table so they could answer all the "how did the lovely couple meet?" kind of questions. I wasn't even paying attention because, never having even met them before, I knew I'd be useless. But my ears pricked up at the first line of Pride and Prejudice and then there was a question about Jane Eyre and the bridesmaids (and, I think, partner of one of the best mans) were dead impressed with me for knowing these things. They said if we won it'd be down to me, and indeed no one else wanted to take the wine and chocolates home so I've got them.

I had a nice drunken conversation with the Australian bridesmaid, who seems to live some kind of complicated bi-hemispherical lifestyle, about how hard, but also nice, it is to have two places you belong. James's sister said at breakfast this morning that I'd apparently made a good impression on her, which really surprised me because it turns out losing my inhibitions only makes me talk a lot of depressing garbage these days (well, it still makes me want to kiss girls too, so there's hope for me yet), so it's nice if baffling to hear that I wasn't too off-putting anyway.

I needed a brilliant weekend, to get me through the week now ahead of me. I'm glad I got it.
hollymath: (Default)
You get less cheese on toast.

When I got in from being at the pub with [livejournal.com profile] diffrentcolours and J, [personal profile] magister told me he was going to have some cereal and go to bed because he has to get up early tomorrow. "You haven't had anything to eat, have you?" he said.

I shook my head. I still wasn't that hungry, even after three pints which is usually enough to leave me drunk and ravenous. "Not yet, but it's okay," I said, and went to follow him into the kitchen. "I'll make some cheese on toast, or something."

"Ooh!" he said. He actually stopped in his tracks, so I sleepily/tipsily bumped into him as my trajectory carried me kitchenwards.

I snorted. "Do you want cheese on toast now?"

"Is it that obvious?"

"Yes."

I think this was the point where Andrew shouted from the living room "I want cheese on toast!" as if the idea had never occurred to him and his life was made complete by the existence of cheese on toast.

I sighed and fetched the grill pan. But we only had four slices of bread left, so I made them one each and had the other two myself, on account of this and a veggie wrap being the only things I'd eaten today. And it being me who could be bothered to make the cheese on toast.

Lucky

Jul. 9th, 2014 12:31 am
hollymath: (Default)
I love that my life contains so many people I can phone up from a noisy pub just to ask them whether the Doctor landed on Androzani Major or Androzani Minor or both, a question I do not even understand myself, and they'll just answer to the best of their ability and tell me they love me and let me get back to what I was doing.
hollymath: (Default)
The cognitive dissonance of hearing him called a different name mostly wore off pretty quickly. Christopher's a nice name, and of course I know plenty of Chrises.

This wasn't even the first time I was visiting the parents of someone dear to me who call their son by a different name than the one I'm used to (which was funny to me because these parents already reminded me a bit of those parents even before this).

The only thing that really threw me was hearing our names paired together, as they occasionally were when his parents were talking to each other. It's just been a while since I heard anybody say "Holly and Chris" in an ordinary sentence. These days it's only my parents who I expect to say that, and always carefully. It's never just about making us toast for breakfast, or whatever other things I heard this weekend.

It was, eventually, kind of a nice thing to hear. Better to have nice associations with collections of noises than bad ones. Still, it never stopped being weird to me, and I'm kind of glad it doesn't happen that often (though I suppose if it did I might not think it weird any more...but there's enough different-people-with-the-same-name in my life already anyway, so for that reason if no other I'm glad he prefers James).
hollymath: (Default)
The other day I think of when I think of James's and my anniversary would be a week after it.

I was not having a good day, to put it mildly.

We were a couple of days into what ended up being The Month Without Internet. And the kitchen sink was blocked despite all the usual means of attacking it.

I was wearing my grubbiest clothes, spattered with bleach, alternating between calling up our phone and internet providers, sure this kafkaesque situation couldn't be as bad as it seemed yet continually discovering it was even worse, and trying to get the u-bend off the sink drain to see if that was where it was blocked.

Nothing was working. All my stress and effort on both fronts was getting me absolutely nowhere. I was not happy.

So when James texted me to ask me how my day was going, I don't remember what I said but it must have sounded pretty miserable. I remember reading the reply from him, "wish I could help" or somesuch while I was sitting on the floor in the kitchen, head tilted back against the wall, having again failed to do more than hurt my hands trying to pry the u-bend loose. "I wish you could too," I said. I wished anybody could. I clearly wasn't good enough on my own.

Eventually he volunteered come over, if I wanted. It was, after all, his day off. My mind boggled at this. Why would anybody want to come in to such a situation like this? I'd have loved to get away from it!

I gratefully accepted his offer. I really wanted to see him. I did fleetingly think that it was a shame I only got one go at "I'm wearing my favorite skirt and am able to carry on a conversation" before he'd see me frazzled, frustrated, fragrant of strong chemicals. But then I thought well hell, I know I can't consistently pretend to be happy and competent and well put-together for any length of time. I'd like things to work out with this guy, but if they're going to, he's going to see me crazed and unlovely sooner or later -- and probably often -- so to hell with it. We'll start that already, trial by fire.

The conceit for us to start chatting was another quote I put in my blog:
frustration with how long it takes to get to know someone—spending the first few weeks chatting in their psychological entryway, with each subsequent conversation like entering a different anteroom, each a little closer to the center of the house—wishing instead that you could start there and work your way out, exchanging your deepest secrets first, before easing into casualness, until you’ve built up enough mystery over the years to ask them where they’re from, and what they do for a living.
I'm so bad at small talk that this really appealed to me. "So, do you want to exchange dark secrets?" James said in a comment, and we started telling each other about ourselves, but this felt like a darker secret to me than any of the silly stories I'd told him so far. I don't like who I am when I'm having a bad day, when I'm self-absorbed and self-pitying. I don't like being seen then. Especially by someone I like and want to like me.

By the end of the day, we were no closer to having internet or being able to use the kitchen sink (or the washing machine, annoyingly, it needing the blocked pipe in order to drain). But I'd taken James to my beloved local pub, delighted that he liked it too, and we went out for dinner before he had to get a train home.

That morning, I had written I really want something good to happen to me today with no real expectation or idea of what it might even be, but I got it anyway. I felt so lucky.

And, far from scaring him away, he's since seen me through much worse, especially recently, being there for me after a work meeting so stressful that I'd had a week of panic attacks and self-harm before it, and of course being immeasurably helpful in moving house, from spotting patches of damp at house-viewings to carrying furniture into our new house to figuring out how to get into the loft, and letting me whine and complain at him as much as I wanted about every stressful, expensive, intimidating or frustrating thing in the house-buying process.

I described our relationship yesterday, only to get a laugh (and it did), as "relentlessly unromantic" but that's not really true. One of the iconic features of our relationship seems to be saying goodbye at train stations in a way that charms passersby (but not train conductors), my favorite still being the woman with a baby on my train from Brighouse who saw me standing in the train doorway kissing James standing on the platform (this handily makes us about the same height!) and turned to her baby and said "your daddy doesn't kiss me like that any more." I told her that I know I am very lucky.

But really, being the kind of people who believe that relationships are based on sarcasm and mutual condescension, and I know I at least have had a challenging year, we've had a lot of pragmatic conversations and a lot of days when neither of us is at our best. And each of us worries when we're the miserable one, like I worried here, but we always reassure the other person that it's fine and they're not as difficult to be around as they think, and then we have naps or drink beer or talk about cricket, or whatever, and it all seems to go very well.

I think this day also started the tradition of us expecting to see each other on Thursdays. The first "date" was on a Thursday just because that was the one day I wasn't working that week, this was a Thursday because, it being James's day off, he could actually offer to see me, and after that we just kind of assumed that if it was Thursday one of us would probably get on a train.
hollymath: (Default)
"I think it was April 18th," James said to me. "Which will be next Friday. I won't see you Friday, but I will see you Saturday."

I'm not too worried about anniversaries, as previously noted. It's nice to think we've been at this a whole year now, though. Yesterday, after lunch and with nothing good on at the cinema, and not wanting to bother Andrew while he was working from home, we spent the afternoon lying in the grass in a park, soaking up the sunshine. Oh yeah, I remember this, I thought. We used to do this! And now we can again, so it must be a new year.

As we all learned from Spaced, anniversaries are about whatever you mark as important, and while Friday makes sense -- it was a day that ended with the world seeming drastically different than it had at the beginning -- there are two others that stick in my mind.

The first one would've been a year ago yesterday, I see (because it handily involved a timestamped comment). Yesterday I might have been lying next to him in the park, but a year ago yesterday I remember almost as well. I had a long day -- week -- of work ahead of me.

I saw that I had an e-mail just as I was leaving the house that morning, so absentmindedly opened it on my phone in case it was work-related, and saw it was a reply to a rather vague comment I'd left: I'd found a quote from a Terry Pratchett book that seemed to describe my melancholy rather well, and in the first comment James added another good metaphor from Hitch-Hikers about flying being a matter of aiming at the ground and missing because you got distracted, and about failing to get distracted. When I said that I too felt like I'd been hitting the ground from a great height...thats when I got this reply that actually stopped me in my tracks as I was just about to unlock the front door and go to work.

"If you give me a shout, I'll try to catch you," he said.

I didn't stop theatrically, I had no audience. But it was a perfect external expression of my internal state. I had to stop because something in this sentence made me have to rearrange my thoughts about this person. James and I had been chatting in e-mail for a week or two by this point, mostly just about how our days were going or whatever. It was nice and had helped me through some tedious times, but I hadn't ascribed too much meaning to it. But now...what was this? What kind of way is this to talk? Should I be making anything of it at all? Maybe he's just being nice. But, looking back on it now I can realize that it didn't feel like that. And that I didn't want him to be just being nice.

The world looked different already by the time I finally opened the door to go to work.

Later that day I stood in front of a room of people, asking them questions, posed to write their answers on a flipchart next to me, grinning more than the external situation warranted because I was still thinking Someone wants to catch me if I need it. And I'd had no idea until now. I marveled at a world that had such wonders in it.

I was going to talk about the other day from a year ago that I'm thinking of, but it's taken me all day to do this, and the anniversary of that isn't for a few more days, I'll leave it for now.
hollymath: (Default)
I think there has to be something pretty cool about someone who, first thing in the morning, after 20 minutes or so of silence (after the "hope you slept well"/"do you want coffee?" pleasantries, anyway), can react so quickly to a question like, "So, if Daleks can't see the color red, how can there be red Daleks?"

[personal profile] magister replied immediately: "Stealth Daleks."

I laughed in surprise and delight. That would have been, I thought, a good answer anyway, but so long before breakfast it was a thing of beauty and joy.

I hadn't known Daleks couldn't see the color red until Saturday, and then I'd forgotten about it again until I was reminded by [livejournal.com profile] strange_complex's entry that was partly about the brilliant day we had last Saturday (I'd forgotten about the Cyberman onesies too! I still want a Cyberman onesie, and I'm otherwise very anti-onesie). But only today did I put this together with the fact that there are red Daleks.

Over my first cup of coffee, then, James and I debated whether the non-Dalek slaves who had to build the red Daleks would be quickly killed off each time, or living highly-restricted existences because the need to not want to or be able to train up new people each time would override the need for stealthiness.
hollymath: (Default)
Andrew's reading Sherlock Holmes stories set in the Doctor Who universe.

He's got a story in it (a fact of which I could not be more proud; it's so cool), and that means he's been sent an (electronic) proof copy, so he's reading the rest of the book before most mere mortals can.

The combination of Doctor Who and Sherlock Holmes immediately also made me think of James, of course. "It could only be more perfect for him if it had some cricket in," I said.

Andrew said it didn't, or at least the first story and a half didn't, as that's what he's read so far.

"You might not know anyway, though!" I teased. "Something might be about cricket, and you wouldn't even recognize it."

He insisted he knows cricket words, but I'm sorry to say I disbelieved him. "Prove it!"

"Silly mid on!" he said.

"Do you know what it means?"

"It's a place!"

"Oh yeah? Where?" (This was a bit unfair of me to ask, as I don't exactly know either.)

"Different from Nursery End!"

I laughed hard. This was not the answer I was expecting, and yet it was inarguably true!

So I told James this pretty much as I've related it here, expecting the definition of silly mid on as Not The Same As Nursery End might make him smile.

Instead I got another unexpected answer, and one that made me smile: "I'll do you a chart some time of the fielding positions if you like."

You might not think that an unspeakably heart-meltingly sweet thing to say, which is why I'm here to fervently tell you it is.

Meanwhile, Andrew is wary of a chart of fielding positions. "There are millions of the buggers! It's like a dot-to-dot puzzle!"

All the more reason for me to have one, I reckon. Especially because he says if you connect all the dots you get "a sigil of pure evil." That's bound to come in handy.

All of this talk got me excited about the idea of a Sherlock Holmes story about cricket, even though at this point I couldn't even remember why. I told Andrew this and he said "if there aren't any cricket stories in the rest of the book, I'll make the next Doctor Watson Investigaes about W.G. Grace having done...something."

Aw. I feel so loved.

Andrew's just made me hot chocolate, then I'm going to go to bed, then I'm going to wake up and go to Bradford and spend some time with James (and a bunch of other people) at the media museum.

I am so goddam lucky, people. Don't think I don't know it.

Myandrew

Jan. 18th, 2014 10:30 pm
hollymath: (Default)
I go to make coffee and two minutes later I come back to find Andrew and James talking about what year BBC2 started color transmission.

I'm so glad they have each other.

Later we're talking about Stephen Fry being Mycroft Holmes in the Guy Ritchie movies. Andrew, who's not seen them, is happy to hear this. "I always imagined Stephen Fry as Mycroft anyway," he said.

"I always imagine you as Mycroft!" I said.

"Me?!" Andrew seems genuinely shocked. I'm only surprised that he'd be surprised. It's so obvious!

"You don't go out, you don't like people, you're really intelligent but can't be bothered actually doing anything..."

James asked me who I see as Sherlock, then.

"Jeremy Brett?" I said. They both laughed. "I don't think everybody in the story is someone I know!" I said. "Just that Andrew is Mycroft."

"I don't see anything in that comparison to argue with," James said, which made me happy: if there had been discrepancies there, I expect he'd have found them for me. And it just proves how silly Andrew is to be surprised.

Liverpool

Jan. 16th, 2014 11:22 am
hollymath: (Default)
Beer before lunch! That's how you know you're on holiday, even if it's just two days in Liverpool.

[personal profile] magister was impatiently waiting for this pub to open, and I can see why; it's beautiful.

There are just things to look at everywhere in Liverpool. I'm not one for architecture, and I still catch myself admiring most of the buildings I walk past. This morning we've been to both cathedrals -- and they're so different I don't even know which I prefer (...the blackbird whistling, or just after...). There's a picture of me standing next to an intricate model of the Anglican cathedral made of Lego. I've heard stories about Daleks and Paul McCartney. Liverpool seems magical.

We saw in Blackwells prints of the kind of thing I got from Andrew for Christmas. They didn't have the Sherlock Holmes silhouette surrounded by the tiny text of one of his first adventures, but they did have a very striking old man in a beard and a monkey (or possibly an ape; I look forward to getting Andrew to tell me when I get home) looking at each other, which could only be Origin of Species. I admired it briefly, then wandered off to look at other things (I kept finding paper versions of audiobooks I have!) while James was sneakily buying two copies of this print, one for each of us. It's a marvellous gift to be given, and I like that we can have the same thing hanging on our walls, that we like the same things sometimes.
hollymath: (Default)
Such a nice day.

Such a difficult goodbye.

Now I feel like I'm really back. I've got my flat, my Andrew, my food, my beer, my friends, and now my boyfriend.

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Holly

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