Birthday Aftermath: Yarn, Chocolate, Games and Bureaucracy

You can never have too much yarn or chocolate. Like books, it’s never a question of too many or too much, just not enough storage space. Ebooks have helped with part of that, but yarn is really on the edge and I need to reduce. So of course I got more. Oh well. Chocolate is consumable – I always have a stash, but I get through it slowly. I’m one of those people who can eat a small amount, and not pig out. (My weakness is sweet nuts and seeds. Dark choc coated or caramelised nuts and I have no restraint. Or sesame snaps or halva.) I’m well set now until Xmas.

So this is kind of a birthday followup post. Because it’s a big birthday, there’s also bureaucracy. I had to get an eye test for my driver’s licence – tricky, since the Access Canberra offices were closed for lockdown, and you can’t get them done by telehealth. I’ve also got myself a Senior’s card. The Bloke is thrilled with his, since he gets free off-peak tram rides, but I’m not sure how much use mine will be.

Medically, the rules mean I get to do lots of assorted blood tests and a mammogram, but the doc has said it’s fine to wait until after lockdown to get that done. A couple of weeks yet for the blood tests, and I’m booked for mid-November for the mammogram. Surprisingly, they asked which arm I had my vaccination in. It seems the lymph node can look a bit over-excited on that side, even a couple of months later.

One really weird thing about this becoming a senior business is that I have realised I have no idea what growing old feels like. My last memories of being healthy (ish) are from my late forties. If I were miraculously to become well overnight, I would wake up as a deconditioned, very overweight sexagenarian. What is that like? I don’t know. At least I could do something about the deconditioning – it would be so marvellous to go for walks again – but what would a baseline average fitness be like for me? Not what it was as I last remember, I’m sure.

But enough about being old and sick. The fun part is yarn, chocolate and games. Chocolate is non-seasonal, but this October is a big one for yarn and games.

Chocolate

Haigh’s, Federation and Enigma. All awesome, and it’s hard to compare. It’s a matter of personal taste. Me, I like dark chocolate and extra-strong flavours. Not milk chocolate, that’s just wussy stuff with not enough chocolate. Why bother? I do like white chocolate, though, because it’s not chocolate at all (cocoa butter but no cocoa solids), and therefore can go well with some fruits that chocolate doesn’t match.

Haigh’s is a fairly big brand with multiple shops in Adelaide (where it all started), Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra. Federation is a small Tasmanian business, with a bijou factory near Port Arthur and a Hobart outlet. Enigma is a single shop in Braddon. All of them ship Australia-wide. I got a box and some bars from each.

If I had to pick, I’d say the bars from Federation are best – rich dark chocolate and strong flavours. Haigh’s are also excelllent here. The boxed chocolates from Enigma are best: fillings strongest in flavour, even though the chocolate was milder than the Federation. And you can choose your box contents. The passionfruit is amazing, which makes it odd that their passionfruit bar was so weakly flavoured. Haigh’s is the old standard, and until I discovered Enigma, I would have said their boxed chocolates were the best in Australia. I love their creams – lime, violet, rose, tangerine. And their marzipan bars, which Enigma does not do.

Yarn

The annual Stephen West mystery knit-along is released, and I have been doing that for some years. You get a section of the pattern every week for the month, and apart from knowing it’s a big shawl and needs so much yarn is no many different colours, you know nothing. Shape, texture, stitch patterns, all a mystery. This is a very weird one. It has a row of i-cord loops. It has bobbles coming up. I don’t usually do bobbles. Umm. Well, it’s all about process not product so whatever. (Bobbles??? Maybe I could swap in beads.)

Also, a very good friend gave me a gift voucher for Skein Sisters, and I decided I needed to spend it on one specific special project, rather than an assortment of odds and ends. I have been very attracted by Lucy Hague’s Newgrange, and the canonical yarn for that is a rather special and expensive yak/wool/linen blend. So I bought that, and because I’m thinking of altering it from a triangle to something else, some more yarn to make a contrasting colour in the plain sections. I’ll use a light watery blue, although a licheny green would also have been good.

Games

In game terms, this month features the start of a new Critical Role campaign. I am excited! I am a big fan, a “Critter” as they say. This is a D&D game that I watch on YouTube, or in other terms, a fantasy improv story guided by D&D rules, as told by a troupe of professional voice actors. I have tried other D&D podcasts, and not cared very much for them. It’s the character acting skill that makes the big difference, along with DM Matthew Mercer’s almost Tolkein-level world-building. (Without the poetry, and with some malapropisms that I forgive, because improv.)

Also, I decided to spend a chunk of money on my favourite game that I actually play, Fallen London. This is a really good one for chronic people, since it’s interactive fiction. No twitchy hand-eye coordination required. It’s kind of like a massive choose your own adventure book in your browser – except with ability checks for success, and repeatable options to build up skills, and more choice of goals. And it’s highly literate and amazingly deep. They say it’s about three War and Peaces in total text content. (Wars and Peaces?).

It’s Victorian Gothic in style: London has been stolen by bats and is now underground in a huge cavern, atop the remains of older stolen cities. Cats and rats speak, and there are tentacled rubbery people roaming the streets.You can hunt monsters, compose symphonies, become a medium, engage in jewel heists, zail the wide black unterzee, duel with dead people, build a railroad to Hell, attend society balls, excavate the older cities, become an oneiropomp. There’s also humour. You might go to a party and wake up naked and honey-smeared in a coal bin clutching someone else’s shoe. I just speared a Storm Bird, which you can only find on the other side of the mirror, and it told me “Your knowledge of Monstrous Anatomy has increased. Or your Anatomy has become more Monstrous. One of those.

I don’t usually spend very much money on games, and especially not on those that annoy me with nagware and money-grubbing – but this one is worth it. Programmers and creative writers all have to eat, you know, so I don’t expect everything for free. Fallen London doesn’t nag, and you can play it very well for free. The premium content is always optional. I have a lot of opinions about games – perhaps another post.

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