QParty – Part 1 – Before The Party

Well, it’s been three weeks since QParty (and the heap of blog posts it generated) and about thirty weeks since Claire and I changed our names to Q, and I suppose it’s time to write my piece about QParty itself – I was stalling on doing so until I’d uploaded a majority of the photos from the event to QParty Gallery, which I’ve now done (if you’ve got photos we haven’t, of course, we’d love copies!).

I suppose the story of QParty started many months ago, when we decided – after having it suggested to us many, many times – that we wanted to have such a party. We’d talked about doing it before, when we first talked about changing our names someday but long before we talked about what we would choose, and we’d always come to the conclusion that while marriage wasn’t for us, we were both big fans of weddings (and, in particular, wedding receptions), so a party was probably on the cards from day one.

We wanted a party for a few reasons. The first and most important is, of course, that we love parties and we wanted to be at the centre of one. Another important one is that we genuinely wanted to celebrate our relationship, because we think it’s a pretty damn good relationship and it’s worth celebrating. Yet another reason was that we wanted to show the (few) people who were holding out on a wedding that really, this is it: this… what we have… is our relationship, and we’re perfectly happy with it, and we don’t feel the need to wear little gold bands or big expensive dresses to justify it.

It was exciting. It was also tiring. Did you know that all of the invitations we sent out were hand-calligraphed by Claire, the “invitation codes” and envelopes hand-written by me (no thanks to a complete failure to find windowed C5-size envelopes in Aberystwyth). It’s surprisingly hard work, even when you do try to make a romantic evening or three in of it with a bottle or two of wine.

QParty Invitation - Front QParty Invitation - Inside

We’d chosen a venue in Preston, of course, before we ordered the invitations. We chose to hold the party in Preston because it’s central location makes it immediately more accessible to a lot of people: the folks in Aber didn’t thank us, of course, but those who travelled from Norfolk and Lincolnshire (Claire’s family), Kent (parts of my family), Scotland (Kit and Fiona) and the North-West (loads of people) were probably very glad of the reduced journey time. Plus, it had the immediate advantage of being in the town with both of my parents’ houses, which gave the potential for loads and loads of floor-space on which people could crash, which turned out to be a huge advantage when a dozen or so of our less well-off friends (and some folks who just wanted to spend that little bit longer with us) descended upon them.

Thanks are due to SmartData, my employer, for the loan of their franking machine, which made posting all of the invitations a lot easier than lick-and-sticking. Briefly, when writing the database that powers the QParty website and our invitation-printing system, I considered implementing a WalkSort algorithm to help the post office deliver the letters by giving a box of envelopes to them already in the order they need to be to be rapidly sorted… but thought better of it. Damn, I’m a geek.

We travelled to Preston on the early afternoon of Friday 7th September, the day before QParty, carrying Matt P, Sarah and Paul (who needed a lift from Aberystwyth, so we offered them seats in Claire’s car in exchange for promises of help with party preparation). We didn’t anticipate seeing many other people on Friday, but we were wrong. Matt R, in his trademark way, “appeared” on our doorstep. Ruth and JTA rushed up to join us right after work, and we’d missed them so much that it would have been hard to justify quite how clingy we were about them were it not for the fact that we were surrounded by friends who know quite how close Claire and I’s relationship with JTA and Ruth is. Kit and Fiona (who, I’ve just noticed, use the same theme on their LiveJournal blogs) drove down overnight, and we did’t see them until the morning, but Matt R was kind enough to stay up to greet them and show them to their bedroom…

…but not before those of us who’d arrived earlier met up with my family, chatted about plans for the following day, and took a trip to the supermarket to get all kinds of party grub. Huge thanks to my mum who took charge of the catering. Later, many of us went to the pub for a couple of quiet drinks and a catch-up, and it was great to see folks that we don’t see so often and chat in the way that, a few years ago, we might have been caught doing in the Ship & Castle.

The Pre-Party Party - Dan & Ruth Eating pizza the night before The Pre-Party Party - Ruth & Matt R


And so we came to QParty day itself.

The plan was pretty simple. We’d get up late in the morning and assign some jobs. A few folks from our team of early-arriving volunteers would be assigned to each task at hand: decoration (inflating balloons, tying streamers…), food preparation (making sandwiches, hedgehogs, chilling champagne…), etc. It could all have been so simple…

…but, of course, when we arrived at the venue early in the afternoon, we discovered that it was in a hell of a state of disrepair. All of the furniture was stacked in the corner, covered in dust. The bar was covered with glass. The floor was filthy. There was a pile of rubble in the dance floor. Evidently, the rennovations we’d been promised were not so complete as we had been led to expect.

Stairs to the venue The mess that was the bar Cleaning materials Matt and Kit look like proper barmen

Within 30 seconds of my blog post going up about the situation, Jon – star that he is – and Hayley were on their way to Preston to help with the tidy-up effort. Hayley, in particular, did a stirling job of clearing up the mess that was the stairwell (I’m sure I’ll never know where she found the vacuum cleaner that the bar staff claimed didn’t exist, and I’m still unsure where she moved that wooden pallet and the shipping crate on top of it). When we started to make progress, our friends and family switched to the job of food preparation, and all was beginning to take shape. By half past five – half an hour before the party was due to start, the tidy-up team were starting to relax and get changed into their various party wear.

Dressing up Claire Ruth & JTA The best waistcoat in the world

Claire, it must be said, looked absolutey fantastic, and I’m left wondering why she doesn’t wear a dress more often. But that’s not to say that everybody else didn’t look great, of course: JTA wore what is perhaps the single most beautiful waistcoat I’ve ever seen. Matt R was only a violin case away from looking like a Sicilian gangster, so sharp and dark was his suit and hat. Ruth’s marvellously sexy dress should have featured in more photos than she ever allows people to take. And so on, and so on…

I remember Matt R’s first comment when he saw Claire in her dress: “Are you wearing a corset under that?” he asked. She shook head. “No, I said: she’s actually that shape.” I’m a lucky, lucky man.

I’ll be writing more about QParty and about the event itself in a second post.

QParty Invitation - Front× The Pre-Party Party - Dan & Ruth× Stairs to the venue× Dressing up×

LiveJournal For Google Reader v1.3 Update

Earlier this year, I released my LiveJournal Atom Feed Digest Authentication Proxy (also known as LiveJournal For Google Reader Users). This tool allows Google Reader users to subscribe to “friends only” posts in LiveJournal weblogs, which normally isn’t possible because Google Reader doesn’t support the necessary authentication methods.

Thanks to the hundreds of users that use the service, and in particular to Mike, Aaron, Thom, and Nat, who filed particularly valuable bug reports, this post announces the new version of the tool – version 1.3. If there were a tagline for it, it’d be “at long last, it’s stable!” The source code for this version is also available for download.

Here’s the “for dummies” guide to getting it working:

Using Google Reader To Get “Friends Only” LiveJournal Posts

There are lots of good reasons to use a newsreader (like, for example, Google Reader) to subscribe to your friends’ LiveJournals. The big and obvious one for me is that it’s possible to subscribe to your other friends’ non-LiveJournal weblogs, too, and to other comics and news sources and all kinds of things all from one place, so you don’t get stuck in a cycle of “check the LiveJournal friends page, now check this blog, now check that one,” and so on. But if you’ve used Google Reader already, you won’t need to be told about how great it is.

The problem is that if you just use Google Reader to subscribe to LiveJournal weblogs, it doesn’t pick up your “friends only” posts. That’s kind-of irritating, and could be a showstopper, unless somebody wrote a tool to get around the problem. Hey look, somebody did!

  1. You’ll need a Google Reader account. If you already have a Google Mail or similar account, you can use that, or you can make up a new one to make it hard for the all-seeing Google to link together all of your online activities into their massive databases. If somehow you don’t have one already, create a Google account here.
  2. Next, you’ll need a LiveJournal account. Unless you’re one of these fancy folks who uses OpenID to authenticate and read your friends’ “friends only” posts, you probably already have one of these. If not, create one here and then get everybody you know to add it to their friends list!
  3. Finally, you’ll need to log in to LiveJournal For Google Reader Users. This bit’s really easy, because you just log in using your LiveJournal username and password. If you don’t like the idea of your LiveJournal credentials being stored on some site somewhere that isn’t LiveJournal, you’ll want to download the codebase and run it on your own server.

Then you’re ready to go! Just click the “add to Google Reader” links (or use the “atom feed” links to get links you can use in other reader tools, if Google Reader isn’t your thing).

And Here’s The FAQ

What’s new in this version?

It works properly, for one. Previous versions have had bugs when picking up feeds of users whose usernames contained dashes or underscores, or when your username had uppercase letters in it. These irritating little bugs took a while to be found, and are the result of strange behaviour on the part of LiveJournal’s server. They’ve now all been fixed, and all feeds should work perfectly.

What about… OpenID…? Communities…? DeadJournal…?

If you’re looking for extra features; here’s the round-up:

  • Support for OpenID probably won’t ever happen, and certainly won’t happen soon, because it’s horribly complicated compared to the simplicity of the rest of the program. I love OpenID, I really do, but LiveJournal For Google Reader Users will probably never support it (unless you feel like writing that bit of it). Sorry!
  • Communities probably will end up supported in the next version, so you can pick up friends-only posts in them, too. Stop asking.
  • Related journalling systems like DeadJournal can probably be really easily supported by this or a similar system. I’ll implement it as soon as somebody asks me to.
  • Another feature that’s in the pipeline is an indication of friends-only posts. Right now, in Google Reader, there’s no little “padlock” icon to let you know that what you’re looking at is a friends-only post: they all look the same. This’ll probably be fixed in a later version.

Got other suggestions? Leave a comment to let me know!

I’m already using Google Reader to subscribe to LiveJournal. What should I do?

You should unsubscribe (sorry!) from every single LiveJournal you’re subscribed to, then re-subscribe to the addresses given to you by LiveJournal For Google Reader. It’s a painstakingly long process, and I wish I could think of a way to make it easier, but I can’t. If you want to do it a few blogs at a time, that’s fine – and I suggest you start with the blogs which most-frequently make friends-only posts.

Why do I have to give you my LiveJournal username and password?

To get access to friends-only posts in your friends’ feeds, LiveJournal must be supplied with your username and password. LiveJournal For Google Reader stores these for you and provides you with a complex URL that doesn’t contain your username and password (so people can’t work out your password just by looking at the list of feeds you subscribe to).

To help you feel more secure, the entire application is open source (you can read the code and see that it’s not doing anything malicious) and you can even run a copy on your own server, if you don’t trust me at all.

Alternatively, if security is a concern for you, open a second LiveJournal account and have your friends add that one to their friends’ lists, and use this new account with LiveJournal For Google Reader. This way, your own personal LiveJournal account remains completely protected. Can’t say fairer than that, I guess.

If you change your LiveJournal password or close your LiveJournal account, LiveJournal For Google Reader will stop working until you supply your new credentials.

Why do you get all mysterious towards the end of FAQs?

You’ll have to wait and see.

QParty First Thoughts

Claire and I are back from QMoon now (in Italy, as you’ll have guessed if you read the four virtual postcards I posted to my blog), and it was a fantastic trip right up until we went to come home and everything went wrong. You’d be amazed how much trouble you can cause for yourself by when language barriers get in your way. For example, something I’ve learned is that when you’re trying to explain to an airport official who speaks only Italian why it is that the zip on your bag is broken, you should not use the words, "I’m sorry, my bag is exploding," because it turns out that doesn’t translate very well. I’ve also learnt that the correct way to get through passport control without trouble is not to be deliberately enigmatic: for instance, when an immigration officer says "That’s an unusual name you’ve got, isn’t it, sir?" you should not respond, "Why yes, yes it is."

There’s a story for another day in there somewhere, but suffice to say that despite the fact that we were not allowed to get onto the flight we were supposed to be on – to Liverpool – we were eventually allowed onto a ‘plane headed to Stansted, London, which isn’t quite the same thing but is still in the UK so that’s a step.

We’re back in Preston, now, and we’ll be back in Aberystwyth tomorrow (Monday) afternoon.

In any case, what I wanted to do was to share with you links to the great number of fantastic posts that people have made online about QParty. I’ll say more about QParty itself later, but for now – here’s what other people have been saying:

The official QParty photo gallery will launch this week, too, and I’ll be sharing with you some of the many pictures our friends took of the event in nice hi-res, printable glory, as well as sharing with you the results of the QFrame idea (remember those big clip frames at QParty? no; of course you don’t, you were completely pissed). Until then…

QMoon Virtual Postcard #4

Pompeii was simply stunning; so much more than I’d expected. For a 2000 year old town it’s in excellent condition: in some places, it’s even possible to make out painting on the walls of the villas and pretty much whole buildings, as well as mosaics, statues, fountains and the like are perfectly preserved. It’s simply mind-blowing to walk in the grooves made by carts thousands of years ago as if it were last week.

It’s bigger than I expected, too – much bigger. While of course I knew that it was a whole town that was buried in volcanic ash and mud in 79AD, I’d never really stopped to think about quite how big a town can be. There are paved roads with pavements and crossing points and street name signs cris-crossing between homes, workshops, temples, markets, stables, wells, plaza, stadia, theatres, monuments, and they’re still uncovering more after years of work. It’s still very much a working archeological dig, and on a couple of occassions I watched teams of researchers – behind their barriers of tape of wooden gates – retrieving and cleaning tools and fragments of pottery, storing each in it’s own numbered bag for later analysis. There’s a warehouse on one side of the town where hundreds of retrieved artefacts are shelved, and thousands more are stored off-site.

Here and there, plaster casts of the bodies retrieved have been made and returned to the buildings where they were found: huddled up or bent double, often clutching at their eyes or faces, often with a look of terror. At the time of the disaster, the people of the town really had little warning of their impending doom. It’s a stark contrast to the burial mounds and castles that have dominated British archeology.

Later, back in Napoli, we went out to eat at one of the pizzarias that’s participating in September’s annual Pizza Fest: a city-wide competition of pizza-making skill. We ordered – in our best Italian, as our waiter spoke no English at all – a couple of interesting starters and a bottle of white wine while they prepared our pizzas – a Quattro Formaggio for Claire and a Diavolo for me.

I’ve no problem with admitting that my pizza is the single best pizza I have ever had. I took the time to find an English-speaking waiter at the end of the meal to tell him so. Evidently the restaurant is proud of it’s history in winning awards, as they’ve covered the walls with prizes and related newspaper cuttings. I’m not sure I’ll ever look at Hollywood Pizza in Aberystwyth the same light again.

We stayed for cake, and then for a few glasses of Limoncello, which I was in the process of trying to persuade Claire we should have when the waiter, impressed by our efforts to speak his native tongue (rather than just pointing-and-shouting like the Americans on the next table along), brought us a small chilled bottle of it on the house. Which was nice.

And then, painfully full and already quite drunk, we stumbled back to our hotel to find that the owner – having heard that it was our “honeymoon” – had given us a bottle of champagne, which he’d left in an ice bucket in our room.

Now we’re on the train back to Venice (about half-way through our 6-and-a-half hour train ride), where we’ll spend our final night in Italy before we fly back to the UK on Sunday morning. I can’t promise another blog post before we get back to Aberystwyth (and then, I’ll probably be writing a much-delayed post about QParty), so I’ll say now: this has been a fantastic and exciting trip. I’ve loved exploring three quite distinct parts of Italy, diving into the culture and language (badly) and, above all, spending an extended period of time of “just Claire and I,” something our lifestyles mean that we don’t get to do a lot of these days. Thanks again, dad, for this surprise trip.

Right, next time we come out of a tunnel (how long and how frequent are these Italian railway tunnels?) I’m going to post this! 3… 2… 1…

QMoon Virtual Postcard #3

The motorists have a game here in Napoli. The aim is, over the course of your journey, to (justifiably) sound your horn at other motorists more times than other motorists sound theirs at you. The taxi driver who brought us from the station to our hotel yesterday is particularly good at this game: I counted him beeping his horn 11 times on the ten-minute journey, but he in turn was honked at only about 8 times. I’m guessing that’s a pretty good score.

Apart from some confusion over the bill at our hotel in Rome (they seemed to want us to pay twice, for some reason), for which they later sent their best English-speaker to apologise and to offer to have themselves fed to the lions, and an hour’s delay on the train coming down here, our journey to Italy’s South was uneventful. In fact, exhausted from our morning battle with tourists as we’d gone to The Pantheon (brilliant bit of Roman architecture, well-preserved and only slightly spoiled by it’s re-consecration as a Christian temple) and an exhibition of Leonardo Da Vinci’s intentions (including a full size working ballista and a detailed scale model of their controversial interpretation of his plans for a tank), I slept through most of the train ride, only being woken late on, by Claire, when Mount Vesuvius appeared in the distance.

It’s big. Hell, it’s huge, and it dominates the view across the bay from our first-floor hotel room. The bay itself is a reminder of it’s might, having apparently been formed as the crater of a massive lava bomb from some prehistoric erupption. We sat in it’s shadow last night as we ate pizza and ice cream and drank beer at the foot of Castel Nuovo (oh yeah, it turns out that Italy’s third-largest city has loads of castles: presumably every time it changed hands over the last 1500 years the new occupants erected a new one), within earshot of a Radio Italia-sponsored free music concert. Altogether a nice evening until we got lost in the docklands and chased by a 40-strong pack of feral cats. In any case, we found a nice bar where were able to sample Limoncella, a local speciality liquor made that tastes just slighty like lemon cough syrup, if such a thing can be imagined to exist.

This morning, we’re going to visit Pompeii, which I’ve always wanted to, so that’ll be good.

As an afterthought, thought I’d share with you that relying on English being a widely-spoken second language may work in the North of Italy, but here in the South we’ve had to fall back on the Italian we’ve learnt so far on our trip – and that old favourite, the pointing-and-shouting method of universal communication – to get things done. An ability to mime, and no shame about doing it in public, will get you far wherever you travel, even Glasgow.

QMoon Virtual Postcard #2

We arrived in Rome last night to find a city teeming with life. There’s a buzz everywhere, and a crowd whereever you look. Roma Termini, the central station, stretches for miles and is bustling with commuters and tourists, fighting their way through ticket office queues or met.ro (the underground train system) gates.

Not quite sure how to make things like the ticket gates work, we stood back for a few minutes to watch the locals, first. When in Rome, we quite literally had to “do as the Romans do!”

Our hotel, right on the met.ro line, is fabulous. Big rooms, WiFi, and staff that were kind enough to lend me an electrical adapter after the one my dad had given to us turned out not to fit Italian sockets. So now my phone’s charged, which is nice, because it doubles as my palmtop (for blogging, e-mail etc.), camera (for taking photos of everything in a “hey look, I’m a tourist,” way), alarm clock, and so on. I’m half-tempted to “forget” to return it when we go to Napoli tomorrow. There’s a great pizza place just around the corner from the hotel where we went for a couple of slices of *excellent* Rome-style (thin, crispy) pizza and a beer before we went out to see the sights last night.

We ended up sat outside a gay bar a stone’s throw away from the Collesseum (yes, THE Collesseum – the speed with which we got here, coupled with the fact that, a few days ago, we didn’t know we were going to Italy at all, means that we’re still going “look… THE $monumentname” every time we see one), sharing a litre of wine and bits of desserts.

Today we woke up late, owing perhaps to a little bit of a late night last night… uhm… making the most of our honeymoon. Ahem. In any case, we took the train over to Vatican City, and, after buying Claire a cloth to cover her shoulders with (heaven forbid that God see a woman’s shoulders!) from a nearby trader, went into the Vatican museums.

I’ve now recieved my lifetime dosage of looking-at-painted-ceilings. Yes, the Sistine Chapel really IS quite beautiful, and so are the other hundred painted ceilings in Vatican City, but there’s only so much staring upwards you can do before you start feeling woozy, and it’s not helped by being caught in a crowd of people. The Vatican was really quite stunning, though, and I’d always wanted to see it, even though Claire and I *did* have to make two major compromises to go there: firstly, we had to pay the Catholic church €26 for the privilege of looking at various artefacts that they stole while promoting various crusades, which I’m not sure I approve of them making money out of (I suppose it’s no worse than most of the exhibits in the badly-named British Museum in London, but at least they don’t charge admission). Secondly, we had to stop playing our Rome-oriented variation on the Yellow Car Game, which we call Spot The Nun, because it was getting too painful as we got close to the centre of the Catholic world.

Also, I was disappointed to find that Vatican City doesn’t have a bar. Although it did make up for it with the uniforms that the Swiss Guard wear: with their floppy blue berets and silly sailor outfits they are, without a doubt, the campest army ever.

It’s been a stinking hot day today, and because the Vatican museum was so big we were exhausted before we could get to the Pantheon, which was this afternoon’s plan. Instead, we’re now waiting for the temperature outdoors to go down before going monument-spotting again. It’s really true that in Rome you can just “trip over” bits of ancient history without even trying, in a “whoops; a column!” way. Here, at what was once the capital city of Europe, “old” is a word that isn’t done justice by any building made since the year 1000. There are times when you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re in Paris or London, and moments later, you can feel like you’ve been catapulted back in time. It’s quite amazing.

Tomorrow we’re off to Napoli! I’ll post more from there!

QMoon Virtual Postcard #1

Thank you all so much, everybody who came to QParty, and to everybody who’s blogged about it (I’m paying a small fortune for internet access, so I haven’t had time to read everything you’ve all written, but I’ve been quite moved by everything I’ve seen so far: abnib must be full of Q-jokes!), and in particular to Ruth, for blogging about where we’d gone after I texted her.

I’ll write more about QParty at a later juncture. For now, let me fill you in on QMoon, our mystery “honeymoon” (thanks dad!).

It didn’t take us long in my dad’s car on Monday morning to realise that we were headed to Liverpool John Lennon Airport, and then – herded into a “Q” – to discover that we were flying out to Treviso Airport, just outside of Venice, Italy. My dad gave us three numbered packages, and a fourth, containing a letter, InterRail passes, hotel booking details, some spending money, and instructions on when to open the packages. We opened this one as the RyanAir 737-800 pulled away from the ground.

As might be expected from a holiday organised by my dad, great and detailed plans were provided for the various forms of transport that we would take. A plane (well, let’s face it, a flying bus – this is, after all, RyanAir), a bus into Venice, a water-bus to our hotel, and so on. Buses, as you can see, a major part of this segment of the plan.

Passport control initially gave us some trouble, a guard pointing out that our surnames were “unusual,” but nothing really problematic.

As I texted to Ruth and she dutifully blogged, Venice looks EXACTLY LIKE IT DOES IN EVERY MOVIE EVER. There really ARE no roads. This became most apparent to me when I saw a bin lorry (okay, a boat with a trash compacter on the back) pull up at a dock, and a man jumped out with a trolley. He ran down the alleyways, filling his barrow with bin bags collected from the doorsteps of the cramped pathways, eventually meeting up with the boat at the next jetty and depositing his load. Then he’d swap with the driver of the boat who’d do the next “run.”

Everything – really everything – depends on the canals. For a moment, it’s easy to believe that they had a perfectly conventional road network that they flooded one day, just for fun. Police boats and ambulances rush around old-style gondolas, water-taxis pick up and drop off, and lumbering old water-buses – somewhat reminiscient of London tube trains when they’re full of wall-to-wall people – crawling from stop to stop. This provided us with some confusion early on: you need to pay attention not only to what point along the canal you’ll be getting off, but also what side of the canal your stop is on! It’s easy, we discovered, to get off at a stop near to your destination only to realise you’re on the wrong side of the water! Thankfully, traghetti (small two-oar gondolas) provide a crossing opportunity for half a Euro, cutting between the other traffic and rocking alarmingly as they meander across the water.

Our hotel was pleasant enough, although the room was of a typical small Venetian size and the view was in the opposite direction to the Canale Grande, and there was initially some confusion over the bill. However, it was wonderfully central and – being right on the canals – gave us quick access to the city.

We went out for a meal on first night of mushroom soup (delicious) and lasagne for me, tagliateli for Claire, along with a bottle of a delicious local(-ish) wine, then explored the city. Wandering just off the main canals and the main touristy areas we found ourselves lost in a labyrinthine maze of winding alleyways (some barely wide enough for one man to walk down) and dead ends. The buildings loom tall above you, all usable land long since having been occupied, and hundreds of years of expansion (upwards and outwards!) has resulted in a landscape like something from an Escher painting or some Ghibli movie, chimneys and walkways and crumbling buildings being re-built upon and all.

We took an early night, exhausted by a busy day, and today (Tuesday) set out to try to find the statue of Casanova before the 12.38 train to our next destination. We failed miserably at this and at our secondary goal of finding his birthplace, and instead enjoyed a light brunch in a little outdoor cafe and explored some of the local shops. Oh, and found some sweet exactly like Pocky, so that was good.

And now we’re on the high-speed train to Rome, where we’re spending the next couple of nights. We didn’t really get long enough in Venice, but we’ll be returning there after our day in Napoli, and perhaps we’ll have enough time to see the Basilica di San Marco and some of the other architectural attractions of this most amazing city. For now, I think I’ll try to translate as much as I can from the in-train magazine while Claire sleeps off this morning’s walking!

Oh, and for those of you who can see Ruth’s most recent friends-only post: I agree whole-heartedly.

Will post again when I can.

QParty Venue Not So Ready As Expected

Blogging from Roper Hall, where, in 5 hours, QParty will be starting. It seems that the management might have been a little optimistic when it came to their scheduled renovations…

There’s still rubble on the floor. The furniture is in stacks. The sound system isn’t connected. Did I mention the rubble?

Kit, Fi, Matt, Matt, JTA and Paul are sweeping, moving, wiring, and more sweeping at the moment, the stars. I’m just sitting here quietly worrying and trying to work out how I can put myself to best use.


“Five Years Ago I Met Claire, And I’ve Not Looked At Another Woman Since”

That’s one of the things the people who don’t know Claire and I very well may be expecting to hear in my speech at QParty on Saturday. I’ve finally managed to finish writing everything I wanted to say and trimming it all down so nobody gets bored to tears waiting for me to finish. Better yet, I’ve stripped back out all of the actual content and reduced everything I’ll say down to eight bullet points averaging less than four words each, so there’s plenty of room to ad-lib. Yes, this’ll be me making a fool of myself in the best possible way. Somebody make sure I have a drink in my hand before I start.

Other cliches you won’t be hearing in my speech include:

  • "It was love at first sight."

  • "I finally plucked up the courage to…"

  • "…to honour and obey…"

That’s not to say, of course, that there won’t be plenty of opportunities for loved-up soppiness: I’m sure there will. I just wanted to get back without any of the done-and-dusted lines that seem to make it into every wedding, civil union, and commitment ceremony since the dawn of time. I guess I just wanted something different… that seems somehow appropriate.

Also, I wanted to make a blog post which I knew would momentarily confuse the crap out of people who read my blog in feed-reader programs that only show them the title until they click through to the post itself.

I’m really looking forward to QParty. Despite various hitches and mishaps and stress, it all seems to be going to plan. Thanks to the great people who’ve been supporting us (both with practical and financial support and with keeping us calm and generally sane with emotional support) both in Preston and elsewhere, I’m actually feeling relaxed and optimistic about the whole thing. Bring it on.

For those that are interested, by the way, we’re planning that anybody who’s still in Preston on Sunday morning can join us in a Laser Quest battle or two at Preston Megabowl at about 10:30am. There are works underway on the railway lines that morning, so if you were planning to take a train out of town (think again!) you’d do far better to come play with us and then catch an afternoon train.

Right – suppose I ought to read through these speech notes once more to make sure they make sense, then go to bed – there’s a lot of packing and travelling to do tomorrow!

Love and hugs to everybody who’s earned them. You know who you all are.

QParty Venue

During the worst of my fretting about QParty this weekend, I thought that what might be best to calm me down would be to talk to my folks, in Preston, and check up on the things that they’ve been looking after for me (confirming that the venue is booked, arranging catering, etc.).

When I first called, it was still the case that nobody had managed to get to talk to anybody who knew anything at the venue, or that the bookings book was missing, or some such bollocks. But this time, my mum’d had the foresight to actually drop in at the place and check up on it in person.

It turns out that it’s a bit inside-out right now. The owners have decided that now is the best time to rennovate it, and they’re swapping the seating area and the dance floor over. They promise that it’ll be finished by Friday… so, a whole day before QParty: can’t see any risk of a problem there, then. No, wait…

In any case, everything else seems to be falling into place, so as long as we have a room (and it has walls and a bar and things that right now it doesn’t seem to) on Saturday, all will be well.

Deep breaths, Dan.

strange dream

Beth wrote:

Last night I had an utterly bizarre dream in which I was at the Q party, which for some reason was at Dan and Claire’s huge sprawling country bungalow. The sun was shining and everyone was running about in the garden. I wish I could remember more, I do remember having a random cuddle with Dan. But yeh, fingers crossed the actual party goes as well as my dream one :) Have bought a new dress for the occasion so everyone had better look damn smart!
Missing Aber terribly and will be visiting asap after the party, maybe a weekend in early October. Work is going fine, about to enroll to do AS Biology evening classes and also will be volunteering for something. Can’t decide between assisting mentally handicapped people with arts and crafts, reading with children or working at a nature reserve. Living at home is having its ups and downs, the ups including free food and wine and the downs including being driven insane by my overbearing father. Ah well, tis free, can’t complain. Other than that, not much to report, just very much looking forward to the party next weekend.
Well, there’ll be no bungalow and there’ll be no garden, but everybody will look smart (Claire‘s just now bought a dress) and you’re welcome to a cuddle.