Monday, May 25, 2020

Well Did You Evah?

Before I get to the third and final part of my unplanned trilogy on the expansionary evolution of EverQuest I thought I'd give myself a break and tag onto the "Have You Ever?" bandwagon as it passes by. Wilhelm breaks down the provenance so I won't bother with that. I'll just get straight to the questions.


Driven or been driven at 100 mph/160 kmh? 

Yes, albeit not intentionally. I drive a lot of hire cars. We almost always take touring holidays where we just fly somewhere, hire a car and drive about for a week, week and a half, with only the loosest plan on where we might go. I do all the driving. Mostly the cars are small and similar to what I drive at home but sometimes they're more powerful. The roads are often very good, very straight and very empty.

I'm generally good at sticking to the limit but sometimes, in a more powerful car than I'm used to, on a long, straight, empty highway, if I'm chatting away, it's all too easy to let the needle drift upwards. I have caught it drifting past 160km a few times although not in recent years. I try to avoid breaking any road rules, these days.

Learned a possibly deadly skill?

No. Why would I do that? Do I look like a spy? Of course, if I was a spy I wouldn't look like one, not if I was any good. Or tell you about it, either.

Ridden in a helicopter? 

Helicopters are functional. I wouldn't not go in one but only in the way I wouldn't not go in an elevator. It's a non-thing, isn't it? Unless you're a traffic reporter or a cop. Or Colonel Kilgore.

Been Bungie Jumping?

Bungie jumping is just idiotic. I wouldn't have done that when I was twenty. I could be snide about it but seriously, you only have to think about it. It does all the snark work for you.

Gone zip lining?

I went on one in Fortnite the other day. Does that count?

Zip lines are different. They have function. They take you from somewhere to somewhere else.  Plus you don't look like a total doofus. I'd have done it for real when I was younger. Much younger, like fifteen. We didn't really have them then but we did have "adventure parks" where you slid along a rope on some kind of pulley system. I did that. Does that count?

Been to an NFL game or Ice Hockey?

Nope. I wouldn't be against the idea but it's never happened. I would love to go to a major league baseball game, though. Or minor league. Actually, minor league is more Americana, so that.

Watched Dr. Who?

Now we're just being silly. Everyone in Britain has watched Dr. Who, whether they wanted to or not. To avoid it you'd pretty much have to be a trappist monk and I bet even they can tell you their favorite doctor in mime.

I grew up watching it. I saw the first series. I saw the first episode. At time of transmission. I can remember watching it. I was five years old. I didn't watch many more because it gave me nightmares so it was banned in our house for a while, but I must have been back behind the sofa by 1965 because I remember watching the Zarbi episode, which also gave me nightmares, which I can also still remember. I would have been six and a half by then. 

 We didn't have a T.V. for a few years in the '60s so I was hit and miss on Patrick Troughton but by Jon Pertwee I was watching every episode religiously. I missed some of Tom Baker's run because I was at university and we didn't really watch much T.V. then. I saw most of his episodes, though and Tom Baker will always be the Doctor to me for the simple reason he was the best. I carried on, desultorily through Peter Davison, (dull) and Colin Baker (poor, although I've come round to him over time) but by the time Sylvester McCoy took over I was gone.

But... I ended up swapping a bunch of football comics with someone at work for VHS tapes of all McCoy's episodes and I liked him a lot. It was the cheapest. lowest-budget, uncared-for era of the show but it had more personality than anything Davison and C. Baker had managed. And Ace, with her leather jacket and baseball bat.

I've not seen any of the revival version, yet, other than a couple of the Christmas specials, but I have almost all of them on DVD. I'll get around to them one day. I'm not a Dr. Who fan, mind you. I'd like to make that quite clear. I've met real Dr. Who fans. Seriously, all that above? Just an average viewing  history for someone with a passing interest in T.V. sci fi, where I come from. 

Been to Canada?

No, but I'd like to. I listen to a lot of Canadian music. Top country for bands. Also scenery.

Visited Disney?

No and I wouldn't like to. I love Disney. Huge force for good in the world, despite Walt being basically a wannabe totalitarian dictator. I've almost been in a fight over that. The "force for good" argument, not the dictator thing. I don't see why I'd want to see the characters re-created in pantomime cow outfits by financially-challenged students, though. As for the rides, see "Bungie Jumping", above.

Visited an actual castle?

Oh, please! I live within fifteen minutes drive of at least three, all of which I have visited several times. And those touring holidays I mentioned earlier? We try to hit two or three new castles every time. There are even pictures on this blog.

I don't keep a count but I must have visited getting on for a hundred different castles by now and I've been to quite a few more than once.

Visited Vegas?

Nope. Mrs. Bhagpuss has. She asked her daughter where she'd like to go for her thirteenth birthday and that's what she chose, so off they went. Gambling wasn't on the agenda, obviously. They mostly saw shows and used it as a base for trips to Death Valley and the Grand Canyon and suchlike. They gave it a good review.

Eaten alone at a restaurant?

Wilhelm thought this might be a British thing but I think it's mostly a girl thing. I don't imagine any man ever thinks twice about eating alone in a restaurant but it comes up frequently in novels either written by women or with female lead characters and I've heard several radio discussions on the topic, always from the female perspective.

I actually like eating alone in restaurants and I've done it a lot. I used to go on holiday on my own once or twice a year (back in the days when I also went on a family holiday and a couple's holiday, all in the same twelve months). I found that eating alone in restaurants can be problematic, even for a man, but only in the evening. At that time, you're taking up a table that could make a lot more money and sometimes you can feel the vibe.

Instead I would try to take my main meal at lunchtime, when most restaurants are delighted to see single people willing to pay for a full meal plus drinks. I had some really great, long, hazy, sundrenched afternoons on restaurant terraces in cities and small towns all around southern Europe. Not sure when that's going to happen again...

Played an instrument?

Several, all very badly. The only one I can play with any facility is the guitar, although it's now more than twenty years since I last picked one up. 

When I say "with any facilty" I mean I know some basic chord shapes. Enough to have played decent rhythm guitar for a punk band. I could play fast and in time and all on the downstroke. I got compliments on that but it has limited applications. By the time I left university in 1981 no-one really wanted me to play guitar any more, which was fine because now they wanted me to sing. I was pretty limited there, too, but I knew what my limits were and stayed inside them and that seemed to work for a few more years.

I keep thinking of starting again. Maybe actually learn to read music. I should probably do it before arthritis sets in.

Ridden a motorcycle?

Only on pillion. I was in my late teens and I was a bad pillion passenger. I would lean the wrong way. I wasn't asked twice by the same person.

Ridden a horse?

No. I sat on one, once. I've ridden a donkey and a camel. Strangely, I went through a period in my early teens when I read loads of pony books. My mother did the football pools (ask your grandfather - your British grandfather) and I made her promise me if she won she'd buy me a black pony with a white blaze on its forehead. I think my main interest in ponies, if I'm honest, was that girls liked them and I thought liking them too would get me in with girls. It didn't. It just made them laugh.

Been skiing/snowboarding?

Nope. There used to be annual skiing trips organized by my school, on which several of my friends went every year, but I never even thought about going. The one time the school changed tack and went for a trip to the Balearics, though, I was in like a shot.

It's odd, looking back. I grew up sledging and I love snow. I think it was the poshness that put me off. That and the horrific expense.

Gone to a festival?

Yes, quite a few, although like Wilhelm I don't stay overnight. My first was the Watchfield Free Festival in 1975, which I attended with my cousin. We got stopped by the police, late at night, on the way back to my aunt's house, where we were staying and I refused point blank to give my name or any information. I was a revolutionary little git in those days. I also got stopped by the police surprisingly often and it annoyed me a lot so I tended to react quite sarcastically.

Throughout the late 1970s, all the way through the 1980s and well into the '90s, I went to the Ashton Court Free Festival every year. For a few years I lived within walking distance, which was good because parking there was a nightmare by the time it grew to be the biggest free festival in Europe. I saw a wealth of great bands although few great performances. Festivals are terrible places to watch bands, anyway. Great places to get high and hang with your pals, though.

Actually, I did once try to stay overnight at a festival. It did not go well. It was the first "wet" year at Glastonbury. 1985. I went with my then-wife. We lasted one night. At the festival, not in our marriage. The tent pretty much fell in, the site was a sea of mud. We gave up mid-Saturday afternoon, came home and watched it on T.V..

I have no plans on trying that ever again.

Driven a stick shift?

This is the question that makes me think this has to be an American quiz. I have never met anyone from Britain who calls a manual transmission a "stick shift". It's something I associate one hundred per cent with American culture.

Also, almost everyone over here does drive a stick shift, so why would anyone even ask? It would be far more appropriate for a questionnaire like this to ask if you'd driven an automatic. Most British people won't have. I have, though.

Actually, I just fact-checked this and I'm way out of date. Automatic transmission vehicles in the UK are much more popular now than when I was learning to drive. It's up to 40% now and rising. Maybe the question doesn't so much indicate a non-British author as someone much younger than me. Like that narrows it down...

Ridden in a police car?

In spite of all those stop-and-searches when I was a rebellious teenager, no, never.

Driven a boat?

Nope. Been in plenty but never at the wheel or whatever you call it.

Eaten escargot?

No. I've swallowed a baby octopus, whole. That was quite gross enough.

Been on a cruise?

No, and given the news reports this year I'd be surprised if anyone ever goes on one again. I never will, that's for sure.

Been on T.V.?

I had to think about this one. I'm pretty sure not. I was on the radio once. I remember being in the studio. I have absolutely no memory why or what it was about. You'd think these sort of things would stick with you but evidently not.

Been in a paper/book/magazine?

Again, hard to be sure. Also, it depends what counts. I had a decade and more in fanzines, including plenty of articles, reviews and opinion pieces in what was, at the time, the U.K.'s largest, semi-pro comics zine. I also had stuff in Comics Feature, a fairly big U.S. prozine. I didn't get paid for anything there but I did get paid for reviews in MicroAdventurer magazine, a short-lived pro-zine dedicated to video adventure games.

That's not me being in the paper, though, is it? It's my work. Maybe that's not what the question means.

The first band I was in, which I co-founded, was either reviewed or mentioned in a feature article in all the big three U.K. music magazines of the '70s, N.M.E., Sounds and Melody Maker. I didn't get mentioned by name, though. Does that count?

If not, then "no", I guess.

Eaten Sushi?

Oddly, no. Everyone at work under about 35 seems to live on it. I'd be more than happy to start but it hasn't happened yet.

Seen a U.F.O.?

Hmm. I think so. As in I have a vague memory that I did, not that I saw something I think might have been one. Once again, you'd think it would be the kind of thing you'd remember but that's not how my mind works.

Rescued an animal?

When I was in my mid-teens I was visiting my aunt, who lived about thirty miles away. We went for a
walk and I found a magpie on the ground, unconscious. I picked it up and started carrying it around and we drove home with it, still unconscious. It was winter and we had a fire lit. I put the magpie on the hearth-rug and settled to watching T.V. About an hour later the bird suddenly leaped up and began flying madly around the room. We opened the window and eventually it flew out.

I'm not sure the magpie, which was now thirty miles from home, in winter, at night, would have described that as being rescued but there you go. I have other animal rescue stories with even less heart-warming endings but maybe I'll save those for another time.

Met someone rather famous?

I've met loads of people who are or were "rather" famous and a few who count as "famous" without the qualifier. If you want to meet a certain type of famous person, you could do worse than work in a book shop in a world heritage city with an active arts and theater scene. Not only do we have all those authors, sports personalities, actors, celebrity chefs and T.V. personalities turning up to do book signings or give talks but half the indie bands and touring theater companies who hit town kill an hour or two in the afternoon wandering aimlessly among the shelves.

I've generally tried to steer clear of that side of the business because I don't especially like meeting celebrities, especially if they're people I admire. Gives them too much opportunity to spoil your illusions.  That said, the ones I have met have generally been lovely, especially when I happened upon them out of the blue rather than at a formal event. For example, John Irving was charm itself, as was Becky Chambers.

Before I worked in a bookshop I met plenty of "rather" famous people via comic fandom. I interviewed Marv Wolfman for an hour and hosted a question and answer session on stage with Dave Sim of Cerebus fame. I was Will Eisner's minder at the event pictured above, which was both amusing and a huge honor. For a while I knew Alan Moore well enough that he'd buy me a drink, but then Alan would buy anyone a drink back then. Lovely man.

I could go on but that's more than enough name-dropping for now. I hate people who name-drop, don't you?


  1. The thing about eating alone in a restaurant is that I have seen a few attempts to hang a stigma on it, but I never quite got why. There is a bit in a Steve Martin movie where he asks for a table for one and a spotlight comes on and follows him to his table where everybody it staring at him from the other tables.

    But it could simple not be a male thing.

    Oh, and the person who created the quiz showed up in my comments with some clarifications, so there is that.

    1. Aha! I just read the quiz's author's comments. That clears things up although I have a feeling they're mixing up the meaning of stick shift to get it the opposite way around.

  2. I actually like eating out alone at times or even going to a coffee shop by myself, it's cathartic for me. Albeit, I learned a deadly skill by accident but I guess it comes with the line of work I chose as a profession, and also... because I usually worked late shifts I felt self-defense was a necessary skill too.

    1. I guess everyone could usefully learn self-defence. I did dabble briefly in my teens/twenties but martial arts seemed like too much hard work.

  3. Driven over 100MPH?Yes, in my Miata on the way home from Silicon Valley to Monterey. There's a lonely stretch of route 1 between Watsonville and Castroville.

    Learned a deadly skill? Yes, I am a flute player.

    Ridden in a helicopter? Not that I know of.

    Bungie Jumping? People used to jump off the Bixby Bridge near where I used to live, but I never felt the slightest desire.

    Zip lines? It looks silly in the commercials.

    Watched Dr. Who? Like most people my age, Tom Baker is My Doctor.

    Been to Canada? A few times to Quebec, once to Vancouver.

    Visited Disney? A few times, it was a five hour drive from Monterey so wasn't too horrible.

    Visited an actual castle? Well, there's Gillette Castle here in Connecticut, been twice.

    Visited Vegas? Went once for some conference when I worked for Sony. My daughter got married there, so I have been twice. Don't like it.

    Eaten alone at a restaurant? Sure.

    Played an instrument? Hah. I play several. Piano, flute, various flute-adjacent instruments like recorders and penny whistles, and teaching myself kalimba.

    Ridden a motorcycle? Sure, my dad and mom both rode and so did I when I got old enough. I rode my mom's Honda 150 more than she did. My dad's Suzuki was too heavy.

    Skiing? Once. My kids liked it more than I did.

    Festival? Yup, when Phish was at Laguna Seca headlining a three day festival.

    Driven a stick? My current car is a 6 speed manual transmission VW GTI.

    Police car? Not that I know of.

    Driven a boat? Depends what you mean by boat. I used to go sailing a lot in Monterey Bay, and I have a kayak.

    Eaten escargot? Not intentionally.

    Been on a cruise? Hell no. I'd want to escape that.

    Been on TV? I don't think so. Not in a magazine.

    Sushi? Yeah, I lived in California 24 years.

    Seen a UFO? No aliens here.

    Rescued an animal? A crow that was dying. My dad rescued a woodchuck that proceeded to chew through ever lamp cord in the house. My cats are rescues.

    Met someone rather famous? Lots of SF&F writers at cons. Don Knotts at the top of the Empire State Building once.

    1. I love that you've answered the entire questionnaire in the comments!

      We had a flute player in one line up of the band I shorthandedly characterize as "punk". We did start during punk and we played punk venues (on the odd occasion we got gigs) and were part of the scene but we sounded like nothing on earth much of the time. The very first line-up sounded like Capt. Beefheart as much as anything. I'm not sure the flautist line-up ever got as far as live performance though.

    2. I guess I should have done this on my own blog :-)

      I played flute(s) in an Irish dance band called The Crabapples. Punk would have been more fun :-)

  4. Regarding the car thing: I didn't drive an automatic until 2018 or '19, despite having rental cars 1-2x per year for the last 10 years or so (and I've been driving for nearly 20 years). I agree with you that they simply weren't that common and have just picked up the last few years.

    And the eating alone in a restaurant? I dunno, I think it comes down to personal preference, if you're totally strapped for cash and if you have the opportunity. I think I was already mid-20s when I first sat down alone in a coffee shop to do nothing but drink a coffee. When I'm working I'll go to a restaurant in my lunch break with coworkers, but hardly alone. Buying something and eating it on a bench in the sun or in the break room? More likely, but not sit in a restaurant by myself, usually. Also where I live you often get an ultra-cheap lunch offer in restaurants, like pasta or a pizza for 6 EUR. A simple sandwich costs nearly as much.

    1. I don't really like automatics for normal, domestic driving but they're good for long-distance touring. As I get older my legs get stiff a lot sooner when I drive long distances and an automatic makes it much easier to change position and stretch. I might have to start going for automatics when I hire, assuming that ever happens again.


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