I've done pretty well out of it myself - I was born with a rare congenital condition that saw me have eleven major surgeries by the time I was six years old, is something I live with every day, and requires annual check-ups for the rest of my life. If it wasn't for the care I received as a child under the NHS I almost certainly wouldn't have lived this long - and maybe not even out of childhood. The NHS isn't perfect by any means, but I do believe in it, and am enormously grateful for the system we have in this country - especially when compared to alternatives like in the US.
With all that in mind, go and watch Michael Moore's excellent film, Sicko - very much worth seeing (even if the UK, France and Cuba are depicted through a rose-tinted lens, the generalisations are true).
My mum (1941-1995) as a student nurse c.1961.
The interest comes via my wife's family history as her great-great uncle was John McIlwaine who played half-back for Portsmouth in the 1929 final against Bolton Wanderers. The Times said of Portsmouth "they have in the Scotsman, John McIlwaine, a real leader..." and he was singled out several times in the match report including, at the end, "all that remained of interest was one last despairing long shot by McIlwaine that certainly tested Pym's capabilities as a goalkeeper fairly completely...", by which you can probably tell that Portsmouth lost, 2-0 to Bolton, who were, after all, the favourites of the day.
Happily, the 2008 final yielded better results - 1-0 to Portsmouth, though there wasn't much in it really, and Cardiff had equal opportunity to take the game as their own. It was certainly nice to see a final that featured none of the usual big teams, and less of the diving antics and histrionics, I thought.
His collection of short stories, Of Time and Stars, was a perennial favourite from my teenage years onwards. Many times I put it in the box for the charity shop, but always fished it out again at the last minute.
Anyway, I was 13 (this was late 1982), and a school-friend had recently returned from a holiday in Florida, clutching the red boxed set of Basic Dungeons and Dragons! Bitten most severely by the RPG bug, we soon joined a local role-playing club, where I was very quickly turned away from D&D, and on to T&T - Tunnels and Trolls - something of a small-time rival to Gygax's mainstream success.
Tunnels and Trolls (written in 1975 by Ken St. Andre), was simpler, less rule-bound, and therefore, I thought, smoother to play, allowing imagination to flow more freely. Furthermore, it only used six-sided dice, so you could just borrow them from Trivial Pursuit or Monopoly. I don't think I ever went back to D&D, but I did move around into other games - Traveller, Runequest, Call of Cthulhu and Paranoia, though T&T was the mainstay.
Looking back, the bit I enjoyed most was writing the adventures more than actually playing them (though those were not bereft of fun). Gaming got me into self-publishing (printing my first fanzine, 'Demon Issue' in March 1985), and similarly, I enjoyed the writing and illustrating more than the actual playing. After a few years I looked at my shelf with all the games I'd accumulated, and didn't play, and the hobby quickly faded out for me. In some ways, I kind of regret the amount of time I spent writing RPG adventures - it took up a lot of hours, and maybe (I sometimes ponder) I'd be a better artist today if I'd have spent those valuable 'developing years' drawing more, instead of filling in character sheets.
But hey-ho, there you go. I did have some fun, and it did kick off my drawing more a bit later, as I started illustrating for other fanzines too, a road that has definitely lead to me doing my own thing with The Rainbow Orchid thus far.
To end off, here's a letter I wrote to the local paper in 1993, though I'd stopped playing by then. It's slightly embarrassing when I read it now, but the sentiment still holds water.
Edit: Website is now up.
The only bad thing this Christmas was being second-on-the-scene at a group of escaped horses in the road, at 2 a.m, one of whom had a very badly broken leg after it was hit by a car. We called the police and slowed down traffic. A passing young security chap was excellent, but the police were not so impressive, unfortunately. We left, but I doubt the injured pony saw another day. Distressing.
I had a very comicky Christmas, so here's a photo of my swag.
In temperature news... yesterday our boiler decided to stop working on the first really really cold day of the winter. My pinkies are freezing. I've also had to take a few weeks break from karate due to some trouble with my left knee - really quite painful in certain situations. Has it finally worn out, or is this just temporary? We'll see - my knees went through a lot in my younger karate training and maybe it's all catching up at last.
I didn't make it to the Birmingham comics show, despite having the hotel booked. This was a decision made while still working at 3 am on Saturday morning when I realised, realistically, I was going to need the weekend to continue with work. Really disappointed not to go, but I was able to cancel the hotel with no financial loss. Have a gander at Dave's report for how it went.
I did get to go to the AP Watt 'Author Party' in London on the previous Wednesday though, which was very nice indeed, and not at all like a page from Posy Simmonds' Literary Life as I feared, at least not in the corner I occupied. Thanks, Anjali, for looking after me.
A little note on Christmas... not being religious, I always struggled with a meaning for Christmas, as I do enjoy the holiday part of it (not so much the commercial frenzy), until I decided that my own celebration at Christmas is to basically say "well done, we survived another year, congratulations, and here's to the year ahead". So well done all, and make the best of the next one.
The award books are for the '40th Anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War' and for the 'Veteran of Labour'.