Saturday, 20 September 2014

Wed-threads: Identity

This is perhaps the most confusing post I will write within the wed-threads series. Today I discuss something that has an effect that lasts far longer than droopy flowers or a rubbish DJ: my name. A choice I have to make that will last the rest of my life.

I think it would be fair to call me a feminist, I am deeply concerned about equality and always try to combat inequality as it occurs in my day-to-day life. (Having male dominated hobbies and careers, this is sadly quite regular!) So my typical response would be along the lines of "Well of course I'll be keeping my name! Gareth doesn't own me!" etc etc etc. This would concur with the fact I bloody adore my surname (something I don't mention publically on this blog for hopeful wishes of privacy) and Gareth's surname doesn't sit brilliantly with my forename (Aimee Bundy has quite a lot of rhyming 'ee' sounds.) (Just to note: I'm not being a privacy hypocrite, Gareth is less shy of the internet than me and even his twitter handle uses his surname - @gabundy)

My surname is special to me, it's already double-barrelled and both parts are tremendously important to me. I would hate to me without it, I'm worried I will feel cut loose from my identity by ripping it away from me. However - I'm not just losing my name, I'm adding to it as well. This is the important aspect: I am becoming "Mrs" Aimee...

This changes everything. No longer is it about clinging on to my own identity, it is about shaping my own identity and continuing to be my own person in a confusing fog of letters and history. Both my mother and my mother-in-law's forenames also begin with an A - they are Anabel and Ann respectively. Now I start to think of letters coming through my front door:

  • letters for Mrs A [My current surname] - they must be for my mother, not for me!
  • letters for Mrs A Bundy - they must be for my mother-in-law, she lives just down the road after all!

So who do I become? I no longer wish to simply keep my surname - I don't want to become my mother in that way, and I will always see Mrs [My current surname] as her. Equally, I would like my children to have the same name as me, and that isn't something I would ever consider even possibly taking away from Gareth. Equally, I don't want post to be addressed to two different people especially (Dear Mr Bundy and Mrs BlahBlahBlah) - I do want to 'become one' with my husband, however much that should disagree with my politics. I am still an old romantic, I guess.

So what can I do? I can't triple-barrel my name and ask Gareth to take it: it wouldn't fit on forms and would sound utterly ridiculous! I can't create a new double-barrel it as I would find taking Gareth's surname and half my surname to be very disrespectful to the side of the family whose name I chose to dump. Creating a surname is now becoming more popular, but that doesn't appeal in the slightest - it has no heritage behind it, no background.

So what will I do? I'm still not certain. I hoped writing this blog might soothe my identity crisis. If I had to make a decision today I would  become "Mrs Aimee Bundy" - starting afresh is perhaps easier than trying to wrangle the remains into something shiny and possible. Oddly, it feels easier to take my mother-in-law's name than my mother's. I'm not sure I like how easy it feels - how easy it is for patriarchal customs to inflict themselves on my innermost thoughts and feelings just because it's 'the way things are.' I hope I simply have had less years of hearing "Mrs Bundy" refer to somebody else and that is why I am edging that way. I'm not sure I believe that though.

This is a topic I may revisit as the months tick down (something they are doing at alarming speed!) - I hope I am closer to being settled on the subject by then.

Previously in Wed-threads:

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Wed-threads: Venue

I've never been a wedding dress person, as a little girl I never dreamt of how my perfect gown would look. (I wish I had, it might have made the hunt for a dress a little less traumatic.)

I've always been happy to look at different venues though. Before Gareth and I were even engaged, my mother and I would daydream about different places and secretly potter about the internet (no pressure on Ga!) trying to find somewhere perfect. To be honest, I didn't really need to look far: I've always loved historic venues, places where hundreds of brides' feet have walked the same path mine will. I love stone walls, I love big oppressive buildings that haunt your mind and soul.

I absolutely adore castles. I grew up near Arundel Castle, which is my dream fairytale castle. I can remember having a tiny book of British castles, and I always thought Arundel Castle was the most perfect, the most beautiful, the most outstanding castle in the book. One of my regular childhood haunts was Swanbourne Lake and we would always drive past the castle to get there - and if you climbed up the chalk hills you could get a beautiful glimpse of the castle.

I'm not getting married at Arundel Castle. This doesn't upset me - firstly it's impossible, Arundel Castle doesn't offer weddings, and secondly there was absolutely no way I was getting married in West Sussex. In three years I've absolutely fallen in love with Cardiff and could not imagine getting married anywhere else. South Wales is my home.

Wales is the best place ever to want to get married in a castle. You have so many options! Some of the ones that were briefly considered included Caerphilly Castle, Craig-y-Nos Castle (tempting - it has a Doctor Who connection as it was Torchwood House in Tooth and Claw, and they often have good weekday offers on Groupon) and Hensol Castle. I was also tempted by Pencoed House because it was beautiful, and had its own whisky bar (my favourite tipple)!

We had a few requirements though - I really wanted somewhere that was easy to travel to, a "dry" wedding didn't appeal to me, so somewhere where people would have to drive to, and then drive to a hotel at the end of the night wasn't preferable. Equally - forcing people to stay at a location (one of the issues with Craig-y-Nos) was really off putting. A weekend wedding was again something that I was pretty determined to get - I'm quite guest conscious and I was really concerned about sending an invite that ended up having "you will need to take a couple of precious days of holiday to come to the wedding, then pay a fortune to stay at the only hotel in the area (which naturally they will charge you a premium for), and obviously you'll have the costs of travel, and even a new outfit and presents if you chose!" written between the lines. Not something I was comfortable with.

There was one perfect place: Cardiff Castle. It would blow the budget but it was gorgeous, there would be amazing wedding photos, it was in a city that really meant something to me (chip butty on Caroline Street at 2am after the wedding, anyone?), there were hotels for every budget, and you can get there by walking (for the local friends), bus, train, coach or plane! (And car - though car parking is where Cardiff really does fail dramatically - car park tips will be included in the invites, though!)

With Cardiff Castle chosen there was only one room I was interested in - the one I had kept going back to when giggling with my mother, the one that when I looked at wedding venues I would always compared them to: The Undercroft. It was stunning, full of thick stone walls and a vaulted ceiling; it was truly old in a very young castle; it was completely separate so we would have our own private, intimate bash away from prying eyes; and as a bonus it was the cheapest room for the number of guests we were inviting! It is perfect and makes me feel like a fairytale princess - not something I'm used to!

Now with an expensive venue booked, it was time to cut back and try and pull the costs back into line.

Previously in Wed-threads:

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Wed-threads: Twitter and Doctor Who - The Love Story

This is the start of Wed-threads: little thoughts and posts as I prepare to marry @gabundy. It's a journey I hope to never forget, but knowing myself a little too well it's probably for the best that I'm going to have it written down. (Forgetful, me? Perhaps just a little.) I'll still continue to try and post #dwsr and #setlock posts - but these have been thin on the ground of late.

I owe #dwsr a lot. I wouldn't even be in this position without it. Years ago I used to silently frequent the popular Doctor Who internet forum Outpost Gallifrey (the predecessor of Gallifrey Base) - then I loved to read spoilers, and would obsessively refresh the set reports thread on my school lunch break. Tiny details would excite and amuse me! It took me ages to realise that #dwsr existed - but when I finally did learn about this awesome hashtag, I created a twitter account immediate! Twitter was quiet though, my feed was empty of humourous chatter, nonsensical statements and political aggressiveness. I needed to follow people!

So I followed the "regulars" - those who had their twitter handle named on their Outpost Gallifrey profile and posted about things I was interested in. Weirdly of those first ten or so people I followed, I'm marrying one and another is going to be his best man. It's strange how these things happen.

In the mean time I got older, I got iller, I became more introverted and depressed. There was a year where I only left the house to go to hospital appointments (I'm allergic to sunlight, when you don't know what medicines work for you it can get pretty awkward pretty quickly.) Twitter had become a lifeline - a window to look into happy lives, a place to chat without prejudice. I wasn't just talking about Doctor Who now - @tlchimera had become a fully formed personal account, full of Formula One, Strictly Come Dancing, tennis scores and feminist commentary. I was still sad and lonely, but I was distracted. Distracted by the people living in my phone.

One of the people in my phone tweeted a lot about how ill he felt. About black dogs visiting, about entire days being wasted away by illness. I felt akin to this anonymous person - he was going through the same horrible shit as me. I'd tweet him sometimes, "Hope your day improves xx", "Sending hugs", "Sorry you're still feeling so bad." He never replied. I didn't worry, I just irregularly continued to send messages. If he got some kind of comfort from them, then that was good enough for me. I was worried though - worried about somebody I'd never met. When you're in such a solitary scenario it's easy to form attachments, you have plenty of time to think and dream.

One day he replied. It was late (or perhaps early) - and we had a snippy but silly conversation about whether the other person should be in bed. Resting, getting better. It was the start of something amazing. We started to tweet each other more regularly. He revealed he had thought I was a "tender loving care bot" set to automatically send caring messages to those tweeting their woes. I guess it made sense - my handle starts with "tlc." I'm glad he realised I was real though!

From there we progressed from twitter to MSN (yes, we really were still in the dark ages!) and Skype. A few months later we met in Cardiff Bay, and by this point we were entranced by each other.

Three years on, with loads of Doctor Who set reporting adventures in between, he proposed just before the fiftieth anniversary episode of Doctor Who, on 23rd November 2013. He intended to put the ring in the plunger of a Dalek, but couldn't get batteries for our remote-controlled one! Doctor Who (and Twitter) pushed me towards the man I cannot wait to marry. I've been a very lucky girl.

This is the start of Wed-threads: a series of blog posts documenting our engagement and the arrangements and deliberations for our wedding.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Photomarathon 2014

I'm rarely somebody who looks far ahead into the future. Holidays are never planned, and parties are impromptu. However there was something (other than my wedding!) that I've been looking forward to for over a year: Photomarathon 2014. Having only found out about Photomarathon UK a few days before the 2013 event and tickets already being sold out, I was determined to go with my partner (who is really the photographer. I stand around and make opinionated statements..) this year! Tickets were swiftly purchased as soon as I saw a tweet that they were now available, and I've been kicking my heels waiting for May 31st to come along!

"Green" from our practice
Being completely new to the Photomarathon experience we decided to have a practice run in Cardiff Bay a few months before, using a previous year's list of topics. This was disastrous. We soon edited the rules to mean we could take the photos in any order and even then I don't think any of us completed a set! This didn't really help our panicked expectations for a long, confusing day..

We arrived bright and early with a bag full of stuff we thought we'd need for the day: emergency Jaffa Cakes, pens and paper, a bag of meeples.. Oh yeah, meeples. If you haven't ventured into my blog before you'll be unaware of the fact Gareth and I are massive modern board game enthusiasts (and I even work for a board game shop!) - meeples are "mini people" often used instead of pawns in games. We chose to use a red one from the game Tournay as the star of our photos and to provide a bit of a through-line. It was pretty much our undoing...

Partaking in coffee and a cake in the Millennium Centre, we waited for the clock to tick down. What were going to be the topics? Will we be able to incorporate Fred the Meeple into each shot? Would another slice of cake hurt? Finally everyone gathered and there was a rousing, celebratory speech to commemorate ten years of Photomarathon. Then we were off, we bustled out of the door and were handed our fate for the next four hours. They were: 1. Me, Myself and I (plus entry number) 2. Street Level 3. Camouflage and 4. Ten. It was time for an excited wander around the bay, throwing ideas back and forth.

1. Me, Myself and I

Like everybody else we immediately were drawn to the idea of three images of a person (meeple) for Me, Myself and I. As we wandered we saw more and more people taking those shots though and struggled to come up with something more original. Failing to find inspiration, we thought about ideas for the other categories. We spotted red chairs in the Millennium Centre shop and darted over there to ask permission to photograph Fred against them. This granted, we did a test shot (yes, well before the first two images were even chosen - we were back in our dangerous practice-run territory.) We loved the bright red background against Fred, it was perfect for camouflage. Gareth already had a strong idea of what he wanted to do for Street Level so Me, Myself and I was really holding us up.

2. Street Level

In the end we went back to our original idea, even though we wished we could come up with something more unusual we were hitting a blank. A trip to the car for a hand mirror and that was sorted. Now we could move on! We headed back towards the Bay through the Red Dragon Centre. I kept walking but Gareth had stopped. "What? We need to get a move on - we've wasted an hour doing nothing!" I complained. He pointed out the amazing expanse of bright red wall to our left. Our camouflage shot had just been improved. We quickly headed into the Bay to find somewhere to photograph somebody with over-long jeans (Some five-foot short-arse with a board game addiction.. not a clue who.) with Fred directly in the foreground. We headed back to the Red Dragon Centre and the first three shots were quickly in the bag after an hour of deliberation!

3. Camouflage

Ten. Ten was a struggle. There were a lot of literal things we could have gone for - ten meeples being the most obvious, but Ga really wanted something a bit different. As usual I stuck to stating the obvious "We should have realised "ten" would be a category - it's the tenth anniversary!" I don't think Gareth found it very helpful. Back in the Red Dragon Centre we headed into the Bowling Arcade, desperate for inspiration. The penny-pushers were where we hit gold - not only for 1p or 2p, there were machines full of 10ps! We tried out different ideas, having Fred and loads of 10ps in the coin tray to make it look like he was a prize, but it just wasn't a very nice shot. Gareth went over to ask the man whether we could put Fred inside the machine for a moment, explaining about the photomarathon. He was incredibly helpful and opened up the machine for us - despite it being a really busy day! We only had a few moments to take the shot so it may not be the best angle or focus - but it certainly involved the most gumption!

4. Ten

It was time for the pub and some Pepsi. Looking through our photos we were reasonably happy at this stage - it was going okay, maybe some weren't perfect but they weren't awful either! Avoiding awful was pretty much where our hopes lay for the day. Then it was back to the Millennium Centre to pick up the second set of topics. 5. We're All In This Together 6. Attention to Detail 7. Control 8. Crossed Wires. A pattern seemed to develop at this stage - Gareth would immediately have plans for the second shot, the third shot we had loads of thoughts for but the first would cause a disagreement and the last we would be utterly stuck for ideas for.

We also started to really regret using the meeple. He was a pain when we were idea-less, often tethering us to very literal interpretations of ideas and sometimes felt very "tacked on" to the shots (if he feels like that now, wait until you see the worn-out Aimee and Gareth's idea for topic twelve!) For, "We're All In This Together," Gareth wanted to do a photograph somewhere that showed the divide between rich and poor. This slowly became more and more impossible to capture - even with a bus journey to central Cardiff. Tips for future board-game-playing photomarathoners (surely, there are others out there!) - meeples look utterly rubbish lining up to get into job centres. Even when you try multiple job centres..

We had to go for a more literal understanding of the topic in the end. So after the job centre crawl, we went around searching for a bottle of "This Water" to put the meeples in. After visiting multiple Tescos, Sainsburys, Boots, Poundlands, coffee shops, Waitrose and not finding it anywhere, I googled it to discover Gareth and I are way behind the times: its name was changed back to "Juicy Water" in 2013. Bum. We'd lost two hours to hopeless shots and fruitless quests. We were a little stressed and grumpy at this stage(!) We returned to the Bay - our success had been far better over there! We decided to put the meeples into a perilous situation, first soaking them (meeples float so they didn't look like they were drowning, sadly..) and eventually burying them up to their heads. Topic five broke our spirit, a little, but it was finally finished:

5. We're All In This Together
The only trouble we had with number six (Attention to Detail) was Gareth's rapidly dying phone battery. He wanted to include Fred in a different way and succeeded with this typo-laden photograph:

6. Attention to Detail
We needed a quick-y at this stage, we were getting tired and needed food and the next set of topics was going to turn up soon. Plus we still had no idea what we were going to do for number eight (crossed wires.) Control took us to sitting on a bench while I controlled a meeple. I was tempted to do this actually on a game board, but that would have meant popping to my work in town to borrow something as we didn't have anything suitable with us, and that would have added a lot of wasted time to our day.

7. Control
It was time for the next topics so we headed to the Millennium Centre, still musing about what to do for Crossed Wires. We met a lovely employee who was sorting things out in the fuse cupboard behind the stage, and a quick snap of Fred meant we had finished the four topics before the next four were released! This delighted us as it was something we hadn't been expecting after our long search for number five.

8. Crossed Wires

The next four topics were: Dying of the Light, Stacked Up, Join the Dots and That's A Wrap! Our pattern of the first one being tricky to agree on, the second two going well and the last one being somewhat hopeless kicked in again. We went for food - maybe our brains would work better with a pint and a burger inside them! The Dying of the Light ideas were split between a Dylan Thomas book we picked up (meeples are hopeless at reading though..) or a moodily lit shot. We asked if we could use the cupboard in the pub, but were sadly told it would have to go through their PR department! Fair enough, we finished our meals and headed back into the Bay and found a nice shadowed area:

9. Dying of the Light

Stacked Up was a simple one - we had brought plenty of meeples with us and they joined Fred to build a pyramid. Sadly not a very high one as I had very clumsy fingers:

10. Stacked Up
We were down to the last two - and were still milling around in the Millennium Centre. We had considered finding somewhere the had loads of decorative dots and using string or chalk to shape a meeple through them, or alternatively just draw one on some paper. Luckily, however, there was an amazing blackboard in the Millennium Centre and our join the dots was born:

11. Join The Dots

That's A Wrap, That's A Wrap.. I'll admit we were idea-less at this stage, the marathon had broken us and I was worrying about having enough sleep for work the next day. We piled up our bags, camera cases and meeples and went to take a photo. We just couldn't get a nice shot of it though, it looked like what it was: a pile of stuff taken by a tired photographer. We were very jealous of the clapperboards we saw others had found! In the end, Gareth ran away to Sainsbury's, telling me he'd had an idea and would be back shortly - he arrived back with the final wrap in the shop! And here was our somewhat sloppy finish:

12. That's A Wrap
We absolutely loved our first photomarathon. It was a long day and we learnt a lot of lessons that we can't wait to bring to next year's event. Next year we'll aim to do an unthemed set, which will hopefully allow us to get a bit more creative with our ideas! And maybe we'll improve our stamina a little as well.. It was great day, and we loved milling around Cardiff with hundreds of other photographers. It's been very exciting to see there photos cropping up on flickr. We're looking forward to seeing even more at the exhibition at Cardiff Story in The Hayes, which will be open from 21st June to 5th July, 10am - 4pm. See you there!

Monday, 24 March 2014

Two Gamers Seek Three-Player Board Games

Should we just stick to two
player games? Pictured: Confusion
As most people know from talking to me, my gaming life is chiefly two-player and this is what drives our game purchases. Catan has no purpose in our lives, I desperately tried to explain to my fiancé: we cannot play it regularly. He disagreed and it's sat on the shelf ever since.

I'm so glad he disagreed. It's amazing to have the perfect game around when opportunity strikes. I'm typing this after five days of gaming with various friends - all having completely different interests and complexity thresholds. It was amazing.

We played four games of note and only one is specifically playable for two players:

The Resistance: there is little more exciting for me when somebody comes into work (Rules of Play, an independent board game shop) and tells me they have only played Monopoly. The thrill of being able to show them a sparkly, plastic-wrapped universe for the first time is very special. When friends tell me the same thing, on a day when I have bagfuls of games - well there's little hope for them to leave without murmuring to each other about the next time they can play *that* game. In this case it was The Resistance - an evening of it being requested over and over again, "I'm not a spy!" being protested loudly and regularly. Playing multiple games strengthened the laughter and doublethink - 'Well last game you said exactly that, and we all know you were a spy then!'

Survive: Escape from Atlantis

Survive: after playing the Resistance high-interaction was a must and there is little more entertaining than depositing your opponent in the sea only for them to be devoured by a shark. I sat out at this point and helped clarify rules and strategy points as they arose. Watching a group desperately swimming for safety with the banter and jollity carried over from the Resistance was amazing. It also allowed the new gamers to both play a board game (as opposed to card-based, party game The Resistance) and be introduced to the meeple. I strongly believe meeples are a board-gaming essential!

Settlers of Catan

Settlers of Catan: the next day was a pub-day. We usually bring something along (Resistance is a staple as is DixitLove Letter and Cheaty Mages are also very welcome) but felt as a few had enjoyed Survive so much the day before that we'd introduce them to the modern classic that is Settlers of Catan. Having sold over 18 million copies since 1995, in over 30 languages, it is the most well-known modern board game, and is sold alongside Monopoly, Cluedo and Risk in most retailers. The simple ruleset (and the "wood" puns!) charmed the players and as time had ticked on, we brought it the next day as well - and this time, having practiced the game the day before, strategies began to roll out and a new victor was crowned.

Twilight Imperium (Third Edition)

Twilight Imperium (Third Edition): Yesterday was the other side of gaming, we'd been invited along to play something different, never before played by us (it's three players and up and blossoms with a high player count), something that when people come into Rules of Play and talk to me about it I hang on their every word because it has always looked so incredibly exciting: Twilight Imperium. Despite having only the smallest of understandings of the actual rule-set pre-game, we managed to get into the game quickly (I built the strongest ships, War-Suns, on turn 1! It was so daftly unexpected and brilliant from my perspective) and delighted in weighty political discussions, intrigue, back-stabbing, quickly made reparations for fear of worse to come, distrust and uneasy alliances, trading and threatening our way out of situations. It was an interactive game at its finest, and my only regret is that I couldn't have played it again immediately (it was 9pm by that point - this game is long even if it doesn't feel like it!)

Opportunity struck and I've had several amazing experiences in quick succession because of it. I no longer regret having games on our shelf that will only come out every couple of months (and perhaps even less often!) because the joy a game can bring cannot be expressed in mere words: it's an intensity of feeling that I will do my best to continue grabbing whenever the moment offers itself. Next time I'm going to prepare better: the expansions for adding extra players for Settlers of Catan, Survive and Carcassonne are next on my to-buy list, and I never thought I would be saying that!

Friday, 14 February 2014

Valentine's Gaming, a message for my fiancé.

Dear Gareth,

I would love to be playing games with you this evening. Tidying the kitchen and buying pringles, popcorn, skittles and all the rest of it whilst you're at work, and then settling down with the radio on to destroy each other(!) I know instead we are going to have a nightmarish evening with the house invaded by two manically yapping dogs and my mother being quietly, endearingly awkward somewhere. I'm sorry. I'm sorry this has been every Valentine's Day, because my mother's birthday is 15/02 and spending that time with her is very important to me.

Know that I will be mentally playing board games with you. Do please text me your reciprocating moves on occasion - luckily we are both capable of doing so while Midsomer Murders blares in the background and we both feign interest.

This is what I am dreaming of playing with you tonight:

1. Hive. I love playing this fast-action, complete strategy game with you. I love that it was one of our first ever games and led us into this fantastic hobby. I love seeing your face wrinkle with confusion when I play the Queen early, and I love how you trap my moves until I can only admit defeat. I'm white, my spider has been placed first.

2. Space Hulk: Death Angel Card Game. We're both sci-fi (and yes, I will always pronounce this wrong, forever - there's a promise) nerds at heart, and working together to battle horrible genestealers (aliens) sounds like some excellent Valentine's fun. Maybe Brother Claudio and Brother Leon will go down at the last possible moment, maybe we'll escape. Either way, let's get trapped in a spaceship together.

3. Confusion. For every time I've driven us in the wrong direction, not seen the correct exit and completely missed something very important (a road sign, traffic lights, potholes...) we have Confusion. This game that highlights my
 horrible spatial skills and where I have to continually ask you how the characters are meant to be moving is something that we have to play tonight. Take the briefcase by all the way to Russia, but I'll come and clasp it from your hands (somehow..)

4.  Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective. We save it for special occasions, limit our play due to the lack of cases (and that they won't publish the French expansions in English..) but I would love for today to be special. Sat with glasses of wine, debating furiously about how many more places we can visit before Sherlock Holmes whops our rather rubbish arses completely. He'll win anyway, let's have the satisfaction of a case well-solved.

5. Dominion. Darling, I know this may not be your cup of tea for tonight, I know it burns you out, but I promise I won't combo too hard and I'll let you have all the Duchies.. And hey, if you do burn out and no longer fancy more games then perhaps it's time to relax and find something else to do.

With love, and apologies,


Thursday, 23 January 2014

Cardiff: Geek Gift Shop

Perhaps because I work for a really cool independent shop but sometimes I think about shops on the high street and feel a little mournful, because in my head (which is sadly different from practical, money-centric reality) they could be so much better. This has particularly hit home today.

February is an expensive month for me. At the start is a good friend's birthday and then within two weeks I have: Valentine's Day, my mother's birthday, my fiance's birthday, my mother-in-law's birthday and fiance's nephew's birthday.  Also at this point is my mother and father-in-law's anniversary and in the two weeks following there is my brother-in-law's birthday, another good friend's birthday and our own anniversary. It's nearly as horrible as Christmas and I rarely manage to save up as well. Nevertheless, a lot of those could be catered for in one shop - a really good geeky gift shop.

Cardiff doesn't have one. It has a Forbidden Planet and the fab Comic Guru (who I  love, but it rarely has the cool stuff I'd like to buy.) Firstly neither are gift shops - they are comic book shops that also sell some geek related merchandise. They are both small shops, with grimy poster-ridden exteriors and swap between gloomy and eye-hurting strip light interiors. Neither could be called particularly welcoming, despite generally having lovely staff, they are "serious geek territory" - enter at your own risk.

I would love if there was a gift shop - rather than a comic book shop - hidden away somewhere in the arcades. Somewhere welcoming with their door open (not with a badly sellotaped scrap of paper demanding the door is kept shut) and warm lighting. Somewhere you could walk around the display units (wooden, not finger print covered plastic) and see all the items.

And of course what items there are would be the important thing. Here's my quick idea of the items stocked in my dream gift shop (of course a lot of these probably don't actually exist..)

Actual from show merchandise: 
Sonic screwdrivers from Doctor Who, wands from Harry Potter, light sabers from Star Wars, the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device (Portal gun) from the Portal video games, the mockingjay brooch from The Hunger Games, Batarangs from Batman. There is a massive wealth of cool replica items that pretty much always look awesome because they're from the actual show/movie/comic/animation.

The compulsory mugs with Red Dwarf, Firefly and Buffy logos plus cool

patterns/designs from the shows - shields from Game of Thrones, Gallifreyan writing from Doctor Who. But not just mugs: have you seen the awesome Lakeland range of items for Doctor Who including Tardis teapots, and Dalek cookie cutters?  Aprons that dress you like favourite characters, salt and pepper pots in the shapes of your favourite monsters, TV dinner trays with beautiful images from the show, glass chopping boards with logos etched into them, Star Trek Enterprise bottle openers and pizza cutters.

Stationary and office stuff:
Hundreds of pens with slogans and lovely artwork and more subtle ones you can
actually take without automatically revealing your inner geek - plain black pens with the Deathly Hallows symbol on, for example. Notebooks with glossy "from the movie" covers, but also retro styling and hand drawn versions. Mouse mats, the Arc Reactor from Iron Man as a USB stick, novelty USB hubs (Tardis, robots), rocket shaped post it notes, calendars, address books, diaries, laptop cases, phone and tablet covers.. 

Whilst some may argue that a door painted to look like a Tardis is just going too far, there are loads of geeky (and giftable) nods to your favourite fandom. Have a few scatter cushions on your sofa but now one's a Sherlock design, one is of The Birds (Hitchcock) and one proclaims Bazinga!  (Big Bang Theory.) Scream coasters on the table with a Naruto canvas on the wall. Of course having loads of posters available is necessary, but the odd cool thing would be nice like these Marvel night lights and Dalek Christmas Tree baubles.

Jewellery:Whilst this could potentially just be an offshoot on clothing, I think jewellery would be one of the most important elements of a geek gift shop. Something that accessorises you and what you are thinking, wearing your personality visibly for
all to see. Plus there is so much cool stuff; I'm still gutted that Harlequin Goldsmiths (who produced Doctor Who themed sterling silver and gold-plated earrings and necklaces) has gone into receivership. However there's loads of other stuff: Minecraft Diamond Pickaxe Pendant, Final Fantasy necklaces, Wolverine dog tags, Deathly Hallows (Harry Potter) pendant, Arwen's Evenstar earrings from Lord of the Rings, Game Controller cufflinks.

Whilst perhaps not having a cosplay section (because let's face it, that's not a gift - it's cool stuff you buy for yourself) having a few costume items and novelties like
the Fourth Doctor's Scarf, a Star Trek Red Shirt, some Sherlock deerstalkers and the like would be sensible. After that the options are basically endless, stocking from places like Last Exit to Nowhere (best hoodies ever!), and reaching deals with Qwertee to buy any excess after their Insanitee sales so there is constantly different and unique items would be ideal. Of course you'd also need to accessorise, so having Sherlocked bags, various rucksacks, comic book "collage" items like this jumper, even funky Supernatual pants, awesome wallets and belt buckles (here's a Batman set) and fab Superman converses, or Batman wellies for the little ones.

Whilst most cool geek stuff is going to appeal to children as much as it does to
adults, there is some really nice stuff specifically for children. Having a few of the Superman: I Can Read series (or Green Lantern, or Spiderman should you prefer..) on the shelves would be lovely. Add in the Marvel Colouring Book, Marvel Sticker Book, a toy Batcave, pencil cases, Lego Minifigures and sets (e.g. this fab Indiana Jones one), Minecraft merchandise like this Light Up Torch

Books and Comics:
Preferably the comic session would be more of the gift type - lovely graphic novels and compendiums: Watchmen, Sandman omnibus, Walking Dead, Death Note Box Set, Peanuts Box Set, Hell Boy and Sailor Moon

And then you can look at all the cool directories, encyclopedias, script collections and coffee table books. Some of the most fabulous things we own are our Batman "museum in a book" items - books/folders containing loads of sketches, old posters, script extras such as The Batman Vault. Books and literature is a section that could go forever but here a few cool things that I'd love to see in shops: Star Wars Origami, Screenplay of The Monty Python's Life of Brian, The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule HistoriaStar Wars: Frames, Transformers Vault, Chronicles: Art and Design (The Hobbit.)

Games and Puzzles:
Of course, working where I do, I'm incredibly aware of the cool licensed board

games that are around. They range from Firefly: The Game where you roam around space completing goals, to awesome miniature games Star Wars: X Wing and Star Trek: Attack Wing. Of course if battling in space with awesome ships isn't your thing then there's a game where you all have to work together as Marvel superheroes in Legendary - and if you don't like Marvel then there is also the DC Comic Deck-Building Game. If you'd prefer high fantasy then there are several great Terry Pratchett games out (Discworld: Ankh Morpork and The Witches) as well as many games based on the Tolkien licenses.

Gift Wrapping:
A gift wrapping service would be offered, with several levels of fanciness and wrapping paper would also be available to buy for those who'd prefer to wrap at home. I love some of the wrapping paper that is already available such as these Cybermen (Doctor Who) sheets (I love the stylish nature of the BBC Shop wraps), this Lego Star Wars sheet, and this Super Mario Bros wrapping paper.

And for now that's it! What would you include in your dream geek gift store?

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Getting Old

Last week I turned 22. I'm practically still in the womb compared to some of my closest friends and colleagues.
And yet I've been nagged by a phrase today. A nasty little creature has been on my shoulder muttering. It's been muttering that I'm getting old.
It started last night, when I sat down to write a shopping list before going to bed. Firstly that level of organisation is rare for me - normally I'll go in for eggs and come out with a newspaper. Secondly the list of items was so mundane that reading it for a second time made me age twenty years: black bags, toilet roll, kitchen roll, toothpaste, milk.
The creature visited me again this morning - I woke my fiancé up simply to ask him to put the clothes I'd put on to wash in the tumble when he got up as I'd be on my way to work. (Okay, maybe I'm confusing increased organisational skills with aging..)
Driving to pick up my fiance from work I saw two teenagers clinging to each other against the wall, groins moving in tandem. The monster giggled and suddenly I was thinking of how cold and uncomfortable it must be, how nice a bed with clean sheets was. I was getting old and they didn't care - to them it was an exciting stolen time never to be forgotten.
And this evening, the creature left. He left because I realised I needed to take responsibility for looking after my mother, all over again just like I did when I was a child. He left because I understood that getting old doesn't mean I know how to solve problems, it just means I have to keep trying until I succeed. And really, that's something I should have remembered from being a child.

Monday, 13 January 2014

A Year of Gaming

Despite the regular set reports, She-Goat is a personal blog - I occasionally attempt to remember this and post something different to "I saw Matt Smith today!" - and this was certainly something I tried to capture when I named it. This isn't the Tardis Chronicles - I am the she-goat, I'm grumpy and will end up at loggerheads with people near accidentally. I don't quite eat sheets on a washing line, but the name feels apt.

I've been with my fiancé, @gabundy, just under three years. The year before that I was on a depression-fuelled kick of self destruction where anybody was fair game, life was for sleeping until 6pm and staying up until late morning and tears were my showers - I was attempting to deal with a nasty illness diagnosis. I didn't deal with it very well. Luckily things changed, I met Gareth and he turned my world around (well more literally: he moved my world to Wales, which worked beautifully.) and I settled back down to being a less extreme human being.

A year or so into our relationship, my best friend visited. We played Monopoly, Scrabble, Battleships - anything we could pick up quickly from the shops. It reawakened old memories of constantly nagging my mother to play Monopoly with me (I was an only child) - I loved the mentally competitive nature, I loved the social nature of sitting at a table in friendly rivalry, I loved being completely absorbed in something. I loved gaming. Luckily we remembered a shop where six months before we'd visited to buy a Go board. The shop had been filled with different shiny, colourful boxes - immediately intimidating, but immediately fascinating - never forgettable. We met the staff, and chatted and they gave us recommendations that we seized upon and took straight to the pub.

Munchkin, Hive - one a silly, fun, fast card fest and the other a two-player strategy game where you try to surround your opponent's queen bee. That was enough - it widened our eyes, and we were hooked. It's been a busy couple of years and it's now weird to think of a time firstly and foremostly without Gareth, and secondly without games. Things have changed now: the days where we don't play a game are the unusual ones, I work at that very shop we bought those first few tantalising steps into the hobby, our friends now know games that haven't been produced by Hasbro by name.

I am very grateful for this.

I am grateful for the constant distraction, the mental stability it helps provide me when I still struggle with negative moments - the psychological satisfaction of doing something productive (the end of Agricola: looking over your board and seeing the farm you painstakingly created), the assurance of social contact (the Resistance: are you lying to me, am I lying to you? We don't know, but let's work together and find that spy..), time away from the digital world (which I desperately need as it harms my eyesight, but like everyone else it's hard to pull myself away from twitter, just in case @WaterstonesOxfordSt is funny again.), the mental training of heavy strategy (Mage Knight: is fighting rampaging Orcs but getting wounded the best option for me?) after my mind feeling dead from not being able to read for two years is amazing.

Playing games is fun. The best bit is that playing games is more than fun, it's a way of life for me and one of the many ways I keep my sanity track from dropping down to zero. It's a little bit of sparkle and sometimes she-goats need tinsel wound around their horns.

Friday, 10 January 2014

#dwsr: The Maltings, Splott, Cardiff.

Dan Starkey, Neve McIntosh and Catrin Stewart film in The Maltings.

On the 7th of January 2014 Peter Capaldi started filming Doctor Who. On the 7th of January I was watching Doctor Who filming. Logic might indicate my fellow set reporters and I were watching the 12th Doctor for the first ever time. Sadly this was not the case. When we arrived at the Maltings we were delighted to see Madame Vastra, Jenny and Strax filming a Victorian scene, but I must admit I was keeping an eye out in case a shiny, expensive car drove up - I can't wait to see Capaldi!

Intriguingly a blink-and-you-miss-him character from the 2012 Christmas Prequel, Vastra Investigates, was also at filming that day. All information about this character is courtesy of the encyclopaedic knowledge and memory of @Ruther2. Paul Hickey played Inspector Gregson of Scotland Yard, and it looks as though this likely to be the case again - he was in similar clothes, and there were many uniformed policemen on set.

Inspector Gregson in Vastra Investigates

We were somewhat late to filming that day - it was my birthday and getting up a little late, opening presents and having breakfast all seemed reasonably necessary - and so we only saw an hour or so of filming. The Paternoster Gang (Vastra, Jenny, Strax) are at a shipyard and watching (waiting to collect? Needing to interrupt?) items being unloaded from a cargo ship. Inspector Gregson is talking to the trio and his policemen are dotted around the scene. An alien gadget is unloaded and delivered to Vastra in a large cloth sack - it is a transparent glass orb with a glowing orange light and has four dull silver coloured metal prongs sticking out of it. At one point Jenny uses her sonic gauntlet. The majority of the filming I saw was crowd reaction shots (potentially to do with Jenny using the gauntlet), and a scene where policemen barge through the Victorian crowd in an alarmed fashion.

The mysterious alien gadget.
Note: fellow set reporter, @ryanfarrr, tweeted me with some more information on the various alien devices (Jenny's gauntlet and Vastra's hat pin which you can see in Ryan's picture. The link he sent me is to the Blue Peter competition, where children designed three new sonic gadgets. Jenny's gauntlet blasts open locks and Vastra's pin, which turns into a sword.

The lovely Neve McIntosh waves goodbye.
She is quite possibly my favourite actor in
Doctor Who - always friendly, even
after the slog of filming. Cheers Neve!
At lunchtime they wrapped and the cast left. We were informed that they were going to continue the day's filming in studio - where Capaldi already was, judging by the lovely photograph released by the BBC. Possibly this was to film the cargo ship side of things, which was just a green screen in the filming we had watched. We left very soon after - it was time to get home for drinks and silly card games. Doctor Who starting filming again on my birthday was a lovely birthday present.

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