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Just a place for the odd thoughts, updates, and the detritus of my mind that doesn't belong on social media.

Posted: Jun 7th, 8:55am

Night Animals : Dresserwinkles

When humans go to sleep, the Night Animals come out to play.

Dresserwinkles are molluscs the size of coffee pots, with black bodies and shells the colour of fading walnut veneer. They make their homes in wardrobes and chests of drawers. By day they lurk unseen amongst the empty shoe boxes and balled up sweaters that litter such places. At night they press themselves against whatever doors, panels, or drawer–fronts their environment possesses and — by means of their strong, muscular (but singular), feet — push them gently open. The night time creaks and groans of opening cupboards are a certain sign of dresserwinkle infestation.

Night Animals is an occasional series of strange creatures drawn from dreams.

Posted: May 23rd, 4:39am

Housekeeping

It is amazing how much housekeeping a website can require!

Recently I began a project of updating my website in a few small ways, one of which was adding support for this blog. At the same time I addressed a few code bugs, and added a few features to the CMS (Gecko) with which the site is built. So far, so much normal code-tinkering.

But then I made the mistake of looking at the Site Map — and I was struck by the accumulation of ancient pages, and even categories of pages, that I'd entirely forgotten about. I got sucked into pages about the Battlegrounds card game, pages about old RPG campaigns, pages about Playmobil.

And then, of course, the errors began. I found old bits of code that no longer worked. Pages marked out in obsolete versions of the page templates — lacking my new navigation or editing elements. I found dead links — so many dead links! I found pages that were wrappers around projects that no longer existed. Out of date pages describing things I planned to do with the CMS two decades ago! (Urk!). I've removed a whole bunch of "Pages I like" or "Links" pages where no link worked.

Even this was only the upper reaches of the rabbit-hole. As soon as I started to look at older templates (e.g. the plain template used for duality) and add things that were missing (open-graph properties, facebook comments, font-encoding meta tags), I realised all the other things that none of my templates had: skip navigation links, screen-reader headings, aria-tags, semantic use of heading/nav/main/footer tags, so I had to add those to all the templates, not just the old ones — and if I am doing that, I reasoned, then why not turn the breadcrumbs into ULs, and the floating divs into ASIDEs and ... and ...

Somewhere along the way I found myself adding Bootstrap for the css (and coping with undoing the bits of Bootstrap's Reset that I don't like), and then the js on some pages (for image carousels), and then more js (to implement new admin-mode editors), and so...

Posted: May 17th, 2:03pm

Tales of the Castle : Seacliff

One of the formative novels of my childhood (one of many) was Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake's masterpiece of gothic fantasy (though I believe he didn't really think of it as a fantasy).

Gormenghast cast a shadow over my writing, a shadow made up of twisted towers, ruined halls, dusty carvings, hallucinatory narratives, and redolantly named characters. I read it around the age of fourteen — a similar age to the equally influentual but harder to immitate Dune — and it changed my writing, probably in ways I wasn't even aware of. It certainly wasn't the only source of the strong themes of dilapidation and unexplained mystery that run through my writing, but it was one of them!

Not long after reading Gormenghast I wrote a story as a present for my Grandmother Jessie, I think it was a Birthday present. I called "Tales of the Castle", and it was set in a place that reads a lot like a dream version of Gormenghast. I wrote it longhand, made a booklet out of it, gave it to her, and then forgot all about it.

Twenty-Five years later my Dad found the story in a box of Jessie's belongings that he's had in storage for two decades, and gave it back to me. I had no memory of it, but when I read it through I was amazed at how much it resonated with the writing I've been doing over the last couple of years. It could be part of a series with The Night Alphabet.

I transcribed it, then re-wrote it, and here it is.

Posted: May 14th, 6:29am

InBetween Character Portraits

One of the pleasures of running InBetween for people is that I get to do character portraits that aren't of humans. I am not good at humans, but better at mice.

Here's some that I've drawn