Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Wake-up Call

Every now and again a news story comes along that I feel compelled to share.


This is my favorite part of the story:

"This accident was truly a mystery to me," he said. "This is a horrible event, a horrible travesty, and I really don't know why it happened."

Um, it happened because you thought it would be cute to let your kid fire an Uzi. Jesus H. Christ in a hula-hoop. Are people really that dumb?? Yes, yes they are.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Point At Which I Thew Up. The First Time.

Thursday was Traf Night on the base. Yes, I know that Tuesday was actually the anniversary of the battle of Trafalgar, but they didn't celebrate until Thursday. It was a personnel-only night, so I couldn't go and join in the reindeer games. Instead I had a neighbor 'round for tea. (How very English of me.)

Pirate came back at quarter past one in the morning and announced that we were spending the weekend on a yacht with a bloke from work, his bird, and some other people he'd not met.

I have never been on a yacht. My most recent memory of being on a boat that was powered by something other people was a fishing trip my parents took me on when I was 10 out on to Lake Michigan. My dad and I spent the whole time trowing up, and we didn't catch a single fish.

I agreed to go on the grounds that I'd never done it before, and as a rule I like to try new things. I was apprehensive, however, as this seemed to me the kind of activity that was highly dependent upon 2 things:

The quality of the company, and
The quality of the weather.

If the company was lively and the weather calm, it was sure to be a good time.
If the company was dull and the weather lively, it had disaster written all over it.

It started out well enough. The dawn broke radiantly over Rame Penninsula.

Red sky in the morning; Sailor, take warning!
(That was the actual view out our bedroom window on the morning of the excursion.)

We tootled in to Plymouth where we met the crew at the marina and went aboard.

All aboard the HMS Upchuck!

Our skipper had recently passed his Master Yachtsman qualifications, so we were in good hands. All seemed to be going well, and I started to get excited. (Not that way, you filthy sots.)

We got through the lock and out of the marina with no trouble, and set a course to take us around Plymouth breakwater on the west side, then head east for Shag Rock and up the River Yealm, where we moor in the harbor, have dinner in a charming pub in the charming village of Newton Ferrers, sleep on the boat, and return home Sunday morning. It seemed like a good plan. Essentially camping, but on the water. This sounded good to me.

Initially, it was all going very well.

Pirate, relaxing.

Then it all started to go horribly, horribly wrong.

As soon as we got past the breakwater the water got really, really rough, and so did the rest of us. Pirate, despite being an experienced sea-farer, has no sea legs. He was the first to go green. He went below deck to lie down, but that was a mistake. As soon as he got down the steps he lost his stomach, but managed (rather heroically) to hold it in his mouth until he could get back up to the cockpit and spit it over the side.

(Is this all getting a bit too disgusting? Deal. Reading this isn't a fraction as bad as living it, and I survived. You will, too.)

For a while I was doing OK. I stayed up in the cockpit, keeping in the fresh air and my eyes on the horizon. It worked, too, for about 20 minutes. And then I committed a fatal error. Getting bored with looking at nothing but an empty horizon, I just happened to glance down at the water at the side of the boat. The waves were swelling and undulating seductively beneath me. I instantly threw up.

I had no warning. One second I was fine, and the next I was spewing that morning's sausage and spetzle into the wind, spraying the two women who were sitting aft of me.

And then I did it again. And again. And again.

I spent the next 10 minutes heaving over the side of the boat in rapid succession. It was too winding for much of it to actually reach the water. Mostly it just blew all over the place.

I didn't know it at the time, but one of the other guys was on the opposite side of the boat, doing the same thing. The remaining few were standing in the cockpit between us, desperately trying to dodge flying chunks.

Having offered the entire contents of my stomach to the fish, I got a bucket and doused down the deck, then settled in to endure the rest of journey. As we reached the mouth of the River Yealm I saw the calm water on the leeward side of the land and began counting down the seconds until we reached it.

We finally got ourselves bouyed in what might well be the prettiest little harbor village in the British Isles.

I'd really like to go back and spend some more time in the village. It was a really lovely place to be. But next time, I'll take a FUCKING BUS.

After we were securely moored they let me play around in the dinghy, and that was the best part of the whole trip. I really like that bit.

Conclusion: the only boats worth being in are the ones you power yourself.

After a long walk along the coast and dinner in the Pub, Pirate and I couldn't face going back to Plymouth the same way we'd come, so we phoned a cab and went home by car. Last night we got a peaceful night's sleep in our own beds. Today the weather is shit. I can't imagine what the rest of the crew are going through to get home.

And people do this for fun????

Update: The skipper and his gf came by today to drop off our bags. Apparently it was a rough night on the boat, with lots of wind blowing it about the harbor, and people got little, if any, sleep. We totally made the right call. Boo-yeah.

Monday, October 13, 2008


(The Artist Formerly Known As Chaucer's Bitch)

Timorous Beastie recently brought it to my attention that there might be some confusion over what to call me, now that my name has changed:

"Bitch, I don't know what to call you now! I can't call you Pirate, as that's him indoors. Mrs Chaucer seems too formal, and besides, it's you, not him with the Chaucer connection. Any suggestions?"

It occured to me that other people might have been wondering the same thing, so I thought I'd better address the issue.

I guess the answer is: whatever you want to call me is fine.

One thing I've noticed is that just about everyone called me something different, anyway. People seem to generate their own pet names, and that's cool with me.

Dave used to refer to me as "Chaucer's Lady-friend." (He has an excellent sense of propriety.) I suppose now that I've become respectable he'll call me Mrs. Pirate, and that's fine, or he may come up with something else.

A lot of people referred to me as CB, which I quite like, and anyone who fancies is invited to continue to address me as such. Or perhaps people would like to switch to CP, my new initials? That certainly works.

Herebe Monsters took to calling me Ceebs, which I always found rather endearing. I hope he doesn't stop.

Some people have called me simply Bitch, which is also fine. Hell, I've been called that since I was 11 years old, and getting married is unlikely to change that, so by all means carry on!

Annie Rhiannon tends to call me Chauce or Chaucer's, and again, that works just fine.

It's funny how the blonkosphere (if I may commandeer a term of Annie's) reflects the real world. In meatspace just about everyone I know has their own nickname for me. I've been called everything from Snowblower Lips (thanks to Andre Wajtusik in first grade) to Wench (first bf in college), as well as all possible variations on my given name, of which there are many. I like that.

Naming things is, on a fundamental level, a sign of ownership (Yes, I've read Genesis and I think that part is spot on.), but it also says "you are special to me." You don't go to the trouble of naming something to which you are completely indifferent. It takes effort and thought, even if your goal is to insult. (Cheers, Andre.)

People sometimes ask me when they first meet me, "Do you prefer {my full name} or {the obvious nickname}?" and I always tell them that either is fine. I like people to make up their own mind about what to call me. They always have in the past, and I think that's A Good Thing.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Worth Watching

This video is over an hour long, but why don't you give it a go tonight instead of Big Brother or Antiques Road Show? You won't regret it.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

You waited long enough, so here they are!

I'm really torn as to how to present these. My instinct is to do it chronologically, which seems more factually documentaric. But it won't be the most dramatic. No, I want to give them to you with the big splash at the end. So this is going to be a bit random, but I'm sure you can cope with that.

All the photos with the little watermark in the corner were taken by Hamish Roots, owner of Light Over Water Photography. He is the shiznit.

The others were taken by my parents' friend, Joanie.
The Infamous Cake

My dress
(And no, this shot wasn't posed. I didn't even know it was being taken. I always stand that straight.)

Me and Pirate leaving the church

The Wedding Party (from left to right): The Cake, Vi, Miss Mellville, Me, Pirate, and some dudes.

Dancing with my Daddy

Dancing with the Pirate

Sharing a giggle after all the photos have been taken
(Isn't Hamish an awesome photographer???)

Walking across to the hotel for the reception
(I love the way you can see the movement of my dress in this shot.)

There's drama, and then there's drama.

Eat yer heart out, Julie Andrews/Princess Di/any other Royal
(Poised, but not posed. This one is candid.)

A Pirate's Wedding, Part III: Walking the Plank

Walking to the church was almost the best part. I was with my dad and my amazing awesome wonderful friends, who were the best bridesmaids in the universe. (Seriously.) The sky was blue, it was a crisp, early autumn day, the kind that make September your favorite month of the year. Though I never would have admitted it before hand (I would have said that the weather didn't matter so long as, at the end of the day, i was married), it was exactly the kind of day I'd always wanted for my wedding, since I was a little girl.

We crossed the street, I with my dress tucked up around my knees, and headed for the church. We approached the church from the south door, through the garden. If you know St. Mary Redcliffe, you know what a pretty walk it is. Walking down that cobbled path towards the 14th c. gothic church I felt like an absolute queen. It was impossible not to let a few tears slip through. I knew that when I saw my Pirate waiting for me I would either get it under control or lose it completely, but I had no idea which and I was terrified. Not terrified of getting married, you understand, just of totally losing my composure in front of a hundred guests, friends, and family. And video camera.

(Oh, the video arrived today! Hurrah!)

We stopped in the porch of the south door to give everyone a chance to take their places. (Mom insisted on waiting for me at the church door and wouldn't sit down until I'd arrived, and then insisted on being shown to her seat by one of the groomsmen. Nothing like making things more complicated than they need to be, is there?)

The Cake attached my train, which she'd been carrying for me, the groomsman went to give the musicians their cue, and the round and vibrant notes of Holst's 'Jupiter' filled the church from the corner where the brass quintet was sitting next to the giant organ.*

And that's all I remember with much coherence. After that it all becomes a bit of a blur. We sang "Simple Gifts," the old Shaker hymn about love and happiness. Pirate's brother played the violin while we sang "This Is The Day." They sang "Eternal Father Strong To Save" while we signed the register, which is good because it meant I didn't have to sing about "those in peril on the sea," which is the last line of every verse of that song. Ugh. (Pirate really wanted it.)

We had two readings, the one from Corinthians that everyone uses, and one from the Song of Songs about the difference between love and jealousy, which had a neat line about "deep waters cannot quench love," which I thought was quite apt.

Oh, how could I forget the sermon??? Poor Rev. Wendy had no idea what she'd done. She launched into this metaphor of marriage as baking a cake, and needing all the right ingredients etc. Poor woman had absolutely NO CLUE that I'd made our wedding cake, or about the dozens of hours of practice and all the drama that went along with it. I got such a case of the giggles that Pirate at one point even took my hand and squeezed it in that "get control of yourself" gesture. My mom and bridesmaids were absolutely wetting themselves in the front pew. The verger, John, who runs a very tight ship, was utterly scandalized by our behavior until we explained to him afterwards what all the giggling had been about.

And I remember keeling before the altar, barely able to keep myself from sliding off the kneeler, which was too high and made very slippery by all the sating and chiffon between it and my knees. I took Pirate's hand and he held me up so I wouldn't slide off.

I remember spending a lot of time looking at Rev. Wendy's vestments, which were clearly all hand embroidered and centuries old. They depicted scenes from Christ's life, and were very medieval in style.

And I remember listening to Pirate say his vows. Unlike the rehearsal the night before, where we whispered them in practice and didn't look at each other, he looked me straight in the eyes and said in full voice

I, The Pirate, take thee, Chaucer's Bitch, to my wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God's holy ordinance; and thereto I plight thee my troth.

The exchange of rings was even better...

With this ring I thee wed, with my body I thee worship, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow.

I love the line "With my body I thee worship." It's so beautiful and so potent. I like the fact that the C of E recognizes and exults the physical, as well as the emotional and intellectual, aspects of marriage.

I did have to restrain myself so that I didn't giggle when it was my turn to say "and with all my worldly goods I thee endow." I was thinking both of all the carloads of crap that the poor man spend so many hours hauling, driving, and unpacking for me. I was also thinking of my huge student debt. Friggin what worldly goods? I'm poorer than a churchmouse. (Except for the dozens of houseplants and suitcases full of rowing apparel.)

And then it was over. Suddenly they were playing the Ode To Joy and we were walking out. I looked up and there were all these smiling faces, all these friends and family that I love so much were beaming at us.

At the back of the church we ducked into a side chapel and hid so the bridesmaids could shoo the guests outside. That was our fist chance to be alone together as husband and wife. I turned to the Pirate to demand a proper kiss (the one during the service being heavily laced with Social Propriety), and saw that he was crying. It was the first and only time I have ever seen a tear roll down his cheek.

That's all for now, but there's more coming. I have lots to tell you about the reception and things, which was great fun. And there are photos coming, I promise!!! xoxoxo

*Hehehe. I said 'giant organ.' Geddit? Organ?? Oh, never mind.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

My eyes, my eyes!!!! *blood curdling scream*

Part III will have to wait because guess what? I have impetigo!* In my EYES!

It started last Saturday as an itchy bump on the bottom of my chin. Monday morning I had developed what i thought was a cold sore on the corner of my mouth. As luck would have it, I had to see the doctor that day anyway to get my gym pass signed off. (If Pirate brings it back today I can go use the gym on the base for free any time I want, including all the classes and stuff. cool!)

Long story short, it's now on my chin, the corner of my mouth, my left ear, and both eyelids, which are swollen, blistering, oozing yellow puss, and itching like the blazes. You have NO IKEA how miserable this is.

Good thing Pirate and I are having company for dinner tonight -- some of his work colleagues. I look awesome!

(And yes, I asked the doctor when I went back this morning if it was safe for me to prepare food for people, and he said it was. Now I'm using an antibiotic cream and taking oral antibiotics. That should kill the little feckers.)

*Do a Google image search. I dare you.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

A Pirate's Wedding, Part II: Full Speed Ahead

Gak! I wanted to get loads of beauty sleep the night before my wedding. I wanted to relax, read my new issue of New Scientist, maybe blog a bit, or spend some time in the spa that is in the hotel. Alas, to no avail. I didn't even have time to go for a swim in the pool in the bathroom that was masquerading as a tub. (The hotel really came up trumps with the room, and gave us this gargantuan suite with a superking bed and shower you could throw a party in. And it was cheap. They really treated us like royalty.*

No, instead I was up dealing with cake things until bloody midnight. Miss Melville SHOULD have stayed over with me, instead she wound up taking a cab back to her hotel and breaking inn. (Did you see what I did there?) Ask her nicely and she'll tell you all about it.

After printing off the readings for the service tomorrow (which I'd completely forgotten to do beforehand, sending me into a panic about what other totally obvious things I might have forgotten), I took a sleeping pill and went to bed, worrying about the cake in the fridge downstairs and whether the soupy frosting would set overnight to something useable. (It didn't.)

I woke up, took a shower, pinned my hair up, put on some jeans (thank got the wedding wasn't until 3 pm), and went downstairs for breakfast, where I was assaulted by my family, all my parents' friends, my future in-laws, and all their friends. It took me 30 minutes to extricate myself and I never did manage to eat anything. 9 am is WAY too early in the day for social niceities.

I got the marvelous people at the hotel to get the cake out for me and take it up to the Forrest Suite, where the reception would be held. The frosting was still soup. I called The Cake on my mobile. "Cake, we need more frosting. Can you run to Sainsbury's and buy 6 tubs of whatever they have that's white?"
The Cake: "No, because I'm so bloated I can't zip my dress up. I have to go into town to buy expensive suck-me-in underwear. I'll send The Pud."

The Pud, bless his heart, showed up with 6 tubs of Betty Crocker vanilla frosting. Perfect. (I still haven't paid him back for that. I really must remember to do that.)

Big Wally kept Smally Wally entertained while Vi, MM and I frosted and assembled the cake. Except for the 2nd tier, which was too big and rather misshapen, it looked great. That took a while. My brother and Sister-in-law set up the place cards and favors, and MM took my phone away from me and made herself my P.A. for the day, so I wouldn't have to answer the 4,000 phone calls that came in.

Eventually I had to go get my hair done. The cake was assembled, but I hadn't put the crystallized flowers on it yet. MM and I ran to the hairdressers, where Zoe did an absolutely AMAZING job. It looked so beautiful I lost the plot right there in the salon and broke down in tears for the first time that day. I'd never felt so pretty in my life. It cost a bleeding fortune, but it was worth every penny.

It was a stunningly gorgeous blue fall day. After the shit pissing wet summer we've had, with cold and rain and blowing every day, the sun broke through and it was utterly glorious. MM and I walked back from the hair dressers holding hands and singing "Going to the chapel" and "Get me to the church on time" with the sun on our faces. I'm sure the local onlookers though we were lesbians. I'm OK with that.

Then I ran back up to the Forrest Suite to put the candied pansies on the cake. By now it was after 2, the service was at 3, and I hadn't even started getting dressed yet!

My dad came up (looking very dapper I might add) and took the flowers away from me, saying he'd finish it for me (which was great because he's probably the only person in the world I would trust to do that) and ordered me to go get dressed.

When I got to my room it was a frenzy of half-naked bridesmaids throwing clothes around and attempting to apply makeup while stuffing me and themselves into a variety of cumbersome dresses.

I put on my makeup (very minimal, only took 5 minutes), and then someone had to help me into my underwear. My aunt and my mother showed up at this point, and so got an awesome view of my uber-sexing wedding-night smalls as The Cake (and this bit is absolutely HEROIC) spent 10 minutes on her knees behind be, my ass full in her face, as she attempted to connect the tops of my stockings to the little garter strap thingys. The woman is a saint. MM can attest to this.

I did not feel at all on display while this was going on and random family members came in to watch. No, not at all. Why is it that watching a bride get dressed is such a big damn deal? Why do people feel the need to be a part of the audience??? You wouldn't believe how long it took me to convince the videographer and photographer that I didn't want them in there. They refused to believe me. The photographer showed up anyway and I sent him away and told him to get pictures of the guests arriving at the church. Argh.

Eventually we were all ready. I have no idea what time it was, nor did I care. (It's not like they were going to start with out me.) Dad, who was standing patiently outside the door and only knocked every 23 seconds to see if I was ready yet, gave me his arm and we, accompanied by my bridesmaids, headed over to the church.

Stay tuned for Part III!

*I'm accustomed to staying in youth hostels and cheap roadside motels, so it was a rather novel experience for me to be able to pick up the phone by the bed (the room was so big it came with TWO phones!) and say to the French accent at reception "This is room 504. Could you please arrange a taxi for me and send someone up with a luggage trolley right away? Thanks." And it would happen. Just like that. Ask, and it shall be done. It was frightening how fast I got used to being waited on hand and foot. Maybe obscene wealth isn't such a bad thing after all?...

Sunday, October 05, 2008

A Pirate's Wedding, Part I: A Bottle of Rum

There was a lot of drinking. There needed to be. After the stress of cleaning and moving out of my flat* the arrival of my bridesmaids was a more than welcome relief. Miss Melville came down from Aberdeen and Vi flew in from America with her husband, Wally, and their son, Smally Wally. The Paleo-embryologist (also known as the Welsh Cake, or 'Cake' for short) was the only one of the three who actually lived anywhere near me, and had been keeping me sane all summer by taking me to The Ram and pouring rose' down my gullet whenever I got stressed out.

So Thursday, the day before the wedding, exactly 3 things needed to be accomplished. They were
1. Print out the service books for the wedding and tie them with ribbons
2. Bake, frost, and decoarate the wedding cake
3. Attend the rehearsal

That's still a pretty full agenda.

The service booklets would have been done the day before if I hadn't fucked them up and if my printer hadn't wasted all the good paper I'd bought by printing off the fucked up copies even after I pressed the "cancel" button and dozen times and finally turned the thing off. So first thing Thursday it was hop it off to the stationery shop to buy more paper, phone dad and get him to come over to my hotel room where I'd set up my computer and laser printer and get him to supervise the rest of the printing, and then get Aunt Sr. Pain-in-the-Ass to fold, punch, and ribbon-tie all 90 copies.

That was accomplished by 10:30 am.

Then it was grab all the cake supplies and get a cab up to the University of Bristol Chaplaincy, where they have a full-size professional kitchen with TWO ovens, which i'd booked out for the purpose of baking my cake. (IRONIC: the reason I was able to use the chaplaincy is because I'm a member of the UofB Atheist society, which is part of the multi-faith forum, which has access to the chaplaincy office. Thus I, a godless heathen, was able to use my atheist connections to bake a cake in a chaplain's office for my giant, pompus church wedding. Brilliant.)

The bridesmaids were all supposed to meet me there at noon, and yet somehow, not one of them managed to make it there without assistance. I would take me too long to go to into the convoluted scenario when they all kept phoning me saying "I'm at the corner of pillarbox and lampost. Where are you and how do i find you?" but it took a while and became far more complicated than it ever should have been. You goofballs.

Finally cake-baking and wine-drinking commenced. The first thing that needed to happen was grating the 20 pounds of carrots for the carrot cake tiers. That took a while. The whole process was reasonably well organized though, and once we got the first cake in the oven it all went fairly well. At The Cake (the human one, not the eating one) and Miss Melville went to get my dress from The Cake's flat and take it to the hotel where i was staying, and I went with Vi and the Wallys to the church for the rehearsal.

The rehearsal was extremely rushed. We only had a 25 minute window, and the minister really rushed through everything. Which was kind of good because it kept my mother from interfereing and interrupting every 10 seconds with questions about irrelevancies, but it also didn't give time for the readers to practice their readings, which I thought was rather important. Pirate and I did get to practice our vows, using the names of Marge and Homer and not looking at each other. I managed to get through all the God bits without rolling my eyes, which was an accomplishment.

After that it was a fast dinner at the nearest restaurant** and then back up to keep working on the cake. This is where it all started to go tits up.

For one thing, the chaplaincy had double-booked the kitchen, and when I got back there were 3 muslim blokes there cooking a feast for Ramadan for about 50 people. I wasnt' able to get in the door. They said they would be gone in 10 minutes. An hour later they were still there so I just started working around them as best I could.

They finally left but the place was a mess. I was able to work around the mess, but when they came back to clean up it really go hairy. I needed the sink to keep washing mixing bowls and utensils as i changed back and forth between carrot and lemon cake and frosting, but they were using the sink. That killed another 45 minutes of valuable time.

Then at one point one of them TURNED OFF THE OVENS!. Thank GOD the Cake noticed and we turned them straight back on so there was no damage done. If she hadn't seen that happen 2 tiers of my cake would have been ruined.

And then finally one of the batches of frosting didn't turn out. For some reason it was complete soup. It wasn't usable. So we weren't able to get the whole cake frosted that night.

The Cake's b.f. (The Pud) turned up about 11 pm from York where he's doing his PhD in entymology. We called a cab to take the cake (small c) to my hotel where they agreed to refridgerate it for me overnight. The 4 of us -- The Cake, The Pud, Miss Melville and myself -- piled into a cab, and between us we were able to hold on to all 4 tiers of cake and the bowl of soupy frosting. It was nearly midnight when we got to the hotel, and the cake was still only half frosted!

Stay tuned for part II: The Big Day

*I vacated my flat on the Wednesday before the wedding and moved in to the hotel. On Thursday morning I woke up and discovered I'd left ALL my socks and underwear behind.
**The Rehearsal Dinner isn't a custom over here in the UK, which is good because I was able to eat and run