Monday, July 18, 2011


Gwen's family are doing a house swap, just outside Chicago for just outside Paris, and I am the lucky duck who gets to horn in on the vacation. I took the Eurostar this morning (less exciting than I had expected. It's a train. There's a long tunnel. Whatever.) and arrived to smiling faces at Gare du Nord. Today we wandered around a bit and took a bus tour! I loved the bus tour!

The audio guide on the tour suggested that it was possible to purchase video cassettes on the Champs-Élysées. I would like to suggest that perhaps the audio guide has not been updated recently. The narrator was delightfully emphatic and alternated between chatting about things to our left or right (you may notice the Eifel tower in front of, seriously, she said that.) and playing a piece of music that both Gwen and I were certain we'd played but completely failed to identify.

I took some pictures.

I'll share them with you in a moment, but first let me tell you that I declined the offer from a nun to take Gwen's and my picture. In some ways I regret declining that offer from a nun, but on the other hand I was having way too much fun attempting and then failing to take self portraits in front of famous Paris landmarks.

Here, let me show you:

Gwen and I in front of the Arc de Triomphe.
What, you can't see it? Oh, right. Sorry! The zoom was still too far in...

Gwen and I in front of the Arc de Triomphe.
Um, okay, so the angle is a little bit off. 

Gwen and I in front of the Arc de Triomphe
Eh. It's alright. Not the most amazing photograph ever, but all of the principal players are represented.

Some thoughts on the Eifel Tower: 
1. It's brown. Did you know it was brown? 
2. Somehow, in person, it is significantly more industrial looking than I expected. 
3. And less pointy. 

I had gained some skill by the time we actually stopped by the Eifel Tower, and am almost pleased with these ones: 

The zoom! Don't keep it all zoomed in! Also, change the angle, this is never going to be a good picture. Your head is in the way. 

Ze Tower! (Is it rude to write in a fake French accent while sitting in a gorgeous house in Fontainebleu? Probably.)

It worked! A self portrait that worked! With an important landmark!

Some notes about my clothes: I'm wearing a coat. I'm clearly in Paris.  It is mid-July. Pssht. 

And it was a bit windy. 

ps. The spell check on blogger is currently set to French. Currently 98% of this entry is highlighted due to misspellings.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Harrow Suzuki Group

The final Harrow Suzuki school concert was this morning which means that now all of my school year things are finished with. The little ones all wore fancy dress (costumes) and looked adorable. (I'm hoping that one of the group photographs will wend its way to me!) My favourites were the two boys who had substantial plastic helmets as part of their attire, because how do you play the violin with a helmet on??

The younger group sang a princess song with lots of actions and a pirate song with lots of jumping. They were excellent. We've been practicing them a capella because I'm not so great with the piano, but the pianist who was accompanying the violin portions of the concert decided to help us out as well. That was great except that at the beginning of the first song we turned out to have begun in two completely different keys. It took a minute for us all to work that one out and start again. Oops! Embarrassing! Fortunately Suzuki parents (or at the very least THIS group of Suzuki parents) are the nicest people ever so they just chuckled and we carried on.

The older group did a rhythmic vocal warm up that they had written new words for, a dancing song with actions and “ai-yi-yi”-ing, and pease pudding hot in 4ths. Thank goodness for the piano in the pease pudding song; we always get there in the end, but this time they were able to sing the 4ths straight away. A relief since this was, after all, the concert. Phew.

I have a great fondness for any number of these students. They're clever and focused (more or less) and nearly all of them are hilarious goofballs. One of the girls was sat directly in my sight line during the violin pieces and for one song proceeded to follow the line of the music with her face. Does that make any sense? She was squinching her face all up and then popping her eyebrows up to her hairline following the melody that the violins were playing. Now, if I were a responsible adult I probably would have silently shook my head to get her to stop. But I'm not. So I joined in. (And hoped it wasn't *too* obvious!) After the concert her mother laughingly asked what the pair of us monkeys had been doing. (Tum ti tum....nothing, geeze)

I'm keeping this group until I leave because I love them so much.  

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Birthday Week!: Mommy Edition

It's birthday week here at londoncasey, and I've just realized that because I've been titling all of these posts with what I actually call my relatives- that means that this one is titled "Mommy" and though I'm not 100% certain that I wanted the internet to know that I call my mom 'Mommy', well, meh. Let's go with it. (She typically gets called "Betsy" by those who know her.) 

I'm leaving London.

My visa is up in mid-November and though I have spent most of this year trying to figure out how to stay, I  couldn't manage to find a method that would both work (you know, legally) and feel right. So I'm heading back to America and I am (ever so tentatively) starting to get in to the idea.

About a month ago, when this decision was really made and I closed the doors on the half options that were still floating around- I talked to Laine and *FREAKED OUT* about things bills. And health insurance. And the price of food in America. Because I've not really dealt with those things in the US, only in the UK. (She promised me that I would be able to figure it out and then forwarded a link to a freelancers union in NY. She's an excellent sister.)

At the end of this month I will be done with all of my contracted work, though the tykes may continue to pull me in for supply/substitute teaching the first couple months of school. What this means is that though my income drops dramatically come September, I do have this glorious gift of time coming to me. And it feels like a good bookend in a lot of ways- I showed up in London (and, in fact, started this blog) with a whole month of time on my hands, a travel card, and a sense of exploratory adventure. Now I get the chance to leave like that as well.


I'm done with teaching for now. I'll be moving in the middle of the school year and it's not something I've been particularly excited about for a while (you may have noticed the diminishing number of tyke related posts). It very well may be something that I come back to, but I shouldn't think I would look for classroom teaching positions in America. (For one thing, I really really don't have an education degree.)

I'm done with the bass. I don't think I posted this to the blog, but I don't own a bass any longer- the one I had been playing in London now has a happy home in Norway and my American bass is helping out the Seattle Youth Symphony.

And maybe I'm done with London. (Maybe just for this round.)

Things I still want to do before I move back to America
1. Go punting. Andrew is moving to Oxford in October, this may become his responsibility.
2. Do some more rambling. There's an awful lot of the country I've not tromped through yet, and some more tromping needs to happen.
3. Go to Kew Gardens. I still haven't made it there yet, which is ridiculous given how much I like plant museums.
4. Have a massive birthday party of goodness. I did a bouncy castle last year, this year needs something new.
5. Do some European travelling. I'm going to France (finally) in, oh, a week! I'd forgotten it was so soon! But I want to see Berlin and maybe Hungary too.
6. Go camping! I want to burn things and sleep outdoors and get really, really muddy.
7. Get my English finances in order so I don't worry about having messed something up once I'm far away again.

You know why this list isn't longer? Because I do the things I want to in London. I go to improv class every week and I have a marvellous yoga teacher, and I get to be involved in all of these cool and exciting games and I walk in a London park at least three times a week, and every time I get on a bus I sit on the upper deck (and very often in the front), and I wander over to Trafalgar Square and squee at all of the squee-ing Harry Potter fans just because it is there and goodness me I am blessed. Not least because everywhere I go I am surrounded by some pretty extraordinary people.

Lucky, lucky, lucky me.

I'm going to miss here. But maybe it's time for something else.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Birthday Week!: Grammy Edition

This week is birthday week, where about 50% of my family officially gets older. My grandmother Ruthe is the only one to have her birthday on a day that is not divisible by 3. Forewarning: I am *exhausted* and likely to be goes!

Have I told you about the theatre project I'm doing? It's a site specific devised theatre piece/game for the opening festival of a new youth arts venue near Finsbury Park. We're working with a bunch of teenagers from the neighboring estate. It's a fun project in a lot of ways, but particularly exciting for me because I am listed in all the programmes and flyers as a game designer. Or games consultant, or something like that. It makes me feel hip and cool and like I seem like I know what I'm talking about.

Last month I went to Bristol for igFest (The Interesting Games Festival) it was pretty spectacular and involved a three hour long chase game through the centre of town on a Saturday night where you had to avoid getting eaten by zombies (or crashing into the truly remarkable number of becostumed hen and stag nights wandering the town and getting into fights).

The pièce de résistance was running away from zombies in an empty mall. I had an epic moment where I was climbing backwards up a down escalator in order to stay in once place because I needed to avoid the zombies milling around both the bottom and the top of the escalator. I eventually got caught about 20 meters away from the final safe zone, which was excellent because it meant that I got to have a face full of zombie makeup for the after party. 

City Dash
I also helped to run two games- one for fire-hazard and one for hide & seek. Fire-hazard's game involved having a map and codes stickered to the players' front and back. The players snuck around the city centre using their maps to find small, hidden stickers with codes to text in for points while avoiding guards who would text in the players chest plate codes to take away points. It is our most tech heavy game and it went off surprisingly well. We ran it twice; the first day I was a guard and the second day I bossed people around. (The pictures are of me bossing people around.) The running of the game mostly involves tracking the course of the game in order to recalibrate it half way through if needed, so I spent the 45 minutes or so that it was running after everyone had their stickers and their texts all set up hunkered down in the corner of an alleyway that led to a lovely covered market, staring at the computer and clicking "refresh." I think I prefer the bossing people around aspect.

Hide & Seek's game was about ceilidhs and involved dancing, trading ribbons, and running away from "Evil Morris Dancers." My role there was mostly to be bossy (yay!) and instruct people in how to weave  between each other while doing the dance. It was a great deal of fun and also involved a pair of bemused musicians who remained reticent when asked whether this was the weirdest gig they'd ever done. 

On the last day of the festival (I make it sound like this big thing, but it was just a weekend) there was a game designers brunch to discuss questions about what we do. Er, they do. I wanted to go, but wasn't sure if it was really something I was part of (Casey, you were there with TWO games companies. Shut up) but having crashed in my friend Holly's hotel room after the zombie game (I needed a shower and the person I was staying with was heavily pregnant and far away and it was very late and oh my gosh the water flowed pink from all of the fake blood/zombie makeup) she and I went to the brunch together. 

At first I stayed quiet, listening carefully to other people. Then someone asked about fire-hazard and I wasn't sure if I should really answer the question or not because it isn't *my* company and I'm not 100% privy to Gwyn's plans for it. But blah blah blah by the end of the meeting I was yabbering away like a talkative macaw. 

At some point recently Gwyn and I were planning/hanging out and recalled a rumor that Jane McGonigal's book Reality is Broken had a chapter about our friend Kevan, so we tried to get an ebook copy to see if we could find it, but that was kind of a pain and whatever system for reading ebooks that Gwyn had downloaded didn't have a search function so we were just randomly scrolling through the book. This was remarkably ineffectual in terms of finding Kevan, but did mean that I noticed a picture of a bunch of people jumping down some stairs,

"Hey, Gwyn?"
"Isn't that you over on the right?"

With two fire-hazard members now confirmed as being in the book; we decided that Gwyn would buy the book, send it to me, and I would mark it all up and then report back. The first three steps of that process happened...Sorry, Gwyn. 

I've just noticed that on the last page I've written and underlined, "Superfly" which I think is a good shorthand for how I feel about this book. Some of the pages aren't underlined! I got chatty in the margins and circled a lot of things. 

My friend Josh and I have teamed up to design some games for Hide & Seek's next 'sandpit' game testing session in a week's time. We've worked on about 5, only one of which is going to be used for this  Sandpit, but hopefully more of them will see the light of day in August.

So the point: starting with the second day of Bristol and the brunch and developing through working with Josh and getting hired to be a game designer/consultant for the theatre project and continuing to work with both Holly and Gwyn...I'm starting to feel like this is something I can say I do. 

Bossing people with my hands full
Bossing people with a ridiculous expression on my face

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Birthday Week!: Papa Edition

It's birthday week here at londoncasey, where once a year we celebrate the 50% of my family who managed to be born during BIRTHDAY WEEK. It is, I think, exciting for all of us. Next up is my father, Dan. For his birthday he gets a blog about some tykes....

In spite of numerous leaving parties and speeches and class parties and general end of the year-ness, I am still at school. This is because I decided to work for the summer camp. Down in the junior camp ("down" because we're in the basement) we've got a surplus of tykes. On Monday morning we were expecting around 25, but as I was registering they just kept coming and coming and coming. When the dust settled we had 35. Maybe 10 doesn't seem like that big a number, but in terms of tyke corralling, it is significant. Fortunately we've now got six staff people, so it has actually been a pleasure so far this week.

We do, however, have one child who is literally a hand full. When he wants to be he is an absolute sweetheart and I genuinely enjoy working with him. That being said, when he starts acting up there is very little that we can do. Explaining quietly and in a deep voice while making lots of eye contact that throwing things at other children is not okay only makes him laugh. When he gets worked up he starts getting violent as well. This morning, and I don't even remember what set this off, I was holding him back and trying to get him under control. He kicked me, pinched my neck, and bit my hand- all of which I could handle and while it wasn't enjoyable didn't really phase me. Then he bent my glasses and I lost it.

I injure myself often enough that I don't mind some bruises or cuts (I have a foot long self inflicted bruise on my thigh right now from where I accidentally tripped and fell onto a bench in the hall during lunch last week. That was embarrassing. I threw food everywhere. One of the year 1 children came up to me after I had cleaned up and sat down again to tell me not to worry because he had fallen down as well and he was okay now.) But don't touch my glasses.

I felt weirdly exposed with my glasses broken. The right earpiece was bent wide to the side. Nothing was actually broken off but it meant that in order to stay on my head the ear piece needed to be outside my ear rather than behind it. If I looked down, say, to talk to any of the tykes, they slipped down my nose. Linda took the boy away from me immediately after my glasses got bent and I rushed outside to try and get myself under control. I cried. Liz came out and gave me a hug. Chetna came over and gave me a hug. I gulped some air and let myself be led over to the shooting range where the Senior camp was later going to do some archery. So that was cool. I at least managed to hit the target. (And didn't further injure myself like I did the last time I did archery as a 9 year old when I somehow managed to shoot the fletching into my index finger.)

We called the kid's mom and sat him in the room next door away from everyone else. (With the door open so we could still see him.) He calmed down quite a lot once he was by himself and ended up sitting there for over an hour while we waited for someone to come and pick him up. I suspect that being in a dark, empty space was probably a good thing for him- less stimulation. By lunch time he was back to being his charming, smiley self. But we still sent him home. 

I went to an opticians after school and they were able to bend the ear piece back, more or less. They hang behind my ear now but the fit is still looser than I would like it to be and probably now is the time to get a second pair of glasses so that I am not completely bereft if this happens again. 

Um. Happy Birthday, Papa! I understand now why you used to get to annoyed when I went for your glasses as a kid....

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Birthday Week!: Mical Edition

It's time to launch Birthday Week! This is the week that about 50% of my family was born, so it's an important one. Today, kicking the whole thing off is my grandma, Mical. What does she get? A completely random blog entry....

Today I washed my teddy bear.

It is sunny and warm out and I figure he has as good a chance as any for actually *drying* today. I've tried washing him once before, the first year I moved to London. He had started to smell and, well, that was at least as gross as it sounds. I washed him in the sink of my dorm room and the water turned a disgusting, dark brown. I was discouraged. Also, he took many many days to try. I was further discouraged.

So I did what any normal person would do and ignored the problem for another three years. Until today! Today I fixed the problem! Today it occurred to me that while the water may turn a truly vile dark brown colour, filled with grime that does not bear thinking about, I could continue to wash him. Today it occurred to me that this wasn't a one sink full of water kind of a job.

Twelve. It was a twelve sinks full kind of a job. And my hands and wrists hurt from squeezing that much water out of essentially a fragile sponge. But by the 12th sink full? The water was running clear. Thank goodness.


Also, can I just say that 25+ years of anthropomorphising Soft Bear makes it VERY difficult to push his head down into a sink full of water? I had to consciously keep reminding myself that I was not being evil, that teddy bears do not need to breathe, that his eyes weren't accusing me from underneath the water, that, really, it was good for him to be washed and he would thank me later even if at this current moment he couldn't understand why I was doing this to him, that when I pulled him, sodden with water, out of the sink that the reason I was holding him like a baby and supporting his head was because the fabric was fragile. Yes.  That's why.

I fear I may have revealed too much here today.