Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Who Knows Where The Time Goes?

It seems like only yesterday she was lying on my arm for the first time, and she fit between my hand and the crook of my elbow.

Sure as hell doesn't feel like twenty one years.

No-one told me she'd be different people as she grew up, and that each of those people would work their way into my heart, then disappear forever without warning overnight, breaking my heart each time, and a stranger would be waiting to do it to me all over again in their place.

I love the 21 year old Stevieling, but I'd trade an awful lot to be able to spend time with the four year old who knew so much about everything and was scared of nothing, or the two year old who figured things out for herself so ingeniously and loved the sea, or the six month old who only needed me to pick her up for all to be put right in her universe.

And of course, the ten minute old who just lay there on my arm and started the whole process.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Winter Vacation Cont'd

Oh for crying out loud, didn't I finish the Vacation Story yet?


On Tuesday we just tooled around in the rain doing not much at all. I bought a charger to replace the Nikon one I needed to keep my SLR going but had lost (again). We did some light shopping and that was the day gone. Best forgotten really. Which is what I did. Can't remember any more details at all. Oh hang on. I've remembered a bit

We'd noted the presence of something called a "Roadhouse", basically a steak eatery, in a shopping plaza near the timeshare and attempted to visit it that night for dinner. Negotiating the road system carefully we missed the roadhouse on account of not finding an entrance to the car park and ended up on a toll highway. We pulled up to the toll booth and wound the window down, and the attendant said "you're looking for the roadhouse, aren't you?"

We admitted we were and he mapped out a circular route around the network of highways that would bring us back where we were originally in only ten to fifteen minutes, but would, unfortunately, mean we'd have to pay the toll as there was no turn-around or escape lane. We marveled at this revenue generation scheme and then proceeded to get lost.

We eventually found the restaurant and were treated to the most unremarkable steak dinner I've eaten since I left England - land of the see-through steak.


We tooled over to Kennedy Space Center and had lunch with astronaut Bob Springer while Florida disappeared under biblical levels of rainwater. We assessed the various things we wanted to do there and ended up buying a year's pass because the economics of car parking, lunching with astronauts, visiting the Vehicle Assembly Building and possibly visiting one of the launch pads made a year's pass cheaper than two days of tickets.

Bob Springer was an engaging speaker and a very pleasant chap to boot and I enjoyed the whole experience of meeting and listening to him.

The only disappointment was lunch itself, which was of excellent quality but consisted of entirely mundane Earth dishes. No squeeze-tube food or squeeze-bulb beverages at all - though there was Tang if anyone wanted it. It quite ruined the experience. If you get to eat with an astronaut, it is supposed to look like you are eating the contents of a paint box, dammit.

The company was excellent too, all of the people at our table were raving space nutters, and we monopolized the question time I'm afraid.

Then there was a photo session with the astronaut and the assistant who took the shots marveled that of all the people on line, we were the only ones with "a real camera", and so was able to check the results without asking how.

I returned home that night well satisfied. Mrs Stevie seemed to enjoy it too, until she threw her back out and spent the night howling in agony.

Luckily there is a second bedroom in the villa, so I lost no sleep at all.


The next day dawned and we went hunting Chiropractors. It turned out there was one near where we had been on Sunday so we killed a morning getting Mrs Stevie a new back, then I exchanged the omnibus edition of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen I'd bought on Sunday for one with the first twenty pages bound into the book. I was uncertain when I opened it whether I had a defective copy or whether Alan Moore had chosen a particularly bizarre mis-en-scene beginning for the story. Turned out it was the first one. And so to bed with painkillers.


Back to NASA so I could visit the Vehicle Assembly Building - the big building you see in Apollo 13 where they put the Saturn V "stack" together before trucking it to the launch pad.

Yes it is just a big shed, but it is a big shed I've wanted to see inside for, well, forever. Besides, it was teeming down with rain again and who wants to tour a launchpad with water sluicing off the steelwork?

I should explain that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity. An artifact of the lack of a shuttle and no vehicle yet ready to replace it meant that the VAB and one of the two launch pads used for the shuttle launches were available to be toured by the public for about six weeks or so. This was about two weeks before that window was due to close for good, for the VAB would be needed for the new space lifter and so would both launch pads, which were being refurbished and upgraded for that purpose - as was the crawlerway.

It was annoying that it was raining so much because I would have loved to tour the launch pad, but getting pictures would mostly involve shooting upwards - into gallons of falling wet.

We had a good time, watched both the marvelous IMAX movies, listened to Bob Springer's presentation again and got his autograph on the picture we had taken with him.

When we got back to Kissimmee it finally stopped raining so I suggested we dine at a "Bahaman" restaurant we'd taken note of when we'd arrived at the timeshare. I was in the mood for some Caribbean Cuisine too.

Sadly, another distinctly ordinary dining experience was my lot.


We drove halfway home. Did some light arguing. Stayed in the same hotel we used on the way down.


We drove the rest of the way home. End of vacation. End of vacation story.

I know this post lacks a vital something but I can't be arsed to make up tales of space aliens or earthquakes. The truth is that the most exciting thing that happened was the thing that threw Mrs Stevie's back out, and she has threatened to visit me with extreme violence if I so much as hint at the scenario, equipment or costumes involved. All I can say is it was dead good until it wasn't, which is sort of my life encapsulated.

So you'll just have to imagine it.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

INTERLUDE - April First in Chateau Stevie

I roused myself this morning at the urging of my alarm to see the sun shining brightly through windows inexplicably not made light-proof with oaktag and tinfoil.

I checked my watch and the date was April first, not the second. The time was 7 am. The alarm clock agreed. This was looking bad.

I donned my glasses, and instead of the expected fog of vaseline-coated lenses or the blur of some prescription long-outgrown the world sprang into sharp relief. I let out my customary whimper at seeing clearly all I could survey and carefully pulled away the bedsheets, but they proved not to be stapled to the mattress. I wiggled my toes, which for some ungodly reason had not been superglued together.

A sudden suspicion thrust into Mr Brain and I leapt out of bed to run to the bathroom mirror to survey the cosmetic damage, simultaneously running my hands over my face and head hair to see where I had been artistically relieved of hirsute coveration, then yelled a curse at the fiendish distraction and danced around madly trying to avoid the carpet of glue traps - that weren't laid out carefully for my unsuspecting feet.

Carefully testing the door handle for electricity I exited the bedroom without encountering a sheet of syrup-coated plastic wrap stretched across the frame. I entered the bathroom with the same manic caution I expect SWAT teams entering crack houses employ, and tested the fixtures and fittings for improvised booby traps.


I showered without the hot water being shut down, dressed in clothes that had not been creatively re-hemmed, re-buttoned , re-sleeved or fitted with controversial heart-shaped cut-outs. By the time I was fully dressed I was on a hair-trigger, my awesome danger senses screaming like Mrs Stevie in the presence of spiders1.

I transited the living room at high speed lest there be an ambush of some sort in the offing, grabbed my bag - THE BAG! Stupid stupid stupid! Laughing maniacally at this near-miss I emptied the contents onto the floor.

By the time I had repacked the harmless contents2 I was late for work, but that was my own doing, not some nefarious trap set by others.

I made tea using a sealed Keurig cup (which makes acceptable tea and ensures that the tea hasn't been adulterated with senecot powder) and left for work.

My car tires were not flat and the Steviemobile fired up first time so I was not required to open the hood and thereby expose myself to some remotely-triggered ambush from the engine compartment. As I drove down the road I heard no "exhaust pipe whistle" in operation, nor did I see a rapidly inflating condom in my rear-view mirror. I almost hit a lamp-post but that was due to all the checking I was doing instead of looking where I was going so that didn't count.

I missed whatever it was the family have set up for me. I am currently sitting on a Long Island Rail Road train wondering when the shoe will drop.

I feel like Gene Hackman in that movie where he ends up pulling his beautiful apartment to pieces to find the surveillance devices he knows are there but cannot find.

  1. Which reminded me that I had completely forgotten the "special surprise" I was planning for her this morning
  2. Unless you count the Pocket Handbook I keep in there which has much in it to suggest mischief of the over-engineered sort