Very nearly ready to go

One final practice mile in the rain today before my 24-hour challenge / Virtual London Marathon, which starts at midnight tonight…

…and it looks like the rain will be continuing through the night, so that will provide a bit of a distraction for the first few laps as Geth and I try to keep dry in between runs!

I’ve done just about everything I can to prepare, and at least I still have time in between laps if I find I’ve forgotten anything before I get started.

Here’s the link to my JustGiving page again – I just need a few more donations to hit my fundraising target of £300 for the RNLI, so any spare pennies will be gratefully received!

Keep an eye on my social media feeds (links at top of blog) for updates during the challenge. I may also post a couple of unrelated blogs tomorrow, as I hopefully will have a bit of time between runs for getting them written!

Otherwise, see you on the other side…

Running endurance snack table
I very much doubt we’ll eat all of this stuff in one day, but it’s best to be prepared. This gives me lots of options so that I can go by what my body feels it needs in between runs.

Today’s earworm playlist:

Queen – ‘Bicycle Race’
Sacre – ‘The London Marathon [Theme From The Trap]’

Graphics for the artistically-challenged graphical text adventure creator

I’m creating graphics for my adventure games this week, and because I’m currently working on three different adventure games (set vaguely in the same universe), I’m also working on three different types of graphics!

Goblin Decathlon
One of the many goblin officials you meet while trying to win all the gold medals in Goblin Decathlon.

For a graphical update to Goblin Decathlon, my most recent Adventuron jam entry game, I’m currently creating some basic graphics in the same style as I used for Hallowe’en: Night of the Misty Manor back in October for the Hallowe’en jam. This style – which I think (and others have kindly commented on occasion) is quite cute – is very basic pixel art, with flat colours and marginally fleshed-out stick figures – nothing complicated at all – and, unfortunately, represents the limits of what I can currently create from scratch using pixels. I hope to improve my skills in this area, but I’ve got a long way to go.

Hallowe'en: Night of the Misty Manor
In Hallowe’en: Night of the Misty Manor, Mr Campbell is in charge of all the party snacks. How are you going to distract him so you can grab one?

For one of my unreleased games – the game idea I was originally intending to create for the most recent jam – I’m taking a different approach and drawing the graphics with paper and pencil. Once I’ve finished that part of the process, I’ll scan them in and finalise the artwork using GIMP (my preferred digital editing software). At the moment I’m planning to keep it black and white for a stylised effect… but I may succumb to the temptation of colouring in during the cleanup process. We’ll see!

Artwork in progress
This wizard is a central figure in my current series of games, but right now he’s still a very basic pencil sketch.

For my other unreleased game (which is a huge project – I started it for NaNoWriMo last year and am currently working on it again for Camp NaNoWriMo, but I don’t expect it’ll be ready to release until at least the end of 2020), I’m going back to where I started when I had to create last-minute graphics for my first jam entry, The Cave of Hoarding. For that game, I made photo collages and then pixelised them – it was very rough and ready, but I had very little time (in that jam, I spent two weeks working on one game and then had to switch to a different smaller project in the last forty-eight hours when I realised it would be impossible to finish the first on time!) and zero experience of creating pixel art. I’ve been experimenting further since then with pixelised photographs, working on editing and filtering them to make them look more like drawings than photos, and I’m feeling more confident that I can create something nice for this project.

The Cave of Hoarding
One of the jam conditions for the first Adventuron jam was that certain locations had to be used, including ‘the side of a beautiful lake’. For my attempt at this graphic in The Cave of Hoarding, I used some old holiday snaps to make a photo collage of a lake and some trees, then heavily pixelised it and indexed the colours. I’m not sure how ‘beautiful’ it is, but it was probably the best graphic I made for my first jam attempt!

I’ve never been much of an artist, but creating graphics to go with my games has probably been one of the most enjoyable challenges in making adventure games over the last few months. It’s an area in which I have definite room for improvement!

Life without alcohol: one year sober

It’s been a whole year tonight since I had my last drink.

Jesmond Dene in the winter

It’s been such a strange, strange year. It feels like ten days and ten years at the same time. Most days have been difficult in some way. Some have been easy – too easy – and have blindsided me a bit and made me complacent.

I’ve achieved a lot of stuff in my first year of sobriety, though a lot of that was out of sheer manic panic. Some things in my life have become a lot clearer, and others still need a bit of thinking about. I’ve got a plan for the next year ahead, but only a vague one.

I’ve tried a lot of support groups and podcasts and quit lit and meetings and all sorts. Some have been helpful and feel like the right thing for me; others I’m still a bit unsure about. I’m keeping an open mind about everything, though, because this process seems to have so many phases that change all the time.

I’ve also tried a lot of alcohol-free drinks. Some didn’t work for me, but I did find a lot of new favourites that I would never have looked twice at before I quit drinking.

I expected to feel ecstatic at hitting this milestone, but my first sober Christmas period has been a bit rough mentally and so I’m feeling pretty drained at the moment. Still, I remember how nervous I was feeling a year ago, and how impossible sobriety seemed at the time. Things are so much better now. I’ve still got a long way to go, but I (sort of) know where I’m going.

The only thing that has remained constant and strong over the last year is the fact that I never want to drink again. Not ever. Most days I want *a* drink, but I don’t want *to* drink. I want the sweet taste of cider and the ability to forget things for a few hours, but I don’t want to get drunk and out of control, I don’t want to feel suicidal when I’m in a state where I might actually do something about that, and I don’t want to wake up hungover and panicked and full of regret. The two lists go hand-in-hand, and that – so far – has provided me with enough willpower not to pick up.

I won’t be doing monthly sobriety updates anymore, as things have stabilised a bit, but I will keep reviewing booze alternatives and will do another update a year from today. Life is a lot more peaceful than it used to be, and I’m hopeful that things will continue to improve in that respect.

My history of excursions into ’80s fashion

There have been a few periods in my life where I’ve tried to fit in with the prevailing fashions of the day, but in all honesty, I’ve never really succeeded, and when I look at photos of myself during those periods, I always think I look uncomfortable and not quite right.  The style of the ’80s has always felt ‘correct’ to me; it gives me a strong sense of ‘these are what clothes SHOULD look like’, and later fashions just look dowdy and unstylish to my eye.  I’m not sure whether I just internalised it really strongly when I first came into the world, or whether I’ve just come to love that aesthetic by chance, but thirty years later it’s still what I’m drawn to, and I think I always will be.

So, my history of being an ’80s fashion throwback, then.  I don’t think it counts as being a ‘throwback’ when you’re still in the actual ’80s, but that’s where it began, and clearly my toddlerhood was the best dressed era of my life:

Clothes I wore in the '80s
Check out that lookbook! I will never come close to being this stylish ever again.

I wore so many different (and AWESOME) outfits during this era.  I guess most toddlers go through lots of different clothes, due to the whole rapid body growth thing, but looking at pictures it really seems like in my five short years spent in the ’80s I wore more clothes than in the rest of my life put together.

Shame they couldn’t all have grown with me.  Especially the moon ‘n’ stars nightdress in the bottom right corner, my favourite nightdress of all time.

The ’90s, meanwhile, were probably my most difficult decade fashion-wise.  Due to a combination of hand-me-downs from family friends, thick curly hair that utterly refused to be browbeaten into the poker-straight trend it was supposed to be following, and a stubborn fully-developed taste that meant I was already gravitating towards the styles of the ’80s, I spent the whole decade doing the awkward ‘dated by quite a few years, but not enough to be retro or vintage yet’ look:

Clothes I wore in the '90s
Looking a bit ’80s in the ’90s.

Jeans, especially, I found so awkward – I was drawn to high-rise straight-leg styles, but as the decade went on, they became more low-rise and bootcut – that it put me off them for a long time, and nowadays I don’t own any blue jeans at all.  When I reach my target weight, I’ll maybe give them another go.

The ’00s were better (not in general fashion terms – I think the trends of the ’00s were the absolute nadir of fashion in my lifetime so far – but for me personally in terms of style).  My teen years, 1998-2004, coincided with the first big wave of ’80s nostalgia in pop culture (The Wedding Singer!  The BBC’s I Love The ’80s series!  The accompanying CD that I got for Christmas in 2001!  Bergerac repeats on BBC2 every day while I was on school exam leave!  Websites such as Like Totally ’80s starting up!  ’00s indie bands aping ’80s indie bands…now I’m nostalgic for a period of nostalgia.  I’ll stop there), and so it was then that I first became conscious that I loved the ’80s so much – that the music was better, the films and TV shows were better, the fashion was better.  (I also had a brief flirtation with the early ’70s due to my love of glam rock.  You can’t beat a pair of silver glitter platform boots.)

2003 was also the year I became goth.  Goth is a wonderful subculture for ’80s throwbacks of a certain style, because the look has basically stayed the same since 1978, and all the clubs play lots of post-punk and synthpop.  Utter bliss.

As such, my ’00s look can basically be divided into pre-2004 (Madonna-style fishnet gloves, jelly bracelets and plastic beads from Claire’s Accessories in every shade of primary and neon) and post-2004 (mainly goth, with occasional disastrous forays into mainstream contemporary fashion):

Clothes I wore in the '00s
These two pictures illustrate my point; both were taken in 2004.

Which brings us to the ’10s.  The less said about the first half of the decade, the better – I was uncomfortably overweight and spent most of it hiding away in leggings, baggy t-shirts and hoodies – but now that I’ve lost most of the weight, I’m starting to remember how to have fun with fashion again, hence my recent interest in cultivating a vintage ’80s wardrobe.

Clothes I wore in the '10s
’80s-inspired looks that I’ve worn out to goth clubs recently. Those old Claire’s Accessories beads are still going strong!

I know – from reading stuff by people who are into mid-century vintage – that as time goes on, ’80s vintage stuff won’t always be as readily available and affordable as it is at the moment.  As such, I’m making the most of it, with the aim of being able to dress in clothes from my favourite decade for the rest of my life.  I hope I’ll be lucky and long-lived enough to be eighty or ninety years out of date one day!