Disney 2023 – Part 2

The original plan for this holiday was that we would spend day one at Disneyland, day two at California Adventure, day three at Universal, and day four back at Disneyland. That meant day two, (or Tuesday, as it was also known) saw us heading to the other side of the Disney plaza for California Adventure.

Last time we were there, we had queued up for the Incredicoaster, and actually taken our seats just as it broke down, so that one was on our list. We also wanted to do the Guardians of the Galaxy ride, and see the Avengers’ Campus which had been built in the intervening years. However, we weren’t very organised about our visit, so we kicked things off with the Spider-man Web singers ride.

It was a fun ride, and the technology was impressive – slinging webs based on a computer knowing where my arms were? Unreal! We loved the setup and the ride, and the fact that bits of the story of the ride were reflected in the details around the Avengers’ campus. Where we saw Captain America, Spidey, and General Okoye:

Oh, and Ant-Man.

We loved the Guardians ride just as much this time as we did last time.

Then it was time to head across to the Incredicoaster, and there was a fast-moving queue and no breakdown! It’s a fast coaster, with a complete loop and a bunch of huge bumps and fast turns, but the ride seems to last quite a while. We were ready to take the pace down a notch, so we went for the Monsters Inc ride. It’s not really a ride, more like a retelling of the movie through a series of tableau that you meander past in a replica Monstropolis Taxi. Seemed fair enough to us, though,

It doesn’t sound like much, but in between we had walked a LOT, visited almost every shop and eaten many things, including an enormous Turkey leg. That was enough for one day.

We called off Wednesday’s visit to Universal. Firstly, I didn’t want to drive through LA traffic there and back. Secondly, with JK Rowling out of favour in our household (Trans women are women, it’s not difficult), a large part of the park is written off. Thirdly, super Nintendo world or whatever it is holds no interest for us, and we did the studio tour twice already. Basically, we’d be paying a lot for not much, so we had a hugely decadent lie in, drove to a nearby beach, got a nice pub lunch and went back to the hotel.

And that brings us to our last day at Disney.

We’d already done the two rides in Galaxy’s Edge, and spent a lot on stuff I don’t need, but we both seem to find Batuu a very restful place to hang out. We did do both rides again, obviously…

And we got lunch at the Docking Bay, where I was delighted to find they still serve Fried Endorian Tip Yip.

The really great thing about having done everything you set out to do, is that there is no longer an agenda or timetable. We could (and did!) just sit and watch the world go by. We saw as many Star Wars characters in that hour or so after lunch as there are in the park, I think…

It was a blissful afternoon, but you know the one thing you can’t get on Batuu? A cup of coffee. We finally stirred ourselves to head back to Main street, so Mrs Dim could observe her Disney tradition of drinking coffee on Main Street while wearing her tiara. When we got there, the parade was about to kick off, so she grabbed a space and I went and fetched the coffee.

We haven’t watched a Disney Parade since we visited Disneyland Paris in 1997. It was shorter than I expected, but fun and with some really interesting floats and dancers.

Replete with spectacle, we retired to the Jazz Kitchen for a final Disney Meal.

For three days of theme park fun, it’s been a really relaxing holiday, and I’m actually looking forward to the road trip home. I hope Galaxy’s Edge doesn’t suffer too much in the restructuring going on at Disney as they try to save money. It’s an amazing place for someone who has spent so much time imagining what it’s like to live in Star Wars

Disney 2023 – Day 1

So, you’ve gone back to Disneyland again?

Yes, that’s right. Mrs Dim and I have driven down to California to grab three days in Disneyland.

Sorry, just the two of you? You didn’t take the kids?

Well, look, for a start, they’re hardly kids anymore, and when we booked the tickets, all three of them had jobs and no vacation available. We’ve taken them to Disney twice, now they’re able to take themselves. Or will be soon enough. But we are old, and may not have many more opportunities.

You’re fifty.

I’m well aware of that, thank you.

Why drive down?

Flying was more expensive, worse for the environment, didn’t fit with our times, and we like driving together. We listened to some audio books, a lot of music, and we talked. It took two days, and we broke the journey at Grant’s Pass, Oregon.

I like driving the open roads, and we were lucky this time – when we reached LA, it was Sunday evening, so the traffic wasn’t too bad. Still, I know I’m getting old, because the way other people drive is terrifying at times. Indicators are a thing, people! You can use them BEFORE you change lanes!

Enough whining. Is Disney good third time around?

Last time we were here, they hadn’t completed the Rise of the Resistance ride, so that was our first destination. The queue was long – 70 minutes was the estimate when we joined it, but soon after that, they announced they had technical difficulties. Since we didn’t have to rush to get everything into today, we elected to stay in the queue and admire the scenery.

We also chatted with the trio of teens in the line ahead of us. One of the girls just announced that she had never seen any of the movies, and Mrs Dim had to steady me so I didn’t immediately summarize all nine movies, the animated series, the novel tie-ins, and all the Legends stuff that just got THROWN OUT LIKE YESTERDAY’S TRASH….(Breathe…breathe…breathe…)

Anyway, the ride was running fine by the time we reached the end of the queue, and it was as amazing as we had been led to expect. I took a lot of video of the ride, but you can find better filming of it on YouTube.

Another thing we didn’t get to do last time was visit Oga’s Cantina. It’s not actually a sit-down eatery, and unless you’ve managed to beat the odds and book in advance (we tried a week before our trip and every slot was taken), you have to try for a walk-in time. We only had to wait 20 minutes and got shown through to a booth. That sounds neat, but we were sharing it with two other groups. One group finished up shortly after we arrived, so for a while it was us and a lovely trio of ladies who took our picture for us.

I can’t show you that one because it’s stuck on Mrs Dim’s phone, but here’s mine:

We had lovely drinks and snacks and enjoyed the crazy ambience. A few of the patrons looked a bit lost, or confused as to why we had a booth and they had to stand, but most people seemed to be having a good time, especially when the drinks arrived.

This is Mrs Dim’s “Fuzzy Tauntaun”. The foam contains a Japanese flower that was used to suppress toothache, and makes your mouth go numb!

We staggered back out into the bright sunlight and went down the single rider lane of the Smuggler’s Run ride – no waiting for single riders, though the regular queue was at 45 mins or longer. It meant we didn’t share a ride, each being assigned to a different crew, but it was a lot of fun, being an engineer for a strange family. I did very well, scoring a hundred percent for my efforts, though I think the pilots could have tried to avoid some of the obstacles…

Did you only hang out in the Star Wars area?

It’s called “Galaxy’s Edge”, and no, we didn’t. We strolled around to Tomorrowland and lined up for Hyperspace Mountain…

Isn’t that another Star Wars ride?

Well, yeah, it is now, but it wasn’t always. Anyway, the queue was huge, and the ride broke down, but this time it was while we were in sight of the actual coaster. We watched the stalled cars being retrieved from the dark track one by one, and the whole queue cheered and applauded as they emerged. The ride started up again, and we were off!

After all that excitement, we sat in the sun for a while.

People-watching is a fun and harmless activity that Mrs Dim never tires of, and Disney provides a huge conveyor-belt of people from all over the place. We were looking for Disney Bounders, folks whose choice of outfit is influenced by their favourite character. Adults aren’t allowed to visit Disney in costume, except under special circumstances, so Disney Bounders work hard to hint at the character without crossing the boundaries that Disney set.

We were flagging, but happy, so we strolled on round to watch the paddle-steamer go around the pirate island, and then joined the queue for Pirates of the Caribbean. The ride didn’t break down, but they did stop it to clean up one of the boats. Luckily, we weren’t close enough to see what they were cleaning up. We enjoyed the ride immensely, and discovered that we both thought we’d been on it before, but we were wrong about that. The weirdest part of the ride is going past all the folks eating at the restaurant they have in the first section. Unless they were very good animatronics?

We were done, and the evening parade was about to start, so we took our leave. We grabbed a nice meal in Downtown Disney, which is actually outside the park. The food was great, the service fantastic, but the menu made me want to punch kittens. Can you see why? Here’s one page from the online version:

Just as we were leaving, the Manager came over to see how the meal had been. He got a punctuation lesson.

Back at the hotel, Mrs Dim found a way to ease the aches in her feet.

Tomorrow we visit California Adventure, where all the Marvel and Pixar characters hang out. Mrs Dim is getting as many selfies as she can with characters. I’ll do a full round up after our final day in the park on Thursday.

It’s been twenty five years…

I’ve told my story many times on this blog. When my eldest kid was born, it was the obvious and sensible choice for me to give up work and become a househusband, while Mrs Dim continued to protect the Free World through the medium of military Human Resources management. From my point of view, I was going to become a rich and famous author while at the same time raising my child. And looking after the dog.

Me, my eldest child, and Sydney, the Prince of Dogness. He also held an honourary rank of Pilot Officer in the RAF.

I had read a great deal about writing, and I knew even overnight success doesn’t happen overnight. I knew there would be a long slog, a lot of rejections, some real dark nights of the soul, and THEN there would be accolades and movie deals. But I was prepared for the long haul. I was willing to work at this for…oh, three or four months?

They say life is what happens while we are making plans, but I’ll admit that plan making has never been my forte. That is, making a plan is easy. Closing the gap between what it says on the plan and what happens in real life? That’s the rub. I wanted to be a novelist. I had been an avid reader for years. But the stuff I wrote, the long-form novel fodder? It was SOOOOOO boring. I bored myself, and they were my ideas. Over those first few years, I tried three or four different ideas, starting out each time with enthusiasm, but then realising each one had the same failures. They were, basically, rubbish. Despite what you may have heard, that’s a bad trait in a publishing career

Time passed, and I got better at being a dad, and a little better at managing the house. I didn’t get better at being a novelist, but I did expand the number of different things I tried writing. I liked short stories. I sucked at making feature articles. Screenplays were too complicated, and required a next level amount of connections that I could never hope to get. (People will tell you that’s not true, or if it is, it’s true for any writing. I can only speak from my experience. I could sell short stories and magazine articles – not many, and not for a fortune, but I could and I did. I had no agent, and little history to show, but I sold them. Screenplays? I would have had to climb a mountain to find someone to talk to me about finding someone to help me find an agent to sell the thing.)

But in the meantime, quietly and insidiously, there were the plays.

I wrote a play for the theatre group I joined, at Mrs Dim’s prompting. They needed a script for a competition, since few groups entered the “We wrote this play” section, and it would be an automatic win. But that year, 3 other groups brought their own plays. We won anyway, because the adjudicator was impressed with my homage to Pirandelllo. So was I, because I’d never heard of him.

Then Steve and David asked me to join them in the Panto-writing exploit they had going, for the Milton Keynes Amateur Operatic Society. They offered actual money, so I couldn’t say no.

Our first co-authored show was a sell-out. As was the next, and the next. And Steve bundled our scripts and sent them off to this new online publisher for consideration. Lazy Bee Scripts took them all, and asked if we had more, so I sent over my award-winning play, plus a few others I had trotted out in case I could win another award. They got accepted too.

I still wanted to write novels. I still wanted fame and fortune, and especially the fortune part, but it turns out, I’m a playwright.

And now it’s twenty five years since I gave up on the Civil Service and tried making words my business. I’m still not rich, and I’m not famous, though that urge is slowly fading. Covid did quite a number on the Community Theatre scene that buys most of my material, and though things are picking up again, part of me wonders if my playwriting days have peaked. I hope not.

These days I carry my cat when I go walking, not a kid. I think I still have a way to go before my kids are carrying me, but you never know. I’m still trying to write new things, but my actual output has slowed tremendously.

I guess the point of this post, aside from just the “Oh my god, twenty five years? Are you kidding me?”ness of it all, is that writers are presented pretty much one path to success. The novel is the goal, the golden ticket that will carry you out of obscurity and into the bright lights. Sure, you could go be a journalist, or a screenwriter, but that’s not the “real” thing, somehow. But look, I fell into playwriting by being willing to give anything a try. It hasn’t made me rich, but it has given me a neat little side-income for stuff that I feel I would have been trying to write anyway. I’ve also picked up scriptreading work for my publisher, and it’s great to see the absolute tide of new work that comes in, somehow always new and different.

If you’re starting out as a writer, or maybe just looking around to see what being a writer is like, then for god’s sake, don’t think about where you might be in twenty five years. That’s lunacy. But try all the other stuff, whether you think it’s “proper” writing or not. You’ll only lose a little bit of time on your novel, and you may find that something else carries you away in a direction you weren’t expecting.

Twas the night before May Fourth…

This was supposed to be a post about me realising it’s been TWENTY FIVE YEARS since I gave up my (almost) career to become a not-quite-professional writer. And I will get to that post, I’m afraid, but in the meantime, it’s the Most Wonderful Day of the Year tomorrow – May the Fourth, Star Wars Day. Despite my new meds, I sat in bed last night trying to transcribe the odd ideas my brain was throwing out. Then, instead of throwing them out as well, I’ve typed them up so you have to suffer them as well.

I don’t write poetry. That takes skill, dedication, and a facility with words at a level that’s much higher than what I got. (joke!) But I’m primarily a panto writer, so doggerel is never far away. Anyway, here it is:

‘Twas the night before May Fourth

And all through the land,

Excitement was building

In each Star Wars fan

As they dressed in their Artoo

And C3PJ’s

They stared at the night sky

With a deep, yearning gaze.

Too excited to sleep,

Just in case it was true

That all REAL fans

get a gift from GROGU!

When all in the household are fast, fast asleep

The N1 appears

From a hyperspace leap!

And though Grogu’s face

Through the windshield is peering

We know it’s Din Djarin 

Who’s doing the steering.

The pair make their stops

At each home, double quick,

The short, green-eared hero

And his rangy sidekick!

Grogu skips down each chimney

In rain, snow, or fog

And you’d better have left out

Blue milk and a frog!

Will he bring YOU a gift?

A lightsaber? Or two?

If he does, or he doesn’t


Twenty five years, and no huge success, eh? It’s a mystery, isn’t it?

My Writing Corner

This picture is from the year 2000. I’m 27, nearly 28, and sitting at a desk that I made myself, to my own design. When my father-in-law saw it for the first time, his only comment was “Why doesn’t it fall down?”

I had been a full-time writer (alright, full-time dad and part time writer) for almost two years, and I still wasn’t rich. I had tried writing columns, articles, features, short stories and novels. I had taken a correspondence course (that’s like an online course, kids, but without the internet…). I had written a couple of pieces for “Tathan” the magazine published by the RAF station on which we lived. I’d had a couple of features written about me by parenting magazines, but only one had used a feature I had written myself. The RAF families’ magazine “Corridors” had liked my article submission so much, they offered me the job of editor.*

But I was reading a writing magazine that regularly featured professional, full time, SUCCESSFUL authors and they all had their special writing routine and their special writing corners. Me making my desk was my way of saying “This is my special place where I can make magic!”

Amazingly, it didn’t make writing easier, but it did achieve a few important points.

  1. There was enough space for everything. I had a raised section for the printer and the scanner (two different things back then). I had my stereo off to one side (because the computer couldn’t store all my music back then either!). It was a corner desk, so the long back of the CRT monitor went into the corner.
  2. It was MY desk. It wasn’t a repurposed table, or something someone else had even designed. It was designed and built by me for me to write on. So, sitting at it, I felt writing was essential. Didn’t mean I didn’t ALSO play a lot of Tomb Raider, of course.
  3. It was away by itself in a spare room (a luxury, I know). That meant it was a place I could go to write. Yes, baby Laurel had her playmat in the corner, and would often take naps beside me as I worked, but when you need to feel that your work is important ans a real thing, having somewhere particular to go and do it was a useful thing.

Well, time passed and the family grew, so spare rooms became a thing of the past. My monster of a desk survived one move, but not two, and by the time were were living at RAF Halton, my desk was in a corner of the dining room, and it was composed of several bits of off-the-peg furniture.

You can see it’s still the days of the CRT monitor, and that’s a VHS machine that the printer is balanced on. My scanner is still a separate thing too, and it slides out on a handy shelf, much like the keyboard. I’ve ditched the stereo at last, because now my computer can easily play the cds that I have in that neat rack (only some of them are games discs…).

Most of the books on the shelves are about writing. A couple are short story collections that my work features in. There’s obviously a lot less space, and since I’m still trying to be a writer while editing the magazine and running the household, I’m attempting to keep organised – look at all the ink on the huge calendar there – but it’s an uphill struggle against my true chaotic nature. There were days here when I longed for the time I had a study of my own.

Two moves later, and I DID have a study of my own again. We were out of the RAF life and living like civilians in Bournemouth, in a crazy house we couldn’t really afford, but loved to bits. It had a study built over the top of the garage, but they’d forgotten to use any kind of insulation, so it was always colder than the rest of the house by several degrees. We did set up a desk and the desktop computer there, but I was surprised to discover that I didn’t often go there. I had an Acer Aspire laptop that was pretty much faster and better than our desktop of the day. The study was upstairs and cold, but the breakfast table was just off our tiny kitchen. It had the toaster and the kettle in it, so coffee was only ever a couple of steps away. I would cycle the kids to school, then stroll back in, click on the laptop and the kettle and settle down.

Obviously, this isn’t me, this is Mrs Dim showing the kids how to carve pumpkins. But that’s our breakfast table at The Wonkey House, and behind her you can see my old laptop. I sat at that table and wrote a LOT of short plays, sketches and a couple of pantomimes. It wasn’t a private space, it wasn’t festooned with writing literature or reference books, and I never had it to myself for more than a few hours at a time, but I got a lot done there, and I remember it with great fondness.

These days, the number of children in the house is generally trending downward, and we’ve had a study since we moved in. Of course, I have a regular day job now, and the urge to come home and sit at the computer is definitely muted. I have my days off when I can push the cat out of the typing chair and sit down, but sometimes I don’t.

We’re back to a desk I designed and made, though I did that by buying two Ikea drawer units and placing a big piece of plywood over the top. My keyboard and mouse are wireless now, my scanner and printer are one thing, and it’s also wireless. I have two screen that are flat as pancakes, and there’s room to prop my laptop on the desk too, if I want information overload. But Mrs Dim works from home a few days a week now, so I can’t always be sure I’ll be the only one in need of a desk. That’s why I’ve typed this whole post on my laptop in the living room.

In twenty three years of writing, I’ve learned that having your own writing space is great, but not essential. I wrote some of my first plays on that monster of a blue desk in Wales, but I wrote others on that breakfast table in Bournemouth, and some on a Chromebook on my lap in an Ice Rink while Middle Kid played Ringette. Some of the latest writing I’ve done has been in the break room at the library, on my lunchbreak.

I was always jealous of those professionals being profiled in the writing magazine, and I wanted fame and fortune so that my writing day could look like theirs – a little light writing after breakfast, a stroll with the dogs, jotting down some more words in my favourite coffee place, then dinner with the family and a couple more hours of writing in my oak-paneled study before bed. It still sounds nice, but like many people, I found the pandemic years realigned my sense of what I need versus what I want. I write less these days, and sometimes I wonder if I will ever complete a play or story again. If I do, then that’s great, I’d love that. But if I don’t, it’s not the end of the world.

*Yes, the magazine of the RAF Families organisation I belonged to was called “Corridors”, because the organisation’s HQ was a place called “Corridors House”. We rebranded soon after as “Airwaves” and renamed the magazine in kind. The magazine published thousands of copies every quarter and they went out to all the RAF bases worldwide. It was, despite my best efforts, a very dull read.

Time, like an ever-rolling stream…

It’s late March, which in our family means, we’re smack in the middle of Birthday Alley. Tiny and Middle Weasel have birthdayed already, Eldest has her birthday very soon, and Mrs Dim is next in line shortly after that. Like any parent, as my kids age, I can’t help thinking about the passage of time.

Eldest Weasel is now just about the same I was when she was born. It seems an impossibly long time ago – so many unimaginable things happened between then and now. For one thing, I had no idea we’d move to Canada before she turned twelve.

When I was a kid, I was vaguely intending to become a motorcycle stuntman (as Mrs Dim reminded me recently). This was unwelcome news to my school careers advisor, who also had no idea how to advise me to get work in television (production, rather than media stardom). It seems cruel of me to blame my lack of career on that guy, whoever he was. I mean, he did point me to an enormous book titled “Careers” and suggest I look in that for something about TV. And hey, I DID work in tv for almost a whole year, so maybe he was good at his job?

When Eldest was born, and we were allowed to leave the hospital, we sat her on the coffee table in our living room, in her car seat/carrier. It seemed a little surreal that we were being left to look after this tiny person with no supervision. The three months that I would have Mrs Dim on hand before she went back to work did also not seem very long. That wasn’t the stretch of time Mrs Dim was concerned about though.

“It’s just going to be no time at all before she’s eighteen and off to university!” she said.

Well, she was wrong. It was eighteen years. Yeah, from this end of things, those eighteen years seem to have passed in a flash, but I made a point of remembering them. We really lived them. Maybe I had the better part of the deal, being the primary caregiver for the kids – my time with them as tiny people wasn’t diluted so much with concerns about the job. I mean, I did get some kind of work during those years, but nothing that meant going to an office, or meeting performance evaluations. I’ve always said that raising kids IS a tough job, but it’s not A job. I had my moments of panic and frustration (and yes, trips to the emergency room, or sleepless nights etc etc), but I was always glad to be doing that rather than a nine to five.

We never (I don’t think) pictured our kids in their future incarnations. There was never an image of Tiny Weasel as a lawyer, except as a comedy sketch brought on by her Psych Ed evaluation. I don’t know how people can pretend to know what their kids might want to be, want to do for real. Eldest had a bunch of ideas along the way, and the one I would have put money on – veterinarian – got jettisoned when she had the chance to do work experience at a vet’s. Yes, she was (and is) great with animals. She loves them, and they seem to love her. But that just makes dealing with animals in pain even harder. She’s happy on her new track, and I have little doubt that she’ll find a great job to enjoy.

Since, right now, they’re all happy with the way they are heading, I don’t have a problem with my kids growing up. I do occasionally miss the little moppets that used to stumble around the place, but I don’t miss the endless rounds of indoor play areas, swimming lessons, school projects. I don’t miss keeping an eye on the clock to be at the playground to pick them up at the end of the day (even though, yes, I do still occasionally dash out to collect one or two from work). See, although that stage may be past, I’m still a Dad. Always will be. At some point they’ll stop asking me to fix the Wifi, or put up shelves, but even then, I’ll still be a Dad, only then I’ll be a Dad to confident, capable adults.

Time can keep rolling. Now I don’t have to row, so I can enjoy the view a little more.

How’s Canada treating you?

For years, Mrs Dim has been the one to carry the calendar in her head. I mean, sure we have one on the fridge too, but the vital one was in her head. Every few months she would remind me of an event coming up, someone’s birthday or anniversary, something I should have done or arranged. Anyway, these days she’s trying to use her head less so she has more space for work, so I’m supposed to keep track of the passage of time unaided.

Earlier this week, I had the weirdest feeling that something important was coming up. I had sent cards to two people already, and arranged my nephew’s birthday present (Happy Birthday Lochlan!), but what was special about the 9th?

It wasn’t until the morning of the 10th March that I remembered – it was our Canadaversary, Must be fourteen years now. If you’ve read this blog at all, you’ve heard the story a million times, so I won’t go over it again. Suffice to say, it’s now far enough in the past that I’ve stopped spotting the differences between the UK and Canada on a personal level, and when someone says “home”, it’s Coquitlam I think of.*

The thing is, though, someone asked me how I felt coming to Canada had worked out for us this week, and I could honestly say it was the best idea. I speak to Mum and Dad every week, and there are rising fuel prices, rising petrol prices, rationed vegetables and fruit in supermarkets, the madness of Brexit STILL causing trouble, the inhumanity of the attitude to desperate refugees and STILL a Conservative party that can’t govern, can’t care for the people because they’re too busy trying to line their own pockets.

My social media feed (Mastodon these days, because no one should be on Twitter supporting That Guy) is full of the horrors of the American slide into medievalism, and I can see the UK following down that road if the whole country doesn’t go bankrupt or burst into flames first. I’m well aware that not everyone has the chance to make their escape the way we did. It makes me all the more grateful for the opportunities we’ve had here.

Fourteen years. We have a home here, wherever we choose to think of it, and it’s still open to friends and family from the UK if they need a break from that brand of bonkers – I’m not saying our personal brand of bonkers is going to be a lot better, but you know what?” You can buy tomatoes in the local supermarket without having to mortgage your house.

*In general terms. We live right on the Burnaby/Coquitlam border, so there’s a lot of overlap, plus it’s the City of Burnaby who employ me, so YAY BURNABY also!

I found a good one!

I wrote a post not so long ago about my dislike for LitFic, and how, although I don’t enjoy it, I still pick one up from time to time. It’s very rare that one of these randomly selected LitFic stories comes through on the promise of the book cover, but it happened this week.

Some time ago, I put a hold on this book – “Now is not the time to panic” by Kevin Wilson. I don’t remember now WHY I did – maybe it was the plot synopsis, maybe it was just the title. Anyway, the book finally arrived and I found myself reading the whole thing in one night. (It’s just 237 pages, so why split it up?)

The premise of the story is weird, but great. The protagonist, Frankie, is the youngest child of her family, having three older brothers who are triplets. They’re being brought up by a single mom, and this summer Frankie is sixteen and pretty much left to her own devices. A new kid has moved to town temporarily, and they make a wary friendship. They decide to spend the summer together making art – Frankie is a writer, and Zeke is an artist. Together they design a weird poster, with the tagline

The Edge is a shantytown filled with gold seekers. We are fugitives, and the law is skinny with hunger for us.”

They put up the posters in secret, making copies with a Xerox machine that is in Frankie’s garage. They paper the town, and soon people are discussing the posters – are they for a band? A cult? A movie? Then a couple of teens who were out late use the line as an excuse – they were captured, they say, by a gang claiming to be “the fugitives”. From then on, things turn bad as the town goes on the alert.

Meanwhile, in the present day, adult Frankie is contacted by a journalist who believes Frankie was responsible for the posters, which in turn caused the “Coalfield Panic of 1996”. Frankie has never admitted her part in things to anyone – should she confess now?

So, look, you know I like happy endings, and I get annoyed by books that set up a story and then leave it hanging. But this was a gripping story, and I was hungry to finish it. When the story closes, I was happy with where it stopped. LitFic CAN be done right, and this book is the proof.

FanExpo Vancouver 2023 – here we go again!

Have I mentioned Fan Expo recently? (I have a suspicion that I have, in fact, mentioned the approach of Fan Expo more than once or twice.)

And here it is, the three-day event that I have been aiming at with all of the Derek upgrading.

Day One:

This year the three days of Fan Expo began on a Saturday, and we had designated the first day as reconnaissance. Except for Middle Kid, who had arranged to meet some friends in Cosplay as Lucius from “Our Flag Means Death”.

Not having prepared a cosplay for myself, I threw together a Ninth Doctor outfit, but that has the disadvantage of looking like…regular clothing. I mean, not regular clothing that I would wear, but it’s tricky to spot that I’m dressed up, unless you know me. Look, here’s the real thing:

I looked just like this, except for the Christopher Ecclestone bit. No one noticed. As you might expect, the Saturday was busy, and we were glad we hadn’t brought Derek – there wasn’t room for him to move around the hall. I checked out the Droid Builders’ club.

I always forget how big R2 units are in real life. Definitely not building one of those.

Another great stand was the one for Bucketheads, a fan-made tv series about a group of Stormtroopers – Nova Squad. After visiting the stand, I was lucky enough to run into Victoria Souter, who plays Sgt Nomi Coven.

You can catch the first episode of Bucketheads on YouTube, but I would recommend checking out the Prologue and Episode Two as well. The series is made on a voluntary basis – no one is getting paid, they’re all giving their time and expertise out of love of the story. They’re film industry professionals, not surprising, given that we live in Hollywood North. They also use local 501st members, which means the armour is SPOT ON.

Day Two : Day of the Derek

I have this terrible paranoia about arriving at places like the Vancouver convention center and not being able to park. So we were supposed to leave early and rendezvouz with the rest of the family at 9.30. Of course, we left late, but we had all the pieces of Derek, and all of Mrs Dim’s costume, AND we met up in the parking lot where there WAS a space.

Five years ago, Derek threw a wheel on his way into his first ever convention. This year he rolled into the convention center under his own power, with sound effects playing at random on a track specially prepared by Middle Kid.

We had to stop over and over again, even before we got inside:

Just as people had been reassuring me all this time, no one noticed the myriad of small imperfections that were nagging at me. People flocked to see Derek, to laugh as he waved his plunger at them, to ask over and over “Is there someone in there?” Up to now, I haven’t really had a good answer to give to that one, but this I could say “Why don’t you ask Derek?” People did, and Derek said “No.”, which was perfect.

Sunday was just busy enough to have plenty of people coming through the doors, but quiet enough for us to roll down the aisle that had all the celebs signing photographs. That meant we got to see the big name visitors, like Sean Gunn, Sean Astin, Anthony Daniels, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner and so on, and they got to see us (which is really why they came, after all.)

Although we’d arrived mid-morning and hadn’t expected to stay more than a couple of hours, it was past 4pm before we were ready to pack up and go.

Day Three:

I was done, really, because nothing was going to top the previous day’s fun. However, Youngest Kid had not had a chance to air their cosplay, and they needed someone to go with them because visibility in the headpiece was limited:

Unfortunately, the sword was made from too much baseball bat for the security check (we only used the handle, but that was too much) but once again, people didn’t care. We didn’t stay very long, having only a couple of things to pick up, but we stopped for a lot of pictures. I only got the one.

For a long time I’ve been heading towards Fan Expo, avoiding thinking about other things because I wanted to make sure I got all the stuff done on time. Now that it’s done, there’s time and headspace for all the other things – taxes, planning vacations, maybe even try writing something.

When the dust has really settled, there are a few more tweaks I’m thinking of for Derek, but maybe we don’t have a deadline closer than 17th Feb 2024 – the next Fan Expo Vancouver.

The Folding Wooden Briefcase

This blog was started as a way to keep track of our adventures as we emigrated to Canada. Then I also talked about my attempts to become a rich writer (and ended up documenting how I just became a writer.) I’ve mentioned more than once my hobbies – juggling, circus skills in general, and now cosplay and prop building.

Very, VERY occasionally, I mentioned my attempts at woodwork. Very occasionally, because that’s when they happen, and the results are usually traumatic enough to make it a long wait before the next attempt. I am NOT skilled at woodwork. But the weird thing is, my posts on these odd projects get a LOT of traction with the woodworking crowd, who drop by on the regular to like my old posts, even the one that stresses I am NOT a cabinet maker.

Just recently I have been upgrading my dalek again, and the thought occurred that I should also give more thought to how I carry the tools I need for on-the-spot repairs. In past years, I’ve used Mrs Dim’s small toolbag, but this year I would mostly be carrying the screen and power cables for the raspberry Pi. I don’t want to dump those in a bag with pliers and screwdriver and glue. I wanted a neat little hard case, but I also wanted a FANCY neat little hard case. Once I thought that, my brain handed me a set of plans for a folding wooden briefcase, and I was sunk.

Here’s what I should have done: Bought a 2ft X 2ft pine project panel from Home Depot. Bought a couple of lengths of 2X1. Cut the project panel into four equal pieces, then made those four pieces into two boxes by edging them with the 2×1.

BUT, as always, I do not have a budget for new wood. I do have piles of scrap wood. By assembling pieces of wood intended for fence panels, I could cut out the flat pieces. By cutting 1 inch strips off another large piece of wood, I could edge those flat pieces. Doing this four times gave me two boxes.

They were not pretty boxes. My measurements are always a little squiffy, as is my ability to cut a straight line, even with my rip saw. But hey, I have two boxes. So far, so adequate.

The next step was the folding bit. I had a box of hinges, but only two small ones. I used one small hinge to make each box open. The I used the next smallest hing to hinge those two boxes together. Fully opened out, it looks like this:

Looks pretty good, but there’s a detail you can’t see here – the large hinge is from a cupboard, and the hinge pin is only secured in one vertical direction. If you turn it upside down, the hinge pin falls out. This is not good. Also the boxes will not stay closed without catches. I don’t have any catches. Luckily, a household need prompted a trip to RONA, where I could bury the purchase of four new hinges and three catches in the general spending.

Here’s what the box does:

What I wanted to do, what I should have done at this point, was sand the thing for hours. I mean, I did sand the thing, with power tools and hand sanding and all sorts. But sanding is boring and messy, and despite the extraction system I put in my workshop, sawdust gets everywhere. And I don’t have the time to stand and sand this thing for as long as it needs to turn from scrap wood to decent wood. That’s a long, long time sanding, and it’ll still be badly hinged and poorly measured. Some things, you can’t polish.

The clasps I had bought, the ONLY clasps that Rona sell, were flimsy brass things. Fitting them proved a horribly fiddly task, where they were askew, and either didn’t close, or closed and left the boxes slightly open. Fine, whatever. I replaced the duff hinge, and now every hinged part had two hinges. Much more secure.

I turned my attention to the inside. I had originally wanted to use all four segments of the case to store things, but my random decision to make the boxes only 2 inches deep meant I could only use one side. I have an abundance of cheap camping mat foam, which I cut to approximate shape and tried to glue into the boxes. Glue, by the way, does not work for me. It is only ever a temporary measure, regardless of the material. At some point, it will give way.

It was obvious that the single layer of foam would not do. I needed a second layer, with the shapes cut out, in some cases right down to the base wood. This would hold the items safely, and stop them rattling about. It also meant they became smeared with the glue that had not dried on the base wood layer.

My original plan to have the thing lacquered and polished was a non-starter. The wood was too rough, the sides were not square or neatly jointed…It was a mess of different levels and gaping gaps. Instead, I deconstructed a prop I had made for Mrs Dim to take to ECCC last year, one that has connections with Doctor Who, because after all, this is the case where I carry my Dalek maintenance tools. It supplied four corner pieces, and decoration for the two flat sides of the folded case.

I needed handles, partly for carrying, but mostly to hold the thing together because the top clasp was NOT doing the job. I picked out a couple of plumbing hoses, made of metal weave, and cut them to length, then secured them in place with four screws. I’ll have to cap the ends with something soon, because there are sharp edges poking out, but they are good handles otherwise.

And that’s it. Another dumb idea out of my brain and into the world. Something someone else could have done a LOT better. Hey, maybe even something I could have done a lot better, if I had a budget and allowed myself the time? Who knows? And really, who cares?