Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Falling into our verjaardagskalender

Shady and I had an adventure with some very good friends from the Netherlands towards the end of 2019. We visited Dumbarton Castle and Auchentoshan Distillery, and at dinner they gave us a ‘verjaardagskalender’—a birthday calendar. They laughingly explained the rather Dutch gift to my American husband:

“You write the birthdays of all your friends in and hang it in the guest toilet, and whenever people go to the toilet at your house they sit on the pot and check to see if they made it into your calendar. So when we visit your house we’ll check if our birthdays are there.”

Shady hung up the calendar as instructed, and he fills out each month as we get to it. May’s picture is of a place I’ve never been: a terrace in Museumdorp Orvelte, in the province of Drenthe.

Loved ones with May birthdays: our apologies, we haven’t gotten round to filling May out.

The thing is, I have been there. Not that specific location, but that sunny afternoon. The cobbled terrace outside a beautiful old building, the bicycles going by, the sound of women gossiping in fluent Dutch. It makes me homesick for a place I haven’t lived in over a decade. Self-isolation makes me long for places less than three miles away—let me walk down a busy street in town! let me sit in a bustling café!—but the curious mix of nostalgia and longing I get when I look at that picture hits like a freight train.

It’s no surprise. The ongoing isolation heightens emotions I’d know how to handle at other times. The whole thing feels like being a teenager again, with that sense that something is fighting to the surface of you and your body isn’t big enough to hold it. Just like back then, it has nowhere to go; there’s just a morass of uncertainty. What will the future hold? It can’t be predicted—not because you don’t know the world, this time, but because the world is changing too drastically for your past experiences to help you.

As if being a teenager once wasn’t enough!

I’m continuing to reach out to people, and my daily life isn’t that different from before. My musician dad does wonderful livestreams on Facebook every Sunday. My grandad sings “we’ll meet again” in the background of my phone calls with granny. I’m grateful for all the ways this isn’t affecting me—but sometimes I sit on the toilet for longer than I need to, and fall into a picture of a sunny terrace in the Netherlands.

Pre-Eurovision last year, on my friend’s back porch in Leiden. We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when…

Proposed new fantasy races

Orcs. Elves. Trolls. Goblins. You know them… I know them… we all know them. Reading high fantasy and playing fantasy games—tabletop or system-based—produces a familiarity with fantasy races that can make them seem just a bit, well… tedious. Hence, I propose a new swathe of fantasy races. Really original ones. Not at all derivative. Are you ready?


The name says it all: little green creatures obsessed with space. Found at high elevation on clear nights. Will beat you up for a look at your telescope.


Front part of an eagle… back part of a spider. Can shoot web from its spinner, but really doesn’t have to; most prey are too busy puking in fear and disgust. “It’s a bird—no, it’s a spider! Oh god, it’s both!” are frequent last words.


Hate trees. Will shoot you with a blunderbuss if you try to sing the ancient song of your people. Like to spray paint naughty images on hedges.


Basically beaver people. Live near rivers. Really cute. Pretend to hate politics but spend all their time on the Beavnet sharing barely fact-checked articles.


Not humans who occasionally turn into sausages, but rather humans who, on the night of the full moon, transform into their worst selves. It’s hard to tell from an outsider’s perspective whether someone is a wereworst or just a genuine dickhead, though practiced wereworsts lock themselves up in their rooms during the transformation. (Unfortunately, many of them still have an internet connection.)


Roly-poly creatures who are just looking for a home. Will often roll into the midst of a heated debate or awkward break-up. “Oh, you don’t want me here? It’s… it’s fine. I’ll go. I have nowhere else to be, but I’ll go.” Their specialty is making you feel bad for telling them to go away, then lingering in case you change your mind and apologise.

What do you think? Bring on the modern mythology books, right? Okay, just kidding, but it’s pretty fun to think of fantasy races, both existing and new, and wonder what would work in a book… and what wouldn’t. Do you have any creations to add?

Unlikely predictions for the rest of the new Star Wars trilogy

Episode VIII:

  • Luke rides around on Rey’s back in a swamp, assuming this is part of standard jedi training. Rey doesn’t question it.
  • Kylo Ren develops an obsession with Rey. Who is she? he wonders as he destroys expensive equipment. He waits for someone to ask what he’s upset about; no one does.
  • Finn holds hands with all his new friends on the rebel base until he’s captured during an attack by the First Order. Poe tries to save him but is captured as well. They keep up the fun hero swagger until they see Kylo Ren is wearing… The Jacket. They exchange a look of utter hatred, vowing revenge. That’s their friendship jacket.
  • Some Stormtroopers besides Finn have shown signs of growing a conscience. Finn is frozen Han-style and hung up on a wall as a warning to rebellious Stormtroopers. There are rumors that First Order leadership only wanted to try using the freezey machine again, but they are lies. (They are not lies.)
  • Rey returns early from jedi training to save Finn and Poe, losing her arm in the process. She only manages to save Poe and BB8.

Episode IX:

  • Years have passed while working out a plan to save Finn. Rebel leaders have realized they should have asked him about Stormtrooper training and how it might be undone back when he was on their base. Damn it, they thinkwhy do we only ever think of these things in hindsight?
  • Rey, Poe, Chewbacca, BB8 and R2D2 disguise themselves as investors and head into the First Order base where Finn is kept. Luke comes too, but spends the entire time cracking jokes about the lifespans of mentor characters who accompany their mentees for too long. He hasn’t been the same since spending a decade alone on the top of a hill.
  • They save Finn but come across top secret plans in the process, top secret plans for… a death star.
  • No one should be surprised, but everyone is surprised. The rebels face overwhelming odds. While trying to dismantle Death Star 4.0 the rebels recover the friendship jacket and take turns wearing it, but now it smells like lonely sith lord. Kylo Ren’s tragic backstory is given as an afterthought during a confrontation with Giant Chair Man. Kylo Ren is very sorry, but secretly pleased that his own downfall could so closely mirror his idol’s—almost like it was planned that way. Death Star 4.0 goes the way of Death star 1, 2 and 3.
  • There’s a party in the woods. Han appears as a jedi-ghost. “It’s not what you know,” he says, gripping someone’s shoulder. “It’s who you know.” He winks.