wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)
Darlings,

This time I shall remember to give advance warning to those of you who aren't on the book of face (or if you are on the book of face and haven't been invited then prod me, I'm sure it was just an oversight due to rubbish interface).  The next Nails and Cocktails afternoon will be on the 5th September.  Delicious cocktails, fabulous nail art, and splendid company; what's not to like!  Put it in your diaries now, and I'll post a reminder closer to the time.

S.
xx

Walsingham

Apr. 13th, 2015 01:12 am
wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)
I spent this weekend on pilgrimage to Walsingham, location of one of the most significant Anglo-Catholic shrines in England. It was an extraordinary weekend, and I feel gloriously refreshed in spirit.

I was deeply honoured to be asked to serve as thurifer for the pilgrimage mass on Saturday, and whilst slightly nerve-wracking, as serving somewhere new always is, it was also deeply moving, and I think I managed not to get anything wrong. It will live long in my memories.

Later that evening was the procession of Our Lady of Walsingham around the grounds of the shrine, which was exquisitely beautiful - scores of pilgrims bearing candles and singing a hymn telling the history of the shrine. One lovely thing is that the sound of the organ is transmitted to speakers all around the shrine, so the frequent difficulty with processions where all the singers get out of time with one another is overcome.

Following the procession was a service of healing ministries, where I partook of the Sacrament of Reconciliation for the first time since just before my confirmation, more than eleven years ago. For years I've been wanting to avail myself of it again, but somehow the longer it's been since the last one, the harder it gets, and so whenever it came up I found an excuse, or just didn't get around to it. And now I feel like such a fool for that failure. Afterwards I walked around the shrine grounds, feeling as though any moment a breeze could sweep me away, such a heavy burden had been lifted. I am determined, now, to make it a regular habit.

I picked up a couple of books whilst I was there. First was The Lion's World - an edited transcription of a series of sermons by Great-grandfather Rowan on the Narnia books, which flawed as they are, were an important part of my spiritual development. I read that over the course of the weekend, and it moved me deeply, and now I'm re-reading the series keeping his insights in mind. The second, which I have only scratched the surface of so far, was recommended by Bishop Lindsay, the Shrine Administrator - The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything, by Fr James Martin, SJ. For most of my life as an adult Christian I've felt a certain pull towards the Jesuits and the Ignation approach to spirituality, and based on the first couple of chapters I am very much looking forward to reading the rest and incorporating it into my life.

Cambridge

Mar. 30th, 2015 11:01 am
wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)
I shall be in Cambridge from Maundy Thursday until Easter Monday, and in the Hopbine from around 15.00 this Saturday if anyone would like to join me there and catch up. The rest of the weekend is fairly full with church stuff and Easter Feasting, but I still have a few spare moments here and there if anyone wants to catch up one-on-one.
wildeabandon: sushi (sushi)
Rodizio Rico
I went here recently with [personal profile] denny, who like me is a fan of food made mostly of big piles of meat. Rodizo Rico is designed for people like us - a brazilian barbeque restaurant where you are given a token which is red on one side and green on the other, and whilst you have the green side turned upwards they will keep on bringing you various kinds of meat on skewers until you explode (or turn the token over, at which point they stop). There are also salads and sides which you can help yourself to, and I was actually a little bit shocked by the amount of vegetables [personal profile] denny ate completely voluntarily - he's grown as a person, I tell you.

In general the food was really rather good. None of the meats really blew my socks off, but a couple of the steaks and one of the lamb cuts would have left me feeling pretty proud if I'd produced them. The service could have been better - obviously the main part was taken care of by the people bringing the meat, but it took rather more effort than would be ideal to get a glass of wine, which is odd, considering that that's where the margins tend to be. This would be a great place to go in a large group, if you happened to have a large group with no vegetarians in it.

(~£80 for two)

Clos Maggiore
I went here for a late post-theatre dinner, but completely failed to ask for the post theatre menu, which is one of my finer failures in life. The pre-dinner drinks were pretty decent - I had one of their signature cocktails, which was pleasant and aromatic, but perhaps a little sweet for my tastes, and my tastes run sweet. My companion went for the Vesper, which from the sip I tried was very well executed.

For starters I had the fois gras, which was definitely in the top three I've had outside of France; my companion had the rabbit, which is a meat that I'm not usually that keen on, but was done to perfection.

Our main course was the shared Wagyu beef for two. Go home Hawksmoor. You're no longer the best steak in London. Perhaps that isn't fair, it's a completely different kind of steak, and I will definitely still be going to Hawksmoor when I fancy a perfectly cooked Porterhouse. But this, this had the marshmallow texture of the best fillet steak, and the ooomphy fatty richness of the best ribeye, all in one mouthful.

I'm slightly astonished we had room left for pudding, but then they had black truffle ice-cream. And oh my god the ice-cream was good. As is often the way with high end places the whole plate was about four different puddings, and actually all of them were nice, but the ice-cream was by so far the best that I would have preferred just a big bowl of it. As it turned out though, my companion was less keen on the ice-cream and really liked the other bits, so we swapped a bit and it all worked out like magic.

And let's face it, the fact that the gentleman who had wrong taste in puddings has excellent taste in men, gave the whole evening an extra delightful gloss of the kissing hot boys variety. #winningatlife

(~£230 for two)

Season

This is a newish restaurant within walking distance of our flat, and we've been a bit lax about spending quality time together as a household lately, so we thought we'd try it out. We were also a bit lax about booking a table, but when I called in the early evening they had one table left at 9.30 tonight.

It is important to note that the butter was very soft - hard butter is always a terrible sign; and I think in this case at least, the lack of it was indicative. My starter was a slighty ridiculous parody of "Posh fish and chips" - chicken and duck liver nuggets, with a ponzu dip. It was kind of absurd, and I think I have had better pates, but it was still pretty gosh darn good, and the concept was tremendous fun. Jones had the potted rabbit and ham hock terrine, and the mouthful I tasted was lovely. Ramesh had the purple broccoli with soft boiled egg, and although I foolishly forgot to grab a taste, it looked like he was enjoying it.

For mains, Robert and I had steak, which was very good, but there's no way to describe it fairly after the wagyu one. The chips were excellent, and although RJ complained that there weren't enough for people who like lots of carbs, I think that the fact that I like a super-tiny amount of carbs and gave him the rest of mine meant it worked out in the end. Ramesh had an asparagus risotto which seemed pretty good by the standards of restaurant risottos, without being mind-blowing, so not somewhere I'd recommend to a vegetarian looking for a special night out, but defintely an okay place to go.
(~135 for 3)
wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)
Dear Dreamjournal,

This is slightly short notice, but on Saturday I'm hosting another Nails and Cocktails party. (This is an event where people show up early-mid afternoon, I demonstrate some nail art techniques, and then we pair up and paint each other's nails, and there is drinking of delicious cocktails throughout.)

If you'd like to come and know where I live feel free to just show up, although letting me know in the comments means I'll do better at catering for the right number of people. If you'd like to come and don't know where I live, comment with some way of contacting you. Friends of friends are very welcome, so don't be shy, but it's a public post so I'm not posting my address right here.

S.
xx
wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)
It's kind of hard to believe that it's been a whole decade since [livejournal.com profile] the_alchemist said "Let's read through all of Shakespeare's Histories in a weekend", and found a score of people brave or foolish enough to join her. It's been a heck of a ride, and it's shaped my life in ways I can't really begin to fathom.

Without Bardcamp I don't know if I would ever have rediscovered that singing is a joy even if I'm not very good at it. Without Bardcamp many of the friendships which bring so much happiness and comfort into my life might never have blossomed. Without this glorious and supportive group of people I would never have realised that I can in fact act passably well, and that it's one of the most fun things one can do with one's clothes on. It's been a pleasure and a privilege to grow up alongside these amazing people, watching us all stumble through youthful mistakes and learn and grow and well, make new and different mistakes as we get older, and I think, wiser.

This was probably the last Bardcamp, at least for a while. There will be other readthroughs, and they will be amazing in their own way, but I think that a little bit of my heart will always be there, in that converted chapel in Derbyshire, in Verona, in Messina, in Scotland and France, in Troy and Venice, in Rome and Alexandria. Thank you, all of you.
wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)
This is silly and amused me.

Original rules
 (reorder, add one new item at the top and one at the bottom)
mutated rules (reorder, remove one item, and add three more, one at the top, one at the bottom, and one somewhere in the middle)

(most liked)
World of Warcraft
Maths

Nessie Ladle
Running away from zombies
Twitter

Undercooked Aubergine
Getting up early
(most disliked)


wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)
Was 2014 a good year for you?
It really was. There were no more than minor difficulties, and I felt a lot of things which had been difficult previously starting to settle into place.
What did you do in 2014 that you'd never done before?
Learned to do interesting nail art, sang solo in public (only a few lines, in Church, because the organist and the usual cantor were both away, so I figured someone had to do it, and that might was well be me, but considering how much the thought used to terrify me, it felt like a big thing)
Read more... )
wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)
Okay, I'm a bit rubbish, but this is the last of the questions except for the 2nd ones from people who asked two.

[personal profile] nou asked "What's your approach to making and maintaining friendships? For example, do you have a systematic way of keeping track of people you haven't seen or talked to for a while? Do you tend to send chatty emails to keep in touch with people? Do you seek out new acquaintances with a view to friendship, or do you feel your social circle is too big to comfortably expand?"

So the simple answer to this is no, no, no, and yes. Part of it is that I live with my partner and one of my best friends, so to a great extent, I can get nearly all the social contact I need at home. Part of it is that I'm not very good at making time for online communication and I'm really really bad at replying to chatty emails, even though I love reading them.

One systematic thing that I do is have a monthly dinner date with [livejournal.com profile] borusa, which we started doing when we broke up in order to ensure that our "let's still be friends" actually meant something, and we've been doing now for, what is it, eight, nine years? I can't easily express how important these dinners are to me, but they've been an vital part of keeping me sane when times have been hard, and are a source of tremendous pleasure, both from the company and our shared love of excellent food, when times are good.

That said, there are plenty of other people who are very dear to me whom I don't see often enough, and every time we see each other, three, six, twelve months apart, we say "let's not let it be so long next time", and yet it always is. Given this, whilst meeting new people and getting to know them is fun, when I don't have enough time to keep up with the friends I already have and love, it seems somewhat self defeating. Of course I make the odd exception, Seph in Oxford, who made me welcome at my first night out at Intrusion, and Lindsay from church, who reminded me so much of [personal profile] kerrypolka that I couldn't help but be drawn to her, but they are few and far between, and I don't really see that changing.
wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)

[personal profile] yoyoangel asked "Could you tell us something about where you're at with religion, these days, in terms of practice and/or beliefs?"

So this is actually quite difficult, because I'm a practicing catholic in the Church of England, and I don't really believe in God. Which is to say, that although I have a gut feeling that something Godlike probably exists, if I think about it hard and look at the evidence, it seems much more likely that we've evolved to have that gut feeling for various reasons that have nothing to do with it actually being true, and that in fact, it probably isn't.

However, (1) knowing that doesn't make the feeling go away, and (2) the last decade or so has demonstrated very clearly to me that participating in regular worship and being part of a church community makes me much happier and mentally healthier and kinder than when I'm not. So I just don't think too hard about it.

I'm a Christian specifically partly because it's what I grew up with, but mostly because the Easter Story, the sacrifice of everything, and the love of all humanity no matter how flawed we are is something that is beautiful and magical whether it is true or not. I'm catholic specifically because it's the liturgy I grew up with, and all the emotional responses I have to the Easter Story are hotkeyed to that liturgy. I'm anglo-catholic because "we believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church" and that church is Little St Mary's in Cambridge. More seriously though - LSM was a wonderful place for me, and where I first realised how much happier I was being part of a church community, but also, until recently the Roman church has been rather hostile to us queers, and although that can certainly be found in the CoE* it's also much easier to find catholic communities who are actively welcoming.

I worship at St John the Evangelist, Brownswood Park, which is actually my parish church. When we last moved I was expecting to go to another church nearby which I used to attend last time we lived near Finsbury Park, but it's about half an hour away, so I figured I'd try the parish church first, and it turned out to be just my sort of place liturgically, as well as being closer, having an extremely charming** priest, and not being Backwards in Bigotry***.

I'm on the serving team, which means that most of the time when I'm attending Mass I'm in the sacristy party - either thurifer (that's swinging the smoking handbag with incense in), or crucifer (carrying the cross during the procession in and out, and helping the priest prepare the bread and wine which will become the body and blood of Christ). This actually helps a lot with the not-actually-believing stuff, because it means that I'm concentrating sufficently hard on what happens next in the liturgy that I don't get bogged down in too much "but what if this is all meaningless".



*I remain utterly devastated that I still can't get married - please tread with extreme care if you want to discuss this
**although younger than me, which I find a bit terrifying
***Forward in Faith, the organisation opposed to the ordination of women, which is made up of an uneasy alliance of evangelical biblical literalists who think that women should be silent because that's what Paul said (and also that homosexualists should burn in hell), and high church Anglo-Catholics who are mostly older gay men who think that women have cooties and should be kept away from their playhouse.
wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] bunnypip asked for "a post about the hows and whys and wherefores of having fabulous nails", and since I've just had my nails & cocktails party this weekend, now seems a good time for it.

I used to wear nail polish quite a lot whilst I was living in Cambridge and going to goth clubs regularly, but then fell out of the habit until my recent stint in Oxford, where there was once again a club I could go to and be able to get home without wrestling with night buses. At first is was just a single basic colour - usually dark jewel colours or metallics. Then one time when I was buying nail polishes I noticed some nail stickers that were quite cool, and a little while after that I tried looking for some specific stickers online, realised just how many interesting nail art supplies and gadgets there were to be had, and kind of fell down the rabbit hole.

One of the things I really like about it is that although I'm not at all artistic, and generally can't do the complex hand-painted designs especially well, there's loads and loads of other techniques and designs that don't require much skill once I've had a bit of practice, but are interesting enough that strangers compliment them fairly frequently. I did different things for each nail at the party - initially because I was demonstrating techniques, and then after that because it would be silly to have one hand all different, and one hand all the same.

pictures and notes below the cut )

I really enjoy the process of doing my nails, especially when a new technique really comes together well, and what's more, I get a little burst of joy every time I look at them for days. It may be horribly vain, but it still makes me happy.
wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] emperor asked "Where do you see yourself professionally in 5ish years?" and [personal profile] highlyeccentric asked "What is your professional field?", which is related enough that I'll answer them together.

What I mostly do is a mixture of data wrangling and project management, which I've done in a variety of sectors - initially in telecommunications, then at a hedge fund, and for the last few years in higher education. For a little over a year I've been doing it on a self-employed consultancy basis, first at Oxford University, and now at Kingston. I find that this suits me quite well, as I tend to get bored fairly easily, and usually find that my interest in a job starts to dwindle around 6-12 months in no matter how interesting the content actually is. Working as a consultant means that I can effectively change jobs that frequently without looking like a flake who can't stick to anything.

So that's where I am now. I got both of the current contracts through an agency, and I'll probably rely on them to find me a few more whilst I build up contacts and fill out a few last gaps in my CV. I'm aiming to gradually shift the focus of the work I do from being mostly data with a bit of management to mostly management with a bit of data, and I've actually just had a heads up about a possible new contract after the Kingston one ends which would be a bit of a move in that direction. I'm almost certain to stay within the HE sector for the next few years, as by now I've picked up quite a lot of sector-specific expertise, but once I've had a couple of senior management roles in HE then I'll probably try to broaden my horizons a bit. I think that once I've got a really solid set of transferable skills under my belt it'll be easier to, well, transfer them, and what I really want to do is have access to enough work in London to keep me here most of the time.

I think that five years from now I'll probably be around the point of "just about have enough senior experience to start looking at other sectors". Where I'll be ten years from now is a bit more uncertain. I might just keep doing interim management contracts on a mostly full time basis and hopefully be able to retire quite early, or I might deliberately take gaps as long as I can afford and enjoy rather more leisure time. If I end up getting more interest than I can supply I might even start to employ other people and end up running a small management consultancy, but time will very much tell on that. It's hard to know what my priorities will be by then.

Snippets

Dec. 7th, 2014 06:22 pm
wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)
Okay, the plan was a prompted post at least once every three days in December, so if the first was today I'd better pick up the pace if I'm going to manage on average. I've still got a few slots for prompts left though, if anyone wants to add something?

Current requests:
Liv: Confidence
emperor: Where do you see yourself professionally in 5ish years
nou: making and maintaining friendships
yoyoangel: Religious practice and beliefs
bunnypip: fabulous nails

Cheeky 2nd requests which I'll do if I have time:
emperor: Highlights of 2014
bunnypip: Advent

  • Thanks for all the advice on running shoes - I got some new ones yesterday, and they definitely help. I remain uneaten by zombies. Hoorah.

  • I'm hosting a Nails & Cocktails party next weekend - I invited people on the book of face, but if you're not on there and are interested let me know and I'll give you the details (basically, we drink delicious cocktails and paint each others' nails - what's not to love?)

  • I'm going through a phase of missing Cambridge in general and LSM in particular. I visited last weekend and it was absolutely wonderful but now I'm a bit sad that I don't live there any more (although London and St John's are wonderful too!)

  • Work is ridiculously busy at the moment, but it should calm down by next week, which I am looking forward to, and the Christmas break a couple of weeks later even more.

  • Ramesh & I are going to stay in a little cottage in Devon for a few days. This will be the first time we've been away together just the two of us since we went to Prague on our 3rd date (nearly six years ago, for those of you who've not been counting)
    wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)
    [personal profile] liv asked:
    "Confidence. You always seem to be really confident, you have a job that requires you to convince clients you're really good at what you do, and you have such a great sense of style, and you throw yourself into acting and readthroughs with gusto. Do you actually feel really confident about putting yourself out there like that, or are you more faking it? In either case, how do you do it?"

    So my first reaction on reading this was to think "Well, I am really good at my job, and I'm pretty good at acting these days, so it's quite easy to be confident about them". And then I realised what I'd just thought and laughed at myself a bit, but I think it fairly clearly answers the first part of the question, that I do actually feel really confident at least about some things. So how do I do it? Well, it's not really something I do conciously at all, but I can say something about how it came about...

    When I was younger I had very little confidence, especially after my depression started kicking in at around eleven or twelve. I spent my early teens holing myself up in my room, earnestly believing that my only good quality was my academic ability. About the time I moved from school to sixth-form college I started to find friends who actually appeared to like me, and that did start to break into the well of self-loathing that I'd built up, but unfortunately by that time it was deep and dark enough that it wasn't going to disappear easily. I did what I think maybe a lot of people who are just stepping out of that pit do and swung far too far in the opposite direction, pulling on armour of apparent arrogance which wasn't really very nice, although at the time it probably was better than the alternatives.

    This continued through my late teens and early 20s, too-ing and fro-ing as I lost and gained ground in my battle with the underlying depression. And then 2003 happened. 2003 was the year that everything in my life went to hell in a handbasket - one of my primary partners got sent to prison, I came within a hair's breath of failing my degree, my mother had a stroke, [personal profile] denny had his bike accident, and I was sharing a house with a couple who'd just broken up and caught in the middle of all that drama. It was... it was not a good year. And yet I survived. I even managed to come off anti-depressants that year. And as the New Year came around I realised that if I could survive that, there were very few things the world could throw at me that could break me. And ever since then I've had a very strong sense that ultimately everything will be okay.

    And I think that that deep down sense is what makes it possible for me to be genuinely confident about most things. It's not necessarily that I think I'm awesome at everything, but because I trust that everything will be alright, it's very easy to try, and to take the evidence of how well I do at face value. There are things that I'm not confident about - socialising in large groups, meeting new people, especially meeting new people I might want to date - but I think that's mostly because I haven't done them much lately, and it would probably come back if I threw myself into it.

    Sadly this isn't terribly useful for someone else wanting to improve their confidence. On the whole, suffer from crippling depression for about a decade, then just as you're recovering have the universe throw as much appalling crap at you as it possibly can, isn't a strategy I'd recommend. But it worked for me.
    wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)
    I went running this morning! And Monday! And Saturday! Okay, that's not very many times yet, but it's twice more than I usually manage when I decide that I'm going to take up running, so my hopes are up. This morning I did the first episode of Zombies! Run!, which was pretty good fun, and I think will make it easier to keep it going. I've also ordered some gloves and warmer running gear, as it's been bloody cold when I first get started, and it's probably going to get a fair bit colder before the spring.

    I think I could probably also do with getting some new trainers, as the ones I have now are about seven years old, and were pretty cheap and cheerful back then, but that strikes me as something that requires a bit more thought than gloves and leggings. People who run - any pointers on where I should get them, anything I should look out for, and how much should I be expecting to spend? FWIW, I expect to be running about 2-3 times/week, and usually no more than about 5km. Maybe with the occasional 10k run on weekends once I'm a lot fitter than I am now.

    Also, in between vignettes about zombies I have music playing, and am really really bad/lazy about picking songs, so if anyone has any good exercise Spotify playlists to share/recommend, that would be fab.
    wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)
    I just got round to setting up a DW feed for A Thing of Things, which is written by Ozy Frantz, who I first encountered as the partner of Scott Alexander, and who basically has all of his good points, but also (what I see as) a rather more balanced approach to social justice stuff. I suggest you all add them yesterday.
    wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)
    So that thing where people commit to posting on prompts every day in December. I think the chances of me actually managing it are laughably small, but I would like to try for posting approximately every third day. I'll definitely do the first ten prompts I get; if I get more then I'll do my best, but no promises.
    wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)
    Yesterday evening I took a couple of hours out from my frantic World of Warcraft playing (a new expansion was just released, and inevitably it's eating my life and will continue doing so for the next couple of weeks) to go and see The Imitation Game, the new biopic about Alan Turing.

    I know a lot of people don't much like Bandersnatch, but I'm definitely in the 'I totally would' camp. I was a bit worried based on the trailers though that the character would just be played as Sherlock Mark II, but it turns out that they'd just chosen the 2 minutes of most Sherlockey footage, and as it turned out his acting was nuanced and excellent.

    It was pretty unremittingly bleak though, and even the positive moments were underscored by the sickening knowledge of how it was going to end, so only go if you're feeling fairly robust. Well worth it if you feel up to it though.
    wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)
    I had an excellent dinner with [livejournal.com profile] obandsoller last night at Fera, Simon Rogan's restaurant at Claridges.

    And it was very good, no doubt about it. Lots of interesting flavours and textures, everything cooked extremely well, generally good wine pairings, attentive yet unobtrusive service, innovative cocktails. And yet, and yet...

    I came away feeling slightly underawed. Each of us had one course which was merely good rather than very good, but out of seven, plus four amuse bouche, that seems like a pretty good hit rate. But it wasn't that exactly, so much as that I think I might have tasting-menued myself out, at least for the time being. Which is sad, but then I'm sure there are plenty of other kinds of exciting food in the world, and most of them probably don't cost the same as a short holiday, so I think I shall be looking at other styles for a little while.

    I'm sure I'll come back to it eventually mind, and by then, it might even be possible for mere humans to get a table at the Chiltern Firehouse...

    Sleeeeeeep

    Oct. 31st, 2014 12:38 pm
    wildeabandon: me sitting by the thames (Default)
    I'm really bad at going to bed at a sensible time. I tell myself that I need to be in bed by 11.30, and with the lights out and trying to sleep by midnight, but as that time rolls around there's always an urgent need to play just one more level of my game, or read just one more chapter of my book. Last night was particularly bad, and I didn't make it to bed until nearly five, which when I'm getting up at sevenish is not something my body can cope with now I'm no longer quite so young as I once was. Usually it's better than that, but one-thirty or two is not uncommon, and I'm starting to resent being tired all the time.

    Anyone else struggle with this, and if so, any suggestions more useful than "apply more willpower"?
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