Cooking XMas Goose

The first weekend after Christmas was set aside for internet geekery. I’ve been sitting on this post for a while as I wasn’t sure of the start… Or middle… Or end.

When we teach internet safety, one of the first things we drill home is that people online may not be who they say they are and meeting up is a bad idea. So what do we do? We book a massive cottage for a long weekend with 17+ people who have pretty much only ever met online (aside from the couples… Those of us married to each other know each other quite well)… Oh and add to that offering a lift to the guy who lives up the road from us.

As a bit of background for those who don’t know, Mr Geek and I “play” World of Warcraft (when I say play, we sporadically jump on, have fun in guild chat but rarely actually progress through any actual game play). We’ve been playing more on than off since just before the Burning Crusades expansion which means we’re retro. That’s retro, not old. We’re also part of a guild called the Fighting Mongooses in which we’ve made some really close friends and spend an eyewateringly large amount of time with. The last 6 months or so, we’ve not played much since I’m still trying to find a way around being caused pain by using a mouse (Suggestions on a postcard please), and yet when I do pop in for quizards I’m still treated like I never left. These are good people who have seen me through some very unpleasant bed bound days. So what else would we call our Christmas gathering but XMas Goose!

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After driving 3.5 hours north (like really north where the signs point to Northern towns instead of just saying “The North”), we arrived at our cottage. The cottage was a strange conversion of many little cottages on the ground floor and an enormous first floor. The plan was to wrangle me upstairs then spend the next three days without leaving the house so I could scoot about happily in my chair. We arrived having not been full of conversation as I was exhausted from work and more than a bit nervous. The long journey had been counteracted by installing me on the back seat surrounded by my full body cushion (thanks Jo), covered in blankets, and wedged in by bags.

Can you find my legs?

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I was left in the car whilst discussions took place about how to wrangle me upstairs. After a while in a dark car, I was met by progressively larger and hairier men who all greeted me by name.
Sidenote: I’m reasonably sure that had this also included a winged set of Cumberbatch angels, this would be easily mistaken for having died and gone upwards.
I digress. Hello once more hairy menfolk… Oooh with vodka homebrew. Yep. I’m not intimidated, or in fear of my life. My WTF-are-you-doing metre has never been good. Shell was there – it’s all good.

Said hairy men assist with crutches and me onto them then laugh hysterically as I bum shuffle like a toddler up a set of unnecessarily steep wooden stairs until I’m sat on my arse on the floor greeting everyone else. Not wholly dignified, but hey, start as you mean to go on!

After some initial vodka based icebreaking (thank you L), and for the rest of you I know, but it was only a small glass, we discovered that midget prostitutes are a thing in Europe, fruit vodka is yummy, T watches some very dodgy manga, and it is scientifically feasible to build a wall out of cultivated living human liver (but you’d need a gate). It turns out that when you stick a load of socially awkward nerds in one cottage and add alcohol, amazing things happen. They talk for a start. This was an unhealthy concentration of programmers & IT professionals – usually there are normal people to balance out the weirdness, but not this time. Dan The Accountant was no match and so just came over to the dark side.

Card games commenced. Starting with Exploding Kittens, and quickly descending into Cards Against Humanity.

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Shell found the safest place was away from the smut and instructing from afar, much like her pixel driven clothwearer. I know she’ll hate me for including the photo, but she looks awesome in the Jedi slanket & this photo is nice. She looks happy. I like this. Other Mr Geek looks confused.
I never did thank him for helping me upstairs. Thank you other Mr Geek 🙂

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This is pretty much how the whole weekend went. Card games included, but not limited to : Exploding Kittens, Cards Against Humanity, Flux, Uno Accountant Edition, Munchkin….

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It was also decreed that all must wear a onsie at some point over the weekend. J won hands down with his seal. I mean, how could he not win?!?

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Eventually, the nerds needed more distraction than just paper based games and Mr Geek plugged in his PC (oh yes, he’d driven all this way with his gaming rig which someone had to sit in the back with). He’d also brought the Steam box so not only did we have instant PC games, but the ability to connect 8 XBox controllers. The second the OS flickered into life, it was like watching nerdy moths. Nonetheless, whilst most got stuck into a game of Gangbeasts, it gave some of us chance to catch up in person and fully connect people’s online names to their real ones.

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Eventually, everyone gathered around the TV for the final few rounds of Gangbeasts before moving onto Mount Your Friends. If you haven’t discovered this true joy of a game, stop reading this and go buy it. It’s utterly childish, but so much fun.

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The word of the weekend has to be “motherfucker”, not only because we were all child free for a whole weekend, but because of the overheard conversation where it was asked if that was actually a swearword. We nearly fell off our chairs laughing.

Over the course of nearly 3 days, we consumed a diet of nearly pure junk food in which my gluten free diet went out of the window, or I’m sad to say into my intestines (I also discovered chicken tikka masala pixza – try getting that in the home counties). There were cups of coffee in there somewhere and Mr Geek consumed more beer than I’ve seen him drink in a long time.

On which note… Mr Geek relaxed. With me installed and Shell quietly looking out for me (yes, I noticed and thank you xx), he stopped fretting and chilled. He regained the colour in his face, enjoyed being with other people, and we felt like a reasonably normal couple, aside from him relocating my shoulder for me after a particularly enthusiastic round of Uno. I won. Totally worth dislocating my shoulder for. As he put it back in, I winced as it tore a ligament slightly (the loud snap probably didn’t help) and I was compared to John Wayne. Ha! The only reason I don’t yelp that much is I know how bad it will be. You scream when the pain is an unknown quantity. It took a week for it to stop swelling – Uno is a dangerous sport.

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When it was time to leave on Sunday, we eeked it out for as long as possible with me having that same twisty gut, don’t want to say goodbye moment that we had at EGX. It didn’t matter that we’d see them all online within a week once we’d all recovered from so much social contact, the magic spell over our tiny nerdy bubble was going to be broken and we’d have to stop laughing. Even packing up was funny, aside from A falling down those damned stairs – I had said I wouldn’t catch him, but every single one of us shreiked like a girl and had visions of him rebreaking his poor shoulder. Aside from S, who true to form called him a penis.

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I dislike that we live so far away from so many of them (although we made a promise to meet up more regularly with those closer… And for reference, meant it :p ). There was a point very very late one evening where we all got a bit of an insight into each other’s psyche and found out that we’re really not that different. Somehow, through all those millions of players, we found a group of kindred spirits there, none of whom were psychotic axe murderers, and all of whom gave me a whole weekend of feeling like a normal person instead of that person who’s ill.

Driving home, I hid under a blanket and watched downloaded episodes of silent witness whilst trying not to barf (gluten combined with slow transit & car sickness is grim). I will admid to a teeny bit of under blanket sniffling.

It’s not goodbye, its au revoir. And if you need me, just put your fingers on the keyboard and just /whistle

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<3<3<3<3

Important Thank Yous

Last week I had a very frank and open talk with my headteacher about how I’m coping since the EDS decided to kick my arse and kneecap me. I’ve had a number of these meetings with other people, but he has a way of really listening. I have mountains of respect for him, and whilst I don’t always agree with him, my opinion is always welcomed and heard. He doesn’t suffer fools, and I respect him immensely. So when he asked how I was coping, I was more truthful than I have been with even members of my own family.

I’m angry quite a lot of the time. This isn’t how I’d planned to spend my 30s and there are days (and weeks) that I feel like a shitty teacher. There are certainly days where I’m in too much pain to follow a lesson plan as expected and I end up needing help from the kids.

He asked me how the kids were acting towards me.

Our kids have rolled with it. They barely see my disability – all they see is a teacher and yet on my bad days where the circles get so dark under my eyes and something audibly cracks, they discreetly move chairs out of my path and ask to spend lunchtime in my classroom (which just happens to coincide with bringing me tea), or change direction so they can open doors. They’ve always been the best part of my day, but I see them in a new light now. One where teenagers are infinitely kinder than adults.

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In my desent into my special pity party, there have been a few people who have just got it, and others who don’t but still move heaven and earth to keep my chin above water.

My postman delivered a cheer up chicken gift today from my lovely friend Mrs M. There’s hundreds of miles between us, but she managed to utterly brighten my day and make me feel very humbled. She’s put up with more poop in her time than anyone deserves, and although we don’t always see eye to eye, we respect each other’s great big gobby opinions. We all need someone in our lives whose heart is as big as their mouth. Those people are the most real people. They keep us grounded.

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I also have my sister-in-law, who is a total warrior. Seriously, Xena has nothing on her. She is the ultimate role model for Beanpole as how a woman who has Aspergers can function whilst also sticking two fingers up to a world that demand she conform. I see how Beanpole struggles each day with fitting her square peg into a world full of round holes and looks to her Aunty for cues how to get there. When Beanpole visits her, you can see her visibly relax because if she squeaks or needs to stroke the eyes of her panda no one is judging her there. Aunty Squeezy is her calm in a great big stormy world. She’s also a massive support to me because she tells me straight if I need to get a grip, guides me through ways to get help, and speaks up for me when I’m too embarrassed to ask. She was also the first person aside from me and Mr Geek to see our daughters & was in fact there when TinyPants was born  (she met TinyPants before I did!). Biologically, I don’t have a sister,  but in reality I do.

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There’s also Mrs G who is always there at 3am to mop up the tears. A decade of this and she still hasn’t kicked my arse. The woman has the patience of a saint & I can’t wait to give her a hug when her children have finally stopped infecting her with germs!

And I know you’re reading this Sherlock. Don’t think that we don’t think about you guys every day.

There are lots of you and I wish I could thank all of you personally, but this is turning into a gushy Oscars style speech so if you’re reading this and we’ve had contact over the past few days, I want to say thank you. People’s kindness over the last 48 hours has been overwhelming.

A leaving speech, or a close approximation

I promised a few people I’d put my speech up after I’d done it, and also for my colleagues who didn’t quite get what I said after my brilliant HoD managed to make me cry before I even stood up with his thank you (this naturally meant that I spent my speech attempting to talk through major wobbly lip).

So here are the actual words, minus the tears. (Although I say goodbye to several classes today, so I predict lost more later!)

As Martyn used a metaphor for his speech, in true academic fashion I’m going to plagiarise him hideously.

Standing here is a weird experience. In a wildly inaccurate way, I feel a little like Felix Baumgartner as he stood on the edge of the Red Bull capsule. Using his own words, “Sometimes you have to be really high to see how small you really are.”

Hurst has taken me to heights that I never thought possible, and now I’m about to jump; to either great things, or land having reached a terrifying downwards velocity never reached by man before, straight into the floor – possibly whilst watched by millions on YouTube.

I may well have spent a worrying percentage of my time [here] having full conversations with machines (by which I mean the computers, rather than the IT technicians), but working on [the school software system] has taught me many things from the fear of adjusting live code to just how long it can take for Richard to make a speech (thank you Steve, for saving everyone’s ears before the record 51 minutes was truly broken).

For the past two years, the Headmaster has started Inset days with the phrase “You’ve gotta love ‘em” – admittedly, some you don’t always like that much, but like every family, sometimes you’ve just need to have a large glass of wine and blame the genetics from the other side of the clan.

Over the past few weeks, especially this week, saying goodbye to both pupils and staff is more difficult than I could have imagined. And so, to return to the words of Baumgartner, “I’m going home now.”

30 Days of Happiness – Day 1 #imahappster

I’ve signed up for the challenge. The first step was to declare that I am indeed a happster, I did this officially online at http://www.happsters.com
Then a lovely lady sent me a stack of cards all the way from the US with a little thank you note! These cards are called happy notes and have the happster logo on them and just enough room to leave a short message.

Now, the 30 day challenge is this:

What’s better than spreading happiness and brightening someone else’s day? For the month of June, I am challenging you to write a note to someone every day letting that person know how much you appreciate him or her. You can write the note to the same people or you can mix it up. The notes can be given to friends, family members, co-workers, acquaintances, strangers, etc. Post a picture or write a comment on the challenge page on ChallengeLoop every time you write a note. This is a great way for us all to connect, share ideas and spread the happiness! If you miss a few days, no big deal. The winner only has to post 8 times to be eligible to win.

So my first note? It was to a couple who made my youngest very happy today after inviting her to a party and letting the girls be their unique wacky selves.

I left this for them to find:

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I’m not sure if they found it, but it’s a good start 🙂