So That Was 2007

2007’s drawing to a close, so I thought I’d better say a few words to mark it’s passing, and what’s it’s meant to me. In convenient bullet-point form, here’s what I’ve been up to this year:


  • I was a headline act at Gorilla Monsoon, Aber’s now-dead alternative comedy "scene" event. I got a bit scared about it, but it went reasonably well in the end, although I disappointed myself a little.

  • I got my hair cut for the first time in almost a decade, and – for the first time almost-ever – this suddenly meant I that had shorter hair than the person I was going out with. Just because I’ve got a sense of humour, I got up early, had it cut, then returned to bed to frighten the crap out of Claire when she put her arms around me and thought I’d left somebody else in our bed.

  • We tried a few times to get our online games of Diplomacy re-started, but it all fell apart technically. Despite it being a very back-stabby board game, we all managed to stay friends pretty well this second time around.

  • My sister Becky came to visit me in Aber, which was nice.


  • I read The Ethical Slut, which turned out to be very useful later in the year by giving me lots of tips for the renegotiation of the terms of open relationships.

  • I developed and deployed the new version of Abnib, which to this date is still the coolest (even if not the most practical) way to keep up with your favourite Aberystwyth-based weblogs.

  • I helped Claire sue her bank (having done the same to mine in 2006) to reclaim penalty charges unlawfully levied against her.

  • We got Geek Night – our weekly alternative board games night – kicked off again, with a little help from sister event Poker Night (which since died a death after Claire took everybody’s money).

  • I celebrated my birthday a month late, because my family had posted cards and presents (and advised others to do the same) to an address that wasn’t actually where I lived, and it took me this long to gain access to them.

  • We went skiing in Scotland, but bad wind conditions we didn’t get so much done as we’d have liked. Claire took lessons which helped her confidence and her technique no end, and she got "bitten by the skiing bug" in a way that I’d worried she’d never get. So we’re going again in 2008, although not in Scotland.


  • Biggest bit of news for March, of course, was that Claire and I changed our surnames by deed pollto Q (and I shortened my first name to Dan). I’m now Dan Q, and she’s Claire Elizabeth Q. This attracted many comments (most of them positive, some of them negative) from our friends, and contributed to quite a lot of stress as we had to write to every company we deal with in order to update their records. But it was worth it. Even when… no – especially when – I got a snotty note from the Passport Office about it.

  • I had a go at explaining why I’m an atheist on my blog, and kicked off a series of meme-like responses on my friends’ blogs.

  • With the help (kindly volunteered) of my friend Paul, I helped out backstage at the Aberystwyth Student Skills Competition for the fifth and final time. With the loss of Lynda Rollason from the Aberystwyth Careers Department, the competition has been cancelled. It’ll always have a special place in my heart.

  • Oh, and loads of people come over the border to visit us in Aber. Thanks!



  • I got myself a new phone, and it (a Nokia N95) remains one of the sexiest bits of technology I’ve ever had the pleasure to use.

  • I launched an extra part of Abnib – Abnib Events – to help us Aberites schedule our various social calendars.

  • I went to see Meatloaf without Claire after she had exams scheduled on both sides of the concert date. Worse yet, when she went to see him later in the year he cancelled the show and he’ll probably never perform live again, meaning that Claire may have missed her last chance to see his show. Which isn’t good.

  • I won a competition run by Fanta where you text in a code from the back of the bottle. I wouldn’t normally enter such a competition, but I was bored on a train (back from Meatloaf) and my new mobile phone contract gave me millions of free text messages, so I gave it a go. I won a Nintendo Wii (which, as I already have one, I gave to my mum), a wide-screen TV (which is running as a much-needed replacement for our old one, which was falling to bits) and a fridge full of Fanta (the latter of which I drunk, and the former of which I donated to a charity raffle). I am hereby declared A Lucky Bugger.

  • I released Google Reader For LiveJournal Users, a tool to help people who use LiveJournal friends-only feeds to get those "secret" posts into their Google Reader accounts, because I needed a tool that did that. It now has over 200 regular users, and, because I released the source code, it’s also being run elsewhere on private servers by other users.

  • Claire and I found and agreed on a venue for QParty!




  • Claire and I went to the UK National Bisexual Conference, and had a magical time.

  • Then we went to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival with our friends Ruth and JTA. For various reasons, we didn’t see as much comedy as we’d planned to.

  • However, the four of us did reconfigure our relationships somewhat. Claire and JTA started seeing one another, while I started going out with Ruth. All without significant change to our established relationships. It started out secretive, but now it’s much more overt, and after five months, it still makes me very happy to have two fabulous girlfriends who I adore, and for them to both share their love with another man. It’s pretty brilliant.

  • I made and deleted a blog post which managed to offend pretty much the entirety of the surviving part of my mum’s side of the family. Oops.


  • QParty – Claire and I’s celebration of love and commitment – happened, and we had a fantastic time. This party – and our name change – is something we’d talked about for years, and it was great to finally see it happen… and to get together with all of our closest friends and relatives and commemorate the last five and a half years of Claire and I’s relationship. There are loads of photos online. There was a minor crisis when we discovered that the venue was being rennovated when it should have been ready for us to use, but a handful of the guests pulled together into a makeshift team and helped us clean up and prepare the hall so that it was once again suitable for use (thanks guys!). All in all, the event was wonderful, and I was delighted to read that lots of our friends blogged about it. Eventually, I got round to writing about preparing for the party and about the party itself, too.

  • We also went on QMoon, a "honeymoon" following QParty: my dad sent the pair of us on a mystery holiday to Italy (mystery in that we didn’t know even to which country we were going before we got to the airport; we didn’t know whereabouts we’d be going in the country until each day when we’d open up a surprise parcel with a guidebook of where we’d be the following day, and so on). I wrote four blog posts from the holiday itself, just to show how sad and internet-addicted I am.

  • As if September wasn’t a big enough month for Claire and I, we also used it as an opportunity to explain to many people about our unusual relationship with Ruth and JTA, because we thought it might be important to explain to people what it meant to, for example, QParty (the short answer: nothing – QParty was still about what it was always about: Claire and I celebrating our relationship, our love for one another, and our commitment to one another). I suppose in hindsight that the timing of our new relationships (so close to QParty) may have been confusing for some people, but it’s just a coincidence.


  • Ruth returned to Aberystwyth, and we celebrated by paddling in the sea in the middle of the night. Unsurprisingly, we got rather damp and my phone got damaged and required repair. Surprisingly, I didn’t have to claim on the insurance, because Vodafone repaired it under warranty. Presumably "inability to withstand being dropped in the sea" is now considered to be a manufacturing defect. That’s pretty much all that’s worth saying about October.


  • The unofficial UK premiere of Poultrygeist: Night Of The Chicken Dead, Troma‘s new film, came to Aberystwyth. Better yet, Paul, Claire, Ruth, JTA and I got to sit in Lord Beechings for beer and nachos with director Lloyd Kaufman. I almost wet myself with excitement. I wrote a lot about it (and everything else that happened in the first weekend of November, too) in a blog post. Claire mentioned that weekend, too.

  • I also enjoyed the opportunity to visit Preston for the book launch party of my friend Faye‘s first published novel, Cover The Mirrors. It’s really quite a good read, and I’ve promised to review it at some point or another, but for now just buy a copy and enjoy it. While I was up in Preston my sisters and I took my dad out for his birthday and had a remarkably good night out.

  • Fellow Aberite Matt got taken into hospital, and so we spent a lot of time visiting him there and wishing him a speedy recovery while simultaneously teasing him (only a little) for his medical misfortunes.

  • Claire and I went to the Computer Science Department away weekend at Gregynog.

  • Ruth, JTA, Claire and I took our usual November holiday on the Llanwrtyd Wells Real Ale Ramble, a weekend-long trek through the damp hills of mid-Wales, drinking all the way. Despite getting so wet that my trousers chafed so badly that I bled quite a lot, we had a fabulous time and I’m looking forward, again, to taking part in the event next year.


  • To kick off December rallied folks to comment on and complain about the Aberystwyth Masterplan, which aims to turn Aberystwyth from a tiny town in the middle of nowhere into a slightly bigger town in the middle of nowhere by making the town centre shinier, putting up a multistorey car park, and making all of the public transport inaccessible to anybody without a car.

  • Despite being even-more-than-typically busy at work, I found time in a weekend to visit Katie at her university accomodation in Derby. I originally met Katie at BiCon earlier in the year.

  • Because I’ve never really understood Christmas cards, I made a charitable donation in the name of the people for whom I couldn’t think of a more personal present, rather than sending a card, kicking off some debate on the principles of card-sending and gift-giving, and inspiring some others to do the same.

  • Claire and I spent Christmas in Aberystwyth (as has become the norm) with Paul and, for the first time, Ruth and JTA. We roasted a goose too large to fit in the oven we’d originally planned to cook it in, exchanged gifts, and generally had a wonderful time: it was particularly nice to spend a large part of the holiday period in the company of my friends and lovers.

  • Finally, to end the year, Claire and I have been travelling around Norfolk (to meet up with her dad and his wife, and to attend an A-Level Reunion organised by some of her old friends) and Lancashire (to visit my family), and we’ll eventually be returning to Aberystwyth on the first day of 2008, with Ruth in tow (we’ll be picking her up from her dad’s house tomorrow morning).

So that, in short, is my year. It’s been a pretty hectic one, full of new names and new relationships and new experiences, and it’s been very busy with work and various volunteer and social activities, as well as with a more-than-normal number of holidays and weekends away.

How’s your year been?

Out And About

Just to keep people posted aboutour whereabouts, here’s Claire and I’s travel plans for the next few days:

  • Friday (Today) evening: travel from Aberystwyth to Norfolk.
  • Saturday: Norfolk (well, Lincolnshire) with Claire’s dad and his wife.
  • Sunday: travel from Norfolk to Preson.
  • Monday: Preston with Dan’s family.
  • Tuesday (New Year’s Day): travel from Preston to Maulds Meaburn to meet with Ruth and her dad, then travel with Ruth back down to Aberystwyth again.

If you’re in any of these places and want to meet up for a sly half-pint (it’s a tight schedule, but we can probably manage that) leave a comment: I’ll be checking my main personal e-mail addresses while on the move, as usual.

Further Disturbances From Dan’s Sleepy Head

Two more particularly strange dreams last night, probably owing at least slightly by the amount I drank at the SmartData Christmas meal, beforehand… and perhaps owing more to the phase I’ve been going though of consistently remembering what are usually quite trippy dreams. I’ve not been blogging them all (I had a dream the night before last, or thereabouts, in which both my grandfathers [actually already dead] died in quick succession, which was a bit odd) because I’ve not had much spare time in which to blog at all, but I can’t really not share the unusual stories my brain was telling me last night.

The Company Picnic Dream

The first of these dreams I remember because I woke up parched at about 3am, having not had quite enough water between stopping drinking alcohol and going to bed. It’s very obviously inspired quite heavily by the SmartData Christmas meal:

Simon, Alex, Gareth and I – everybody present at the Christmas dinner earlier in the evening – were having a picnic on the Aber promenade. We’d laid out a picnic rug right at the edge of the prom, where the drop-off to the beach begins, and we were eating soup from bowls. The tide was in and it was getting dark, and occasional waves would crash against the prom and splash us, so we all got off the picnic rug and dragged it further away from the sea. We were still getting sprayed and our soup was getting cold, so I suggested that we go to Paul‘s flat, nearby, where we could re-heat it.

When we got to Paul’s flat he wasn’t there, but Ruth was. She said that Paul wouldn’t mind us using his oven [!] to re-heat our soup, so we put our bowls in the oven and turned it on. Paul’s living room had distinct elements of The Flat and The Cottage to it, but the staircase downstairs was the one from my dad’s house. After a while, people started to arrive for Geek Night – just the usual people one would expect, but also two women I didn’t recognise. I went down the stairs to collect a box full of board games, and the stairs looked a lot like those at my dad’s house, but with the carpet we had when I was young.

I picked up the blue plastic box of board games [the same one that, in real life, has been used for months to transport games to and from Rory‘s place], but it was overfilled and hard to control, so I asked JTA to carry some of the games, which he did. Later, I persuaded Claire to carry some, too, although she objected to having to help. The box for the Friends & Foes expansion pack to Lord Of The Rings fell open, and I had to pick up all the pieces.

The Animated Cat Dream

The second dream of last night is far more weird and convoluted. It’s all-too-easy to find meaning in it relating to my life and the people in it, but I can assure you that if that appears to be the case, it’s coincidental – large segments of it are from a recurring dream I’ve had several times in the last seven or eight years. This doesn’t help my case for not being a fruitcake, though, I suppose. In any case:

The dream is told from a perspective in which I am an observer – like watching a film – rather than something of which I am part of with which I can interact. During the dream, I was aware that the story I was following was something I had seen before (previous occurrences of dreaming this, which is one of the far-less-frequent recurring stories I find in my dreams). Like previous times, however, I’ve had a sensation of "seeing more" in it this time around than any previous time [another common theme in several of my recurring dreams is a feeling that I’m being told a story in fragments, seeing a bigger picture every time]: a clearer picture, a more-understandable plot, and a longer and better-planned tale.

The dream is also always told through the medium of animation, and the animation style in itself is worthy of mention. It has a particularly hand-drawn feel to it, uses very strong blocks of colour, a slightly-too-small frame rate, and it is animated entirely without outlines around the characters and their features. It’s very slightly glossy, like poster paint. Those "common" bits aside, here’s the dream:

An anthropomorphic black tom cat walks up a stairwell, as seen from a "floating camera" ascending the stairs ahead of him, in a grubby, run-down old house. He has a cheeky grin on his face as he reaches the top of the stairs and enters what appears to be his bedroom, and makes the bed, while we hear his voice as a voice-over monologue. He’s trying to impress a woman he lives with in order to sleep with her. He gets into the bed.

Later, the woman comes home. She’s tall with long unkempt blonde hair, and she’s wearing a black dress, and she’s animated in the same style as the cat (although she’s the most human-looking character in the entire story). She goes to the bedroom, and it becomes apparent [from the voiceover? I don’t remember] that it’s her room, not the cat’s. She appears to be angry that the cat has crept in to her bed, and she sternly demands that he returns to his own room. He slinks out, and she follows him, watching him skulk back to his own room, where she insists that she must punish him for his impertinence. A series of kinky games ensue, and it’s obvious that what I’m now seeing is the true nature of the relationship between the cat and this woman: one based on cheeky misbehaviour, control, sex, and sadomasochism. She threatens him, and slaps him, and makes him sit bare-bottomed on a hot radiator, and as the camera pulls away from the scene we see some text appear that for some reason tell us their "safe word" (well, a "safe phrase", really): it begins "I wish I knew the name of…" and finishes with a monicker by which we know the woman. [but since waking, I don’t remember what it is]

The dream shows another two inhabitants of the house [only one of which I can recall well enough to describe] – one of these has distinctly pig-like features. He’s excitable and slightly nervous and talks with a stutter, but he’s likable and gets on well with the other people he lives with, including the other one in this scene. The two talk [but I don’t recall about what] as the opening credits begin to appear (large, serifed white letters) and the view explores the house, seeing a great deal of filth and squalor and a generally disturbing level of decay. At one point, we see an ill and dying rat bite off and eat the eye (and surrounding face) of a dead and decomposing rat.

Some time later [there’s a huge plot hole here, and I’m convinced my brain simply hasn’t seen fit to fill it in yet], a black bakelite telephone rings at the house, and the woman answers it. We hear the voice on the other end of the phone threaten [perhaps blackmailing] her, and she appears genuinely scared. She tries to respond, boldly, to hide her fear, but the voice on the phone is being played from an old-fashioned record turntable in a car parked over the street, connected to a car-phone. The cat, the woman, the pig-man, and the fourth housemate gather to discus what to do about this threat.

New aspects in this dream since the last time I had it include: a great deal more clarity on the animation style of the cat (and the woman, to a lesser extent), the discovery that the woman and the cat have a "safe word," the dead rat (the other rat has always featured, but it’s new to see it being cannibalistic), and the woman’s face while she is being threatened (previously, I’ve "been looking at" the record player at the time).

So, that’s another episode in one of my more-unusual recurring dreams (and not a common one; I’ve only had that particular dream about four times so far, as far as I can tell). Interpretations, as always, welcome, but if you’d prefer to just sit quietly and think, "wow, that guy’s fucked up," that’s cool too.

Bad Advertising

Well, I’ve seen it all now. I’ve just been in a gents toilets in a shopping centre in Nottingham in which there was a poster advertising cheaper car insurance… for women.

Another Strange Dream

Well, I’m in Derby (after a hideously long and complicated journey involving long train delays, diversions, and a taxi ride – lost – around the middle of Derby city centre) visiting my friend Katie.

And another strange dream for my collection. But this one isn’t suitable for print (no, not in that way), so you’ll have to wait and ask about it.

Back in Aber tomorrow afternoon. Have a great Troma Night 200!

Christmas Cards

[thanks to several people for the suggestion behind this post]

I’ve never really "got" the sending of Christmas cards, or, really, got "into" it. It feels like a waste of overpriced paper to line the pockets of big printing companies just to save you the bother of actually picking up the phone and talking to the people you care about over the holiday season. So I won’t be sending any. But read on.

If you would have liked a Christmas card from me (and I know you!), leave your name and e-mail address using the comments form for this post. In exchange, I’ll donate £1 to Samaritans of Aberystwyth and Mid-Wales (my local Samaritans branch) in your name. Plus a £25 ‘kitty’ in the names of you all.

Samaritans volunteers will be working round the clock on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day – just like every other day in the year – to provide emotional support to those who are suffering from feelings of distress or despair, including those which may lead to suicide. Christmas can be a difficult time for many people, and this vital service – provided by telephone, post, and e-mail, as well as by face-to-face contacts – can, for some, make all the difference.

Technical note: You’ll probably end up classified as blogspam if you leave an empty comment, so say something, even if it’s just "Merry Christmas!"

We’re Going Down

Another strange dream last night:

I was in a small aircraft (one aisle, two seats either side, about 80 seats in total, two jet engines, for those who feel the need to identify the aircraft in my dreams), sat by a window on the left hand-side, when the right-hand engine caught fire. The plane was forced to make an emergency water landing somewhere off the coast of India. The other passengers and I were all instructed to put on our life-jackets, fasten our seat belts, and brace for impact, but as the plane went down, I suddenly came to an understanding that we were all going to be okay. I took off my seatbelt and stood up moments before the plane hit the water, and (despite a little juddering) I was perfectly okay. Around me people were panicking, but I was completely calm.

Read into that whatever you like.

Suppose I’d better start my Christmas shopping, today.

A Quick Play With HTML5

I’ve been playing with HTML 5 a little this morning. It’s really quite fabulous: a lot of smart design decisions have been made and it looks like – given a good few years to get things up to scratch even after the specification has been finalised – it’ll really provide a lot of useful tools to help the web developers of tomorrow reach their goals more easily and in a more structured way.

I knocked up a quick test page to see how the code comes together, and, in particular, to play with the new sectioning elements that can be used to state what parts of the page have what purpose and what their relationship is to the rest of the document. So far, so good. Then I tried to style them.

HTML5 Test in Microsoft Internet Explorer 7

Internet Explorer 7 didn’t really stand a chance, I suppose. Microsoft don’t have any plans to support either HTML 5 or XHTML 2 – an alternative language for the future web – and that probably won’t change until they think they’re losing browser market share over it. That’ll happen, perhaps, but much slower than they lost market share to Firefox over issues of speed and security: the media make a far bigger deal of computer security these days than they ever will about standards-compliance, because standards-compliance doesn’t sell newspapers.

So yeah; IE7 got all the content, at least, thanks to the fact that HTML 5 is backwards-compatible (in a way that XHTML 2 simply isn’t), and the page is just about understandable. But it wouldn’t allow CSS styles to be applied to any of the "new" tags it didn’t understand, so the page is quite a bit more simplistic that it should have been.

HTML5 Test in Firefox 3 Beta 1

I’d expected more from the latest beta version of Mozilla Firefox – Mozilla are, along with Apple, perhaps the biggest supporters of HTML 5 as the future of the web. Unfortunately, I was mistaken.

Perhaps the majority of the HTML 5 support will come in a later release of Firefox – although it’d be nice it they supported at least the core, well-understood features in the final release of Firefox 3. Yeah, yeah, I know they’ve started to implement support for things like <canvas> and stuff, but it’s hard to get excited about things that, while cool, I’m just not likely to use.

Firefox understood that there was something to do with floating something in the <aside> element, but didn’t do a very good job of actually floating it, instead just drawing a box where it might have put it if it understood it better. This is actually just slightly worse behavior than IE, which failed to understand but didn’t half-heartedly try to interpret what it didn’t "get." Nonetheless, Firefox still rendered a readable, understandable page – good old backwards-compatibility, there.

HTML5 Test in Opera 9.2

Opera, as I’d have expected, excelled here. Opera’s support for emerging standards has always been impressive, and this was no exception, as it rendered the page almost exactly as I would have expected. It genuinely seems to understand the new sectioning elements provided by HTML 5 (although a later experiment has shown that this is possibly just because it will happily interpret CSS directives for unrecognised elements: however, this is a good future-proofing strategy for any browser – had Mozilla taken this approach, the majority of the page would have looked perfect in Firefox, too).

In short, we’re a long way from being able to use HTML 5 in any real way, and all the exciting things it’s bringing will have to wait for now. But I expect we’ll be seeing better and better compliance with the standard as the standard becomes more finalised next year and the geeks at the major browser manufacturers compete to have the coolest features first. My prediction? Lead by Opera, Safari, and Firefox (as well as Konquerer, which I gather is also likely to support HTML 5 early), we’ll start seeing usable snippets of some of the fun things the future of the web will bring us as early as next year, and Microsoft will – eventually – give in and implement them in Internet Explorer too.

In the meantime, it’s been fun to read through the current working draft specification for what I think is likely to be the more popular language of the next generation of the web. But that’s perhaps just because I’m the kind of person who enjoys reading specifications for fun.

Update: Two more browser snapshots (thanks Katie).

HTML5 Test in Camino

Camino, as you might expect, looks pretty much identical to Firefox.

HTML5 Test in Safari

Safari fares well, rendering the page in the same way as Opera did, seemingly understanding all of the elements perfectly.

Still Having Strange Dreams

Last night’s dream:

I visited the house of Simon [my boss] to collect £49.97 which, in my dream, he owed me. He and his wife, Jill, were there. Simon gave me a £50 note,  but I didn’t have three pence in change, so I have him a five pence piece and he gave me two pennies.

Perhaps there’s something wrong with me.

High Places

Another unusual dream last night. I’d meant to blog about it earlier in the day, before it faded, but it’s been a ludicrously busy day with one thing and another and I didn’t get a chance. I slept kind-of fitfully, I think, and I’m pretty sure this dream came to me in two distinct chapters, because I remember details that I’d become aware of after falling asleep a second time, even though they applied to the dream I’d remembered after waking up for the first time during the night. Strange.

Claire and I were at Gregynog, just as we were last month, to help out with the Computer Science Department away weekend. Unusually, though, the majority of the guests were accommodated in tents scattered around the grounds of the hall, rather than in bedrooms in the building itself. We’d arrived early in the day, and had trouble persuading the staff that we were supposed to be there, and when we were finally able to drop off our bags we decided to wander into the nearby town [there isn’t actually a town for miles and miles around] and look around.

In need of some lunch, we got a taxi and asked for a lift to a cafe we’d heard about, but he took us to a beach. We walked along a rickety walkway (which had evidently been replaced recently, but not very well) laid over the beach, and it was hard to follow because it was becoming covered in sand, but we just about found our way, despite protests from Claire that we should try a different route. The beach opened up to a series of villas and some kind of tourist resort, and we realised that the taxi had dropped us off far further from the cafe than we had imagined.

We took a shortcut through a dry ski slope, and I remember walking across a very high open-sided bridge, which Claire again objected to.

I’m sure there were significant other bits to the dream, but I don’t remember them now. Strange stuff. Perhaps I need to relax a little and think less.

It’s Good To Be Me

It’s Sunday morning. I’ve just eaten a second crumpet, put some music on, and I’m working on writing some interesting program code for a project I’m involved with.

Ruth just challenged Claire to have a shower in less time than it takes her to go to the shops and buy some milk. Then made it more challenging by putting obstacles in her way, which she’s trying to negotiate while not flashing the neighbours through the windows – made challenging by the fact that she’s wearing my dressing gown, and it doesn’t have a belt.

JTA‘s just booted up the Nintendo Wii and is going to play a game of Super Paper Mario.

I comlpain about being busy, sometimes: about never having any free time. But I supopse that’s the way I like it. I wouldn’t wish it any other way.

Better get on with that code.

The Aber Masterplan

Have you seen the Aber Masterplan yet? The Welsh Development Agency/Welsh Assembly Government/Ceredigion County Council document that takes a SimCity-like approach to planning the future development of Aberystwyth.

No? You oughta. Here: download a copy [PDF].

Town Areas in the Aber Masterplan

It’s got some good bits. Re-routing some of the trunk roads to improve traffic flow and reduce dependence on the older, narrower roads through Llanbadarn and the town centre – good. Better use of Park & Ride schemes and a reorganisation of public transport – good. Reorganising parking spaces, making more space to park in the town centre and prioritising residents’ access to the parking spaces outside their houses – good. Better cycle lanes and cycleway connections – good. You see where I’m coming from.

And it’s got some… other bits. Moving the railway station quarter of a mile up the line and out of the town centre – not so good. Concrete everywhere – umm. Building a stadium – y’what?

A view of New Aberystwyth from the East

The whole thing’s filled with buzzphrases, like “The overall concept for this area is to create a new piece of town commensurate with that achieved in the Victorian period.” But with a bit of work, it’s possible to cut through the cruft and get to the key points of the proposal. Here are some of the more fascinating segments:

  • “Whilst a continuing University function for Old College is desirable, there are also possible complementary uses such as a high quality boutique hotel or art gallery.”
  • “Park Avenue could be developed as a positive, integrated part of town if the railway station was moved east to an area adjacent to the Vale of Rheidol Station.”
  • “Redeveloped football club site as high quality mixed use development developed on a grid pattern.”
  • “Mill Street car park development comprised of multistorey car park and retail units.”
  • “Redevelopment of cinema site.” (hint: it involves persuading the cinema to move elsewhere)

There’s a meeting open to the public in the WAG side of the Technium, on the marina, at 5:30 on Monday 10th December, so if you’d like to ask any questions about the plans, to enthuse or complain, or just to make your voice heard – in fact, if you have any opinion at all about these plans – you should come along and say your piece.

Further reading: Issue 10 of The Cambrian Snooze pokes fun at the Masterplan in it’s own way.

Oh, And My Sisters Are Black

Strange dream last night. I only remember fragments of it, but here’s what I do:

At some point during it, I left work at lunchtime to visit my dad and my sisters (who lived, conveniently, within walking distance of work). I bought a bag of sherbert along the way, but I was disappointed with how clumpy it was. I met my sisters – Sarah and Becky – on the way to my dad’s house, and Becky told me that she’s just got a job working at a chain bakery (a Greggs-like place) conveniently situated at the end of my dad’s road. Sarah teased Becky about the low level of skill required to do her job, and they argued. Oh, and both Sarah and Becky were black – I’m not sure how that’s relevant, it wasn’t important in the dream, I don’t think, and in fact it’s only now, thinking back over the dream, that I’ve noticed that that’s a little unusual.

In any case; when we got to my dad’s (and I’d almost finished my bag of sherbert) he tried to persuade me that I needed to start running up and down a hill in order to get into training for some kind of event, but I pointed out that I needed to get back to work, so I left.

When I got back to work, the caterers were carrying some kind of large soup pan and a ladle along the corridor to the kitchen on our floor.

The creepy bit of this is that when I got to work this morning and popped my head into the kitchen opposite our office, there is a large soup pan in there. It’s a fair bit smaller than the one in my dream, but it’s in the same style. Weird.

Interpretations welcome, as usual, but don’t expect to make sense of me.

Reactions To The Unholy Alliance

See these squares? See these circles? See the different colours? You are falling under a trance. When you wake up, you will have no clue what this blog post is about.Here’s a blog post I’ve been meaning to write for several months now: it’s about some of the varied and different ways that people reacted to the news that Ruth and I were together, and that Claire and JTA were also a couple (and, of course, Ruth and JTA are still the fabulous pair they always were, and Claire and I are still ticking along nicely with the wonderful relationship that we have). There probably aren’t many people who’ll read this to whom that news will be a shock (after all, Ruth made a friends-only post some time ago, and Claire dropped a one-liner into a recent blog post), so I’ll gloss over it and get on to what I actually wanted to write about.

I don’t want to write about how brilliantly it’s going so far – although it is – because you’ve probably heard that enough. I don’t want to spout liberal nonsense about personal freedoms and choices and what’s right for us, because I don’t feel the need to prove that what we’re all “up to” feels right. Hell, I don’t even want to try to argue that polyamory is as valid as a lifestyle choice as the infinitely more popular serial monogamy (but if you want to buy me a pint, we can debate that particular idea until the sun goes down).

All I’d like to do right now is share with you some of the fascinating reactions that I’ve heard (or overheard) since breaking the news of our new relationship structure to friends and family. Because, in the end, that’ll make more amusing reading material, and if I’m to be remembered for anything, I’d like it to be that I made people laugh.

Oh; there’s a few references to sex (but almost none to particular sexual activities), so please insert the usual disclaimer here and cover the eyes of the child that’s sat on your lap while you’re reading this. Ta. Seriously, it’s all pretty tame; enough to make a 14-year-old blush but nothing that’ll put you off your dinner or stop you from making eye contact with any of us, but I just felt like I ought to warn you before you started e-mailing me your complaints.

So, skim read it, or skip it, or drill down to the funny bits. But if I put this all down here, now, it’ll save me revisiting it all in quite such ludicrous detail in future, and I can spare the abnib front page the excesses of my ramblings.

Common Reactions

Here are some of the things that loads of people said:


Okay, so perhaps it shouldn’t be right up here at the top of the list of the most common reactions we’ve gotten when one of us has “come out” about our somewhat unorthodox relationship structure. That top spot should perhaps belong to “Umm… what?”“You’re joking, right?” But it has been a popular response – more popular than I expected – and it’s been great to have this kind of support from so many people. To the handful of friends and family members who were so open-minded that their first reaction was “So you’ve gotten into a new relationship and you’re happy? Well; congratulations are in order!”, I salute you: you’ve shown an unprecedented level of acceptance and understanding.

That’s not to say that anybody who said anything else is somehow less thoughtful: just, in many cases, more shocked or surprised. And, in the end, almost everybody who knows has said “Well that’s great, then!” or something similar after they’d been given a while to think about it. It’s not easy to know the correct social etiquette procedure to follow when given news like this, so we were braced for a lot of confused faces, and we saw far fewer than we anticipated. Good for you.

Or, to put it another way: congratulations yourself!

“I couldn’t do it!”

This is a really, really common response. There are two things that I can really say to it:

  1. You might be surprised. Relationships aren’t just something you’re good at or bad at; there are skills that can be learned – and that goes for all kinds of relationships, even creepy weird ones like mine. It’s possible to learn to be able to organise yourself (and your time!) in multiple relationships, and it’s possible to learn the communication skills and trust it takes to talk about things like jealousy and shit like that.
  2. But that doesn’t matter anyway. You couldn’t do it? Okay.

We know that this kind of silliness isn’t for everybody. And don’t worry, polyamory isn’t contagious like smallpox or homosexuality: we’re not going to try to infect you and make you in to evil sex-crazed swingers like us. Even though that’s not what we are. Probably.

“Don’t you get jealous, though?”

Yes. Almost everybody in the world gets jealous at some point or other; it’s perfectly natural and – like any other negative emotion – it can be worked through.

Jealousy is one of the first things that comes to many people’s minds as being a potential problem with this kind of relationship. And perhaps it is. But it’s important not to forget that jealousy isn’t limited to non-monogamy. I’ve felt jealous during perfectly healthy, happy, committed, monogamous relationships before: because I’ve not gotten to spent as long with my lover as I’d like (and, perhaps, when somebody else – their friend, perhaps – has), or not been emotionally as close to them as somebody else, or when they’ve talked about their past sexual conquests or the size, stamina, or general studliness of their last lover. I’m sure I’m not alone in that.

Something I’ve learnt of late, though, is how important it is to talk about feelings of jealousy, so that your partner(s) know exactly what it is that bothers you and so that, between you, you can come to compromises and agreements that make these feelings bearable, or make them go away entirely. And even if it doesn’t all work out (and let’s face it: statistically speaking, our age and the novelty of our new relationships alone counts against it), I’ll have learnt a couple of important lessons about communication in relationships.

Did you know that many biologists consider parrots to be one of the most jealous species on the planet? I don’t remember where I learnt that, but it sounds like it could be true. Hmm; they’re monogamous breeders. Perhaps I’m undermining my point with my knowledge of stupid fun facts. Damn.

“What happens if one of the four relationships breaks up? How will that affect the rest of them?”

For all the planning and all the talking we’ve done, we can’t answer questions like this one. They’re just too tough, with too many unknown factors. I’d like to think that if one of our partnerships split, the other three might be able to continue, but the ripple effects of that kind of break-up might be too much, and other splits may occur as a result.

It’s a risk we’re willing to take. Just like the risk of a heart-breaking separation doesn’t stop you from throwing yourself headlong into a relationship with somebody you adore, we’re risking our relationships and our friendships by establishing these new, less-common relationships. I think it’s worth it. You’re welcome to disagree, but you can’t feel what I feel.

On the other hand, we have all fitted ourselves with stylish tamper-proof detonator collars like the one shown below, wired so that if one of us does leave the presence of the other three for more than a week, their collar will self destruct. It’s the single best way to keep us together.

Still from Wedlock (1991)

Less Common Reactions

This section contains a selection of the less-common responses to our news.

“So you’re all getting lots of sex, then?”

Not as much as you’d expect, I’d bet. I’d estimate that the average frequency at which any given one of us gets a bit of nookie has barely increased at all (or maybe that’s just what they want me to think). The increase in the amount of sex I was getting when, for example, I went from being single to being in a relationship: that was a hell of a leap, for sure. The increase when I went from being in one committed relationship to being in two? Far less significant.

Sex is great, but – in my mind at least – it’s not among the biggest things I look at in a relationship.

Breasts are the biggest things I look at in a relationship.


Those last two lines were a joke, by the way, in case it wasn’t obvious.

“So have you have a threesome yet?”

A few people have asked this, and it’s honestly surprised me how often it’s come up. Moreover, I was really surprised when one person in particular was quite shocked at the answer: no, we haven’t.

I’ve have a couple of threesomes over the years, but none of them have ever involved Ruth or JTA.

I’m not sure why people think of this first. Perhaps it’s because threesomes are some great romantic mystery in so many people’s minds: to be fair, there aren’t many men who’d turn down the opportunity for a bedroom experience with two Hot Bi Babes. Perhaps it’s because it seems like an obvious “next step.” I don’t know.

In any case: the answer’s no. Perhaps it’ll happen someday, but it’s not the most important thing to sort out. Far more important questions that you don’t think of until you end up in a relationship like this are far more mundane things like:

  • Who gets the front seat in the car?
  • Who pays for dinner?
  • Which side of the bed do I sleep on? Your other lover sleeps on that side, but I prefer to sleep on this side.
  • This invitation says “Plus partner.” Who do I take?
  • What are we doing for Christmas?
  • If I cook, who washes up? (turns out the answer is often “nobody”)
  • Who have I just woken up next to? I’m not sober yet and it’s still dark and I can’t remember who I got into bed with. I could prod them and listen to them grunt in their sleep, see if I can identify them that way… or perhaps I could turn the reading light on for just a second…

The big questions are so often the ones you don’t anticipate.

"Spice!" from 16th October 2004

“Have you ever thought about… umm… crossing the square?”

Another reasonably popular but not really common question: is there any potential of a relationship between JTA and I? Or between Claire and Ruth?

Between JTA and I? No. JTA’s very definitely straight, and even with gender cast aside, I’m not sure we’d be “compatible” in the way that I wildly speculate he’d want (note: wild speculation).

Ruth and Claire? Well, it’s not my place to say what they think or feel. Whether or not that interests them is up to them, of course, but it’s my impression that neither of them have any intention of drawing any kind of “relationship line” through our “square,” at least not a line comparable to the lines that form it’s edges.

I’ll set the webcam up, though, just in case. Don’t click here if you want to see it.

“But how can you love two people at once?”

That’s a far bigger, more philosophical point than I’d like to go in to detail on here. A better question is: why is it that you think you can’t love more than one person at once?

My belief is that love is, fundamentally, chemicals in the brain: and I find it hard to believe that the chemicals in my brain have the concept of “counting to two” (in fact, I’ve discovered on long evenings in the pub, if I put enough chemicals in to my brain, I can’t even count to two): they’re a lot simpler than that. “Oh no,” says the brain-chemistry, “I can’t possibly make more of this chemical in the presence of that person, because I already make that chemical when I’m in the presence of that other person!” Please.

Love’s a remarkable thing, y’see, because there’s no “starvation economy” of it: when a mother has a second child, she doesn’t love the first one any less because of it. I don’t believe for a minute that we’re born with a certain quantity of “love juice” (ahem) in us and we use it up by loving people (damn, I really should have thought of a better term than “love juice,” which is just icky-sounding). Unlike time, money, and energy, love is virtually limitless, and you don’t run out of it just because there are more people who you care about.

Love Juice? Who the fuck comes up with these product names anyway? In case you were wondering, it's a lubricant oil for... painball guns. What?

“So how do you find the time, money, and energy for two relationships?”

Now that’s a better question. With great difficulty.

It genuinely is quite a challenge to find enough hours in a day, sometimes, and it takes a reasonable amount of planning to ensure that you even get enough time to yourself. In particular, I’ve found it very difficult to spend as much time with my other friends as I would like, and that’s something I’m working on improving.

Google Calendar is my friend. With it’s text-message alerts (*beep* *beep* *beep* “Oh shit, I’m supposed to be in bed with somebody!”), it’s a lifesaver.

“What does this mean for QParty? What does this mean for Ruth & JTA’s plans to marry?”

That’s two questions, but two that often get lumped together, despite the fact that they’re two very different questions. Let’s look at them one at a time:

Firstly, QParty. The (in some ways) unfortunate timing of my new partnership – getting a new girlfriend just weeks before a party to celebrate my relationship with my established girlfriend – and a similar situation for Claire… may have, we understand, confused the message of QParty for some people. And for that, I apologise.

The meaning of QParty doesn’t change, of course. It was always a celebration of Claire and I’s love for and commitment to one another, and that love and that commitment hasn’t changed one bit for the addition of an extra lover each. QParty itself was, of course, a special day for the pair of us, and those of you present may have observed that Ruth and JTA kept a respectable distance away (not least to reduce the risk of confusing some of our relatives); a favour we’ll be returning at their wedding in… what?… just under three years time.

I can’t speak for Ruth and JTA and their plans, but it’s my understanding that there’s no change in them. They still plan to marry, and marriage still seems to mean the same thing to them as it already did. And while marriage isn’t for Claire and I, I think I speak for us both when I say that we respect their choice to tie the knot in that way and we agree that it’s the right thing for them, and we’re really happy that they’re doing it.

I suppose that one obvious up-shot is that Claire could be the stripper for JTA’s stag party. Or is that just a little bit too weird?

“But, I mean: why are you having a party with Claire and not with Ruth?”

Because I’ve been with Claire for five and a bit years, and (at the time of QParty) I’d been with Ruth for less than a month. Is that a good enough reason? Part of QParty was celebrating that, after five years, Claire and I are still together. Many relationships don’t make it that far, and, in many ways, it’s a pleasant surprise that Claire and I did, especially considering how we started our relationships.

Perhaps, if everything goes smoothly, we’ll have another party in 2012 to celebrate both Ruth and I and Claire and JTA’s relationships. You’ll just have to wait and see.

And if we do, you can almost guarantee it’ll be fancy dress. Sorry, Jimmy. In any case, start thinking of suggested foursome-themed costume ideas suitable for two men and two women now (no, we’re not going as ABBA).

No, no, no, and no.

Pretty Unique Reactions

Finally, here’s a list of things that people have said that’s just a little bit more “off the wall.”

[silence; nods of approval]

One particular couple – who discovered our “quad” by accident because we forgot that we hadn’t told them and they “noticed” – took the approach of being so cool with it that they didn’t even feel the need to pass comment on it. “Oh, so they’re together now. Should I be shocked?” That’s pretty damn unique.

An alternative theory is that the people in question were shocked into silence. Or perhaps had taken a vow of silence as part of some religious cult. But I like my theory.

“It expect it’ll be a fucking disaster.”

We’re sorry to hear that a handful of our friends – thankfully very few – don’t think that it can possibly work out.

It may well not work out. There are loads of things that can go wrong in any new relationship (and, in fact, there are plenty that can go wrong in old relationships, too). We don’t think for a moment that it’ll be an easy thing to make work, but we’re glad that we’re able to work towards making it the success we hope it will be. We’ve laid a lot of important groundwork to help us support one another and to make it work, and we think we’ve got as good a chance as any relationship does.

Worst case, we’ve always got the exploding collars.

“Wow. So four of my friends are now each in a threesome? That’s ace!”

And that’s thinking like a mathematician. It’s not accurate, of course: I mentioned above that “threesomes” haven’t happened, and in poly-parlance, a “vee” (two people joined by one in the middle, in a ‘V’ shape) is a more accurate way of looking at any individual one of us, rather than a “threesome” or “triad” (which implies a relationship between the two people at the tips of the ‘V’). But honestly, mate, you call us whatever the fuck you want, because you had one of the single coolest-sounding responses to the news of anybody, and a ludicrous grin to go with it.


“So, what about children?”

Honestly, I’m surprised more people didn’t ask this question; especially among those who hope themselves to be grandparents in the making. But I was very impressed when somebody did ask, especially as the answer is so simple and unfinalised.

We’re not sure. Children may be on the agenda some way down the line, but we’ve still got a lot of discussion to do on that subject (and, to be fair, there are more immediate things on the agenda right now, like – who gets the front seat in the car? who pays for dinner? – and so on).

Me? I think the four of us would make great parents, and no, I don’t think the fact that theoretical far-future potential children would, in general, give a fig that for some reason they’ve got between two and four times as many parents as their peers. Hmm… I’ve just thought about that: surely I meant to say *exactly* two or four times: it’s not like we can comprise three times as many people as any other set of people: apologies if I’m wrong to any single-and-a-third parent families out there.

Really, though, that’s a fucking huge question to ask pretty much anybody who’s been in a relationship for three months or so. You might as well ask if we have a mortgage together yet or if we’ve reached that level of intimacy in which it’s okay to fart in bed: one step at a time, now, folks!

“What do you call each other? What do I call you?”

Well, I’m Dan, and that’s Claire, and over there is Ruth, and… oh, but that wasn’t what you were asking, was it? What you mean is, if Claire is my “partner,” then who is Ruth?

It must be so much easier to be Ruth or JTA, in this regard. Ruth, for example, can call me her boyfriend and JTA her fiance. I don’t have that luxury, so I tend to call them both my partners, or, better yet, refer to them by name (particularly when talking to somebody who’s only just discovered that “partner” doesn’t have to imply that there is exactly one of them).

What do you call us? Call us anything you like, for all I care! But I know what you’re asking: you’re saying, “I was telling my friend about this couple I know, then I realised that ‘couple’ might not be the right word, then it all got complicated…” Yeah, sorry about that: we didn’t mean to make things complicated for you. I quite like the word “quad.” It may make us sound a bit like small motor vehicle, but it’s an easy-to-remember, short, and understandable word: people tend to just work out what you mean when you say it, and so you don’t get yourself into any excessive complexity.

But honestly; if it makes your life easier to pretend to other people that you don’t know that we’re four couples at all, that’s fine by me too. Conversely, if you want to tell everybody you meet, that’s probably okay as well (albeit just a little bit creepy). There are more important things in life than the words you use. Like who gets the front seat in the car, who washes up, who takes soup up to the ill person in bed, what the correct protocol is for talking to people’s parents…

Coming out: I am not a vegetable!

Well, as you’ve managed to read this far, thanks! It means it might have been worth it to type all of this. Of course this isn’t an exhaustive list of everything anybody has ever asked us, it’s just a selection. I hope it’s been interesting, but I hope even more that you’ve been able to chuckle at it.

Love and hugs to all those who deserve it. Now get back to surfing the web like you’re supposed to.