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…

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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.

“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.

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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.

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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.

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.

8 Days To QParty

It’s 8 days until QParty.

I still have to write a speech. And some other things.

I haven’t heard back from the venue to confirm that they’ve remembered our booking.

I don’t have a clue what’s going on. Neither, judging by some of the responses I’m getting to e-mails, do many of the guests.

Panic hasn’t yet begun to set in, but I’m sure it will.

If you see me, give me a hug.

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QParty Progress

After weeks of debating and procrastinating, Claire and I have finally managed to order the invitation cards we’ll be sending out for QParty. I’m quite pleased with how they look (well, in proof form), and I hope that those of you who’ll be receiving them within the next fortnight or so will smile when you see them, too. Gratitude due to Paul for helping us to arrange them.

It’s all surprisingly complicated. Today, we spent some time discussing the concept of speeches. As anybody who knows me will agree, I love the sound of my own voice, but it’s always been a traditional part of wedding receptions – on which, in our own way, we’re modelling parts of QParty – to get certain other people… the father of the bride, the best man, etc… to say a few words too. But with no bride and no best man, it’s somewhat difficult to decide on the best way to provide the same kind of experience. We think we’re set, now, but for a moment I was wondering.

I’m looking forward to it, and it’s not even just because I like to drink and dance or because I like to get big groups of people I know together into one place: it’s because, though what others have said, it’s turning out to mean something. That’s kind of hard to explain:

I suppose it’s because other people are taking QParty so seriously. We weren’t sure that they would. We’d always said – once we discovered that neither of us were interested in marriage – that we would one day have a party in leiu of a wedding, because that’s the kind of party we like. Since then, we’ve gone to three weddings and one engagement party, and we’re even more sure that we don’t want to get married, but even more sure that we want to drink and dance and show everybody exactly we care about where our relationship stands.

I don’t know about Claire, but I’m genuinely surprised (it’s a good kind of surprised) at some of the responses we’ve had when we said we wanted to have this party. Especially from our parents, who’d already taken our name change in their stride, and from my dad in particular, who’s been especially proactive in helping us make our plans come to life… but also from our friends, who’ve been very positive about the idea (even those for whom not marrying would be an inconceivable life choice), coo-ed and "aww"-ed in a sweet and only slightly sickening way, and have suggested all kinds of activities and themes for the party itself, some of which we may have adopted. So; thank you all for the surprise.

I’ve had some difficulty working out the addresses of everybody I’d like to send invitations too. In particular, right now, I’m lacking postal addresses for Beth and Pete, and non-termtime addresses for Ele and Andy K. If you’re reading this, could you get an address to me within the next week or so; thanks. An inevitable problem with this time of year is that a lot of our friends – even the ones we had addresses for – have just moved. Such is the risk with having friends who are students or recent graduates.

More to follow, I’m sure.

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Meatloaf, QParty, And The Competition

It’s been a busy weekend. Friday saw me travelling by train to Preston, with Faye, my honourary girlfriend for the weekend (Claire had exams on Friday and Saturday morning and sadly had to leave the position vacant). Then, no sooner had we arrived (owing to a missed connection at Wolverhampton) we had to dash to my dad’s house, grab some more train tickets, and get back to the station (collecting my sisters and my mum on the way) and catch another train, this time to Glasgow. But not before playing a neat game at Preston train station we call "get the stranger to identify people she’s never met."

Playing at Preston station

This game came about when we realised that Faye was looking around her to see if our mum had yet arrived at the station, despite having never met her and not knowing what she looked like. We made a game of it, getting a message to my mum to not acknowledge us or make eye contact with us when she arrived, and agreeing to do the same, so that Faye could try to identify her based only on her shared facial features. She’d have succeeded if she’d been bold enough to point out the mysterious woman who crept past us and got onto the train: my sisters and I didn’t even notice her sneak past, and we almost missed the train because of it, as we insisted upon continuing to wait for her as we didn’t think she’d already passed us.

On the train to Glasgow

We finally got to Glasgow, and made our way to the venue where Meat Loaf was to perform (see Ruth’s review and Strokey Adam’s review from the same tour). We had some difficulty getting our tickets, mostly because we couldn’t find the credit card collections point.

Where's the collections point, then?

The concert itself was very good. The warm up act, Marion Raven, was well-worth seeing. Meat Loaf himself is visibly less able than he once was, and performed less well than the last time I saw him live, but was nonetheles able to treat us to a spectacular show featuring hits from all three Bat Out Of Hell albums… as well as a less-well received encore of cover songs (why bother, when he has such a great back catalogue of his own material?). Well worth-seeing, even if not as good as I’d remembered him.

Meat Loaf in concert

After this, we saw off my family (who were driving back with my dad) and Faye and I checked in to the local Travel Inn, at which I took (and sent to Andy, for whom Faye is a girlfriend on a more permanant contract) the following picture using the until-then untested timer shot feature of my new Nokia N95.

Dan and Faye in bed together

Several text messages from Andy insisting that I "behave myself" later, Faye got into her own bed and we ate pizza from a local takeaway (that was harder to find than it should have been – who’d have thought it’d be so hard to find some greasy takeaway food at midnight in central Glasgow?).

The following morning we returned back to Preston by train. Our train was diverted from the main line owing to maintenance work, adding almost two hours to our journey time (it feels quite frustrating to be sitting on a brand new Pendolino train that’s crawling through the Lake District at no more than 30mph, or so the GPS on my new phone [can you tell that I like my new phone a bit] claims). I bought a bottle of Fanta, and, realising that my new contract gives me a near-infinite number of text messages, entered the "text in the code from the label" competition that’s currently running. Finally, we reached Preston, and I set Faye on the way back to her family in Chester, ending her contract as my temporary girlfriend, and went to meet up with my family again.

I didn’t manage to get Radio 1 Big Weekend tickets, but my sister Sarah did and shared them with her friend, and they spent most of the weekend out of sight or – sometimes – returning home for a change of clothes and a chance to sober up for a few hours between the endless events that the festival provided (or that sprung up around it in Preston’s usual nightclub selection). It didn’t terribly matter, though, because my dad’s back garden gave ample oppertunity to listen to the music from the main stage, just a stone’s throw away, and it was easy to combine this activity with the endless fun of playing on the new trampoline. Disappointingly, it wasn’t possible to jump high enough to actually see the acts. Although I didn’t think to try the skylight in the attic, I suspect the church tower might have gotten in the way.

Claire arrived by car – having finished her final exam – and, accompanied by my dad and my sister Becky, we began to discuss and visit some of the places we’d discussed as potential venues for the upcoming QParty. We finally found one. This isn’t it:

Not the QParty venue - but just accross the road from it!

However, it is just accross the road from it, and it was interesting enough to warrant a photo. It appears that the entire building (and half of the one next to it – they even chainsawed their way through the sign) has been simply removed from the street.

Eventually we settled on a venue: Roper Hall on Friargate, Preston. Originally a Roman Catholic all-boys school, this building went through several rennovations before eventually becoming a bar and nightclub. At one point it was owned by the Students Union of the University of Central Lancashire, although I’m not sure that’s still the case. We managed to confirm a booking for our proposed party date, Saturday 8th September, and we’ll be sending out invitations, we hope, within a week or two.

Sunday became our day of rest. I was aching quite a lot after a 2+ hour session on the trampoline the night before, and we were all pretty exhausted.

Claire and Becky, exhausted

Still, we managed to pull ourselves together to have a barbeque in the evening with the whole family, plus my mum’s boyfriend Andy, while we chatted about further ideas for QParty events. If you’re an invitee, you’ll find out about some of them… eventually.

Barbeque!

I got the oppertunity to take a copy of the PhotoCDs my dad had made from many of his old slides, including a huge collection of me and my sisters very young. You’ll see some of them on my Facebook account (and have the oppertunity to mock me about them) soon enough, I’m sure. Before we left Preston on Monday, Claire and I decided to meet up with my sisters and my mum for a pub lunch together.

Becky stuffing a huge burger down her face hole

On the way to the pub, I received a phone call from a man who identified himself as "a representative of Fanta, Sprite, and Dr. Pepper. I was busy navigating for Claire though Preston’s infernal one-way system at the time, so I asked him to call back in a quarter of an hour. He called back while I was at the pub…

…it turns out I won the competition I’d entered on the train. Having never entered a text-in competition before (my sister Becky, who’d entered this particular competition several times and was living on a diet of Fanta by this point), I got lucky and won the grand prize on my first attempt. Apparently, later this week, I’ll receieve a new Nintendo Wii, a 26" Samsung HD-capable LCD TV (that’ll be nice for Troma Night), and a fridge filled with three crates of Fanta. Go me.

Comments to the effect of "you lucky git" are fully anticipated. Comments to the effect of "can I have the Wii" are too late, as I’m already giving it to my mum for her birthday. Comments to the effect of "can I have a bottle of fanta, then" will probably be answered in the affirmitive, if you come to Troma Night, and – if they’re promotional bottles – will be accompanied by my statistical tips to maximise you chances of winning (take it from an expert).

Right; that’s all from me – it’s been a long day.

A Note From The Passport Office

This morning I received my new passport, following my name change last month. In the envelope with the new passport and the usual collection of leaflets about safe travelling, I found the following compliments slip:

Compliments slip from the passport office

The slip reads:

Mr. Q,

Your passport has now been issued, as requested. I would advise you that due to your unusual surname, you may experience difficulties at Immigration Control when travelling. The Passport Service will take no responsibility for any problems incurred as the change of name is your own personal choice.

Kind regards;

[indecipherable signature]

Kinda cool.

Many, Many Letters About My One Letter…

I’m not sure I’ve ever sent out so many letters in one batch before, but this morning I sent letters to my credit card company, the Inland Revenue, the National Insurance Contributions Office, my electricity company, my gas supplier, my water/sewerage supplier, my mobile phone company, my telephone company, my ISP, the TV Licensing Authority, the local council, and the Electoral Office. And there’s still half a dozen other organisations who won’t accept a photocopy of a Deed Poll certificate without at least taking a peep at an original, and a couple of local people around Aber (my letting agency, doctor, etc.) that I’ll just call by at lunchtime.

For those of you who plan to change your name at some point during your life – I’m looking in particular at Ruth, Suz, Hayley, etc. – here’s a tip: mail merge is your friend. Start by making a list of all the addresses you need to inform, and have your favourite word processor generate a template letter, then manually adjust the ones that need tweaking (to put account numbers on some or to make special requests on others). It won’t save a lot of time, but it’ll make you feel better about the whole thing.

A civil servant friend informs me that the Tax Credits database isn’t capable of storing surnames of only one character. I’ve no intention of needing to be on the Tax Credits database, but it’s an interesting point for database developers anyway.

Right; I’m feeling productive – better get back to work before the feeling passes.

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