Hello 2013: Goodbye 2012

This post has been censored at the request of S******. See: all censored posts, all posts censored by request of S******.

This is the first in a series of four blog posts which ought to have been published during January 2013, but ran late because I didn’t want to publish any of them before the first one.

2012 was one of the hardest years of my life.

RT @misterjta Dear 2012, Fuck off. Sincerely, JTA.
My retweet of JTA’s sentiments, shortly after midnight on New Year’s Eve, pretty much covers my feeling of the year, too.

It was a year of unceasing disasters and difficulties: every time some tragedy had befallen me, my friends, or family, some additional calamity was lined-up to follow in its wake. In an environment like this, even the not-quite-so-sad things – like the death of Puddles, our family dog, in May – were magnified, and the ongoing challenges of the year – like the neverending difficulties with my dad’s estate – became overwhelming.

My sister Becky with Puddles, on a train.
My sister Becky with Puddles, both younger and more-foolish than they eventually became. I don’t know why Puddles is wearing a t-shirt.

The sudden and unexpected death of my dad while training for his Arctic trek, was clearly the event which had the most-significant impact on me. I’ve written about the experience at length, both here on my blog and elsewhere (for example, I made a self-post to Reddit on the day after the accident, urging readers to “call somebody you love today”).

My dad, climbing Aladdin's Mirror in the Cairngorms.
My dad, climbing Aladdin’s Mirror in the Cairngorms.

In the week of his death, my sister Becky was suffering from an awful toothache which was stopping her from eating, sleeping, or generally functioning at all (I tried to help her out by offering some oil of cloves (which functions as a dental contact anesthetic), but she must have misunderstood my instruction about applying it to the tooth without swallowing it, because she spent most of that evening throwing up (seriously: don’t ever swallow clove oil).

My dad's clothes for his funeral. My sisters and I decided that he ought to be dressed as he would be for a one of his summer hikes, right down to the combination of sandals and socks (the funeral director needed reassurance that yes, he really did routinely wear both at the same time).
My dad’s clothes for his funeral. My sisters and I decided that he ought to be dressed as he would be for a one of his summer hikes, right down to the combination of sandals and socks (the funeral director needed reassurance that yes, he really did routinely wear both at the same time).

Little did she know, worse was yet to come: when she finally went to the dentist, he botched her operation, leaving her with a jaw infection. The infection spread, causing septicæmia of her face and neck and requiring that she was hospitalised. On the day of our dad’s funeral, she needed to insist that the “stop gap” surgery that she was given was done under local, rather than general, anasthetic, so that she could make it – albeit in a wheelchair and unable to talk – to the funeral.

Five weeks later, my dad finally reached the North Pole, his ashes carried by another member of his team. At about the same time, Ruth‘s grandmother passed away, swamping the already-emotional Earthlings with yet another sad period. That same month, my friend S****** suffered a serious injury, a traumatic and distressing experience in the middle of a long and difficult period of her life, and an event which caused significant ripples in the lives of her circle of friends.

VARLEY Margret Of Doddington Lodge, Hopton Wafers, formerly of Newcastle-on-Clun, on April 28, 2012. Funeral Service, at Telford Crematorium, on Tuesday, May 22, at 2pm. Inquiries to LINDA DAWSON Funeral Director Corvedale Road Craven Arms Telephone 01588 673250. Originally printed on May 17, 2012.
The notice of Ruth’s grandmother’s death, as it appeared in the online version of her local newspaper.

Shortly afterwards, Paul moved out from Earth, in a situation that was anticipated (we’d said when we first moved in together that it would be only for a couple of years, while we all found our feet in Oxford and decided on what we’d be doing next, as far as our living situations were concerned), but still felt occasionally hostile: when Paul left town six months later, his last blog post stated that Oxford could “get lost”, and that he’d “hated hated 90% of the time” he’d lived here. Despite reassurances to the contrary, it was sometimes hard – especially in such a difficult year – to think that this message wasn’t directed at Oxford so much as at his friends there.

As the summer came to an end, my workload on my various courses increased dramatically, stretching into my so-called “free time”: this, coupled with delays resulting from all of the illness, injury, and death that had happened already, threw back the release date of Milestone: Jethrik, the latest update to Three Rings. Coupled with the stress of the 10th Birthday Party Conference – which thankfully JTA handled most of – even the rare periods during which nobody was ill or dying were filled with sleepless nights and anxiety. And of course as soon as all of the preparation was out of the way and the conference was done, there were still plenty of long days ahead, catching up on everything that had been temporarily put on the back burner.

My sister Sarah and I at the christening of a bus named after my dad. Click the picture for the full story.
My sister Sarah and I at the christening of a bus named after my dad. Click the picture for the full story.

When I was first appointed executor of my dad’s estate, I said to myself that I could have the whole thing wrapped-up and resolved within six months… eight on the outside. But as things dragged on – it took almost six months until the investigation was finished and the coroner’s report filed, so we could get a death certificate, for example – they just got more and more bogged-down. Problems with my dad’s will made it harder than expected to get started (for example, I’m the executor and a beneficiary of the will, yet nowhere on it am I directly mentioned by name, address, or relationship… which means that I’ve had to prove that I am the person mentioned in the will every single time I present it, and that’s not always easy!), and further administrative hiccups have slowed down the process every step of the way.

A hillside. A sunset. A fast, hard cycle ride. A beer and a Mars bar, just like old times. Wish you were here. Still miss you, Dad.
On the first anniversary of my dad’s death, I cycled up a hill to watch the sunset with a bottle of Guinness and a Mars bar. And sent this Tweet.

You know what would have made the whole thing easier? A bacon sandwich. And black pudding for breakfast. And a nice big bit of freshly-battered cod. And some roast chicken. I found that 2012 was a harder year than 2011 in which to be a vegetarian. I guess that a nice steak would have taken the edge off: a little bit of a luxury, and some escapism. Instead, I probably drank a lot more than I ought to have. Perhaps we should encourage recovering alcoholic, when things are tough, to hit the sausage instead of the bottle.

A delicious-looking BLT.
It’s been a while, old friend. A while since I used this delicious-looking photograph in my blog, I mean! This is the sixth time… can you find them all?

Becky’s health problems weren’t done for the year, after she started getting incredibly intense and painful headaches. At first, I was worried that she was lined-up for a similar diagnosis to mine, of the other year (luckily, I’ve been symptom-free for a year and a quarter now, although medical science is at a loss to explain why), but as I heard more about her symptoms, I became convinced that this wasn’t the case. In any case, she found herself back in the operating room, for the second serious bit of surgery of the year (the operation was a success, thankfully).

The "F" is for "Fuck me you're going to put a scalpel WHERE?"
The “F” is for “Fuck me you’re going to put a scalpel WHERE?”

I had my own surgery, of course, when I had a vasectomy; something I’d been planning for some time. That actually went quite well, at least as far as can be ascertained at this point (part three of that series of posts will be coming soon), but it allows me to segue into the topic of reproduction…

Because while I’d been waiting to get snipped, Ruth and JTA had managed to conceive. We found this out right as we were running around sorting out the Three Rings Conference, and Ruth took to calling the fœtus “Jethrik”, after the Three Rings milestone. I was even more delighted still when I heard that the expected birth date would be 24th July: Samaritans‘ Annual Awareness Day (“24/7”).

Ruth's pregnancy test, showing "pregnant".
One of the many pregnancy tests Ruth took, “just to be sure” (in case the last few were false positives). Photo from Ruth’s blog.

As potential prospective parents, they did everything right. Ruth stuck strictly to a perfectly balanced diet for her stage of pregnancy; they told only a minimum of people, because – as everybody knows – the first trimester’s the riskiest period. I remember when Ruth told her grandfather (who had become very unwell towards the end of 2012 and died early this year: another sad family tragedy) about the pregnancy, that it was only after careful consideration – balancing how nice it would be for him to know that the next generation of his family was on the way before his death – that she went ahead and did so. And as the end of the first trimester, and the end of the year, approached, I genuinely believed that the string of bad luck that had been 2012 was over.

A kitten.
In Ruth’s blog post, she’s used kittens to make a sad story a little softer, and so I have too.

But it wasn’t to be. Just as soon as we were looking forward to New Year, and planning to not so much “see in 2013” as to “kick out 2012”, Ruth had a little bleeding. Swiftly followed by abdominal cramps. She spent most of New Year’s Eve at the hospital, where they’d determined that she’d suffered a miscarriage, probably a few weeks earlier.

Ruth’s written about it. JTA’s written about it, too. And I’d recommend they read their account rather than mine: they’ve both written more, and better, about the subject than I could. But I shan’t pretend that it wasn’t hard: in truth, it was heartbreaking. At the times that I could persuade myself that my grief was “acceptable” (and that I shouldn’t be, say, looking after Ruth), I cried a lot. For me, “Jethrik” represented a happy ending to a miserable year: some good news at last for the people I was closest to. Perhaps, then, I attached too much importance to it, but it seemed inconceivable to me – no pun intended – that for all of the effort they’d put in, that things wouldn’t just go perfectly. For me, it was all connected: Ruth wasn’t pregnant by me, but I still found myself wishing that my dad could have lived to have seen it, and when the pregnancy went wrong, it made me realise how much I’d been pinning on it.

I don’t have a positive pick-me-up line to put here. But it feels like I should.

A few days before the miscarriage became apparent, Ruth and her dad survey the back garden of the house he's rebuilding.
A few days before the miscarriage became apparent, Ruth and her dad survey the back garden of the house he’s rebuilding.

And so there we were, at the tail of 2012: the year that began awfully, ended awfully, and was pretty awful in the middle. I can’t say there weren’t good bits, but they were somewhat drowned out by all of the shit that happened. Fuck off, 2012.

Here’s to 2013.

Edit, 16th March 2013: By Becky’s request, removed an unflattering photo of her and some of the ickier details of her health problems this year.

Edit, 11th July 2016: At her request, my friend S******’s personal details have been obfuscated in this post so that they are no longer readily available to search engines.

Edit, 26th September 2016: At her request, my friend S******’s photo was removed from this post, too.

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Sometimes I Read Too Much Into Things

This post was removed shortly after its publication after a misunderstanding by the sender of the card lead to anger from their side of the family. I tried to pacify them, acceding to their every request (explaining my thinking, sending an apology, removing this post, and eventually removing the comments they’d published to the post) but they nontheless cut off contact with me and I haven’t heard from any of them since. They also cancelled their plans to attend QParty. Ten years later, I’ve restored the post: I’m not willing to censor myself on behalf of somebody who refuses to talk to me for a decade even when I do exactly as they ask. See: all censored posts.

Sometimes my brain runs a little too fast for itself and comes up with explanations for things that are deeper than what is most likely the truth. For example, Claire and I received in the post this morning a card.


'Acceptance' Card

The card’s purpose is to accept our invitation to QParty, which starts in… eek… 520 hours! It’s a “thank you for inviting us, we’re coming” card.

But up until now, every card I’ve seen of this type has said “thank you,” on the front. This is the first one I’ve ever seen that says, simply, “Acceptance.”

And so my brain runs away without me: why “acceptance?” Is there a hidden meaning here – is the sender subtly saying that they don’t fully approve of QParty (perhaps they were holding out on a wedding), but that they have come to accept that this is what was invariably going to happen with me? And even if it wasn’t intentional, perhaps that’s a subliminal message; perhaps that’s what the sender was thinking when this card – this particular card – caught their eye in Paperway or The Post Office or wherever it originated from.

On the inside, there’s a space to write what it is that they’re accepting an invitation to, and rather than writing QParty, the sender has written “Bit of a Do.” What does that mean? Why would they re-title it in their own words? Is “a bit of a do” more or less significant than whatever (by this point I’ve convinced myself) they’re comparing it to: no doubt a more conventional engagement and marriage.

And by this point, my brain just starts itching to try to do something that they wouldn’t be able to accept, like turning up to QParty in drag with a harem of partners in tow.

Then I realise that I’ve run offon a tangent. Of course this isn’t what the sender (who you’ll notice I’m not naming – I’m at risk of offending them enough as it is and for that I apologise) means. They’ve very kindly replied by post to our invitation with a beautiful card and a kind message. They genuinely care for our happiness and respect our choices, and they’re delighted to share in this celebration of Claire and I’s love. Everything is fine.

Isn’t it?

Edit – 19 September 2017: After spending most of its life offline after a knee-jerk reaction by family members who haven’t spoken to me in the intervening decade, this post has been restored to the Internet.

Productive Weekend… Perhaps

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Not quite so productive a weekend as I might have hoped, but still – plenty got done. Geek Night on Friday is best described by Ruth. Saturday saw me interviewed by some Theatre, Film & TV students who are doing a documentary on Nice ‘n’ Naughty, having seen my blog entry reviewing the shop. And then, joined by Ruth, JTA, Bryn, Claire, Liz and Paul, I found myself in front of the camera again, this time in a full afternoon’s rehearsal of many of the “group” scenes for The Great Free Publicity Campaign, a film we’re hoping to start shooting before the month is out.

Troma Night was particularly good – the so-called themed “Bogart Night”. We watched The Maltese Falcon (I’d seen it as a child, once, but been too young to actually appreciate it), Casablanca (still fab), and the MST3K cover of Overdrawn At The Memory Bank. The latter stars… and I use the term loosely… Raul Julia, who later went on to become Gomez in The Addams Family before once again losing his credibility by appearing in Street Fighter (the movie – not Street Figher: The Movie, the game: I kid you not). In the film, Raul plays a guy in a future in which people take short vacations by transplanting their personalities into wild animals: while inhabiting a baboon called Daisy, his real body goes missing and his personality has to be moved to the mainframe computer for safekeeping, which he breaks into. What’s that got to do with Humphrey Bogart, you ask? Well, it repeatedly references Casablanca, including footage taken from it… or, as Crow T. Robot put it, “Never show a good movie in the middle of your crappy movie.”

Paul’s got some odd plan for next week’s Troma Night, involving formally inviting people [!]. Not sure what that’s all about.

And on Sunday evening JTA, Ruth, Claire and I – joined by Jimmy, who’s back in town, and briefly by Sundeep, who was busily pirating music – watched most of the third series of Blackadder, before JTA started falling asleep and had to retire.

Apart from that: got a little work done on the research for a report I need to write, but not enough to really call it “progress”. Got a little work done on some code I needed to write to allow a project I’m working on to be multilingual, but not to any great depth. Hmm… doesn’t sound like such a productive weekend, anymore…

Edit: Oh; and there’s now a little bit of publicly-available information about TheFilm.

Edit2 – 19 September 2017: certain details were removed at Sundeep’s request.

My Greatest Weakness

This post was censored by its author shortly after its publication. The original contents are believed to be completely lost. See: all censored posts.


Thanks Dad. Love you Claire. Will all be fine yet.

“Alcohol! Now there’s a temporary solution!”

Bryn – Afro Man!

Picture removed. The joke’s gotten old. – Dan, 5 June 2007

Picture reinstated. The joke’s so old that it’s now dead, and this page can serve as a permanent archive to what once was. – Dan, 7 October 2018

Picture removed again. I’d misunderstood a conversation in which I believed Bryn had approved of its reinstating. – 10 June 2019