I suck at dancing competitions

I do. This isn’t faux humility. I literally forget the steps. Steps I’ve done hundreds of times before. Steps I could do in my sleep. This doesn’t happen at social dances, or in lessons. I reckon I’d stand a fair chance if I could just hold it together. But put me on a large floor, with a dozen competitors and judges, and everything goes to shit. I’ve never got through a heat, let alone made a final.

Every time it happens I think I can brute force my way through it. Practice harder. Go over the routines more. Understand the steps and how they flow into each other. Nothing has helped. Whatever I do, I blank. At some point I finish a step and can’t remember what comes next. Cue much feeling sorry for myself, I should quit and find a hobby I’m good at, what’s the point of dogged determination if you’re just banging your head into a brick wall, yada yada yada.

Then. Then this last Friday I finally got a tiny glimpse into what’s going wrong.

I was in Blackpool, at the Empress Ballroom. It’s well glam. 120 years old, gleaming golden balconies, enormous sprung dancefloor, 12 crystal chandeliers – it’s everything you could want a dance venue to be. I was due to dance in the ProAm competition – where an Amateur dances with their Professional teacher – and I really, really didn’t want to screw it up. Nonetheless, I did. But in a better way than before!

Big difference: the competition started at lunchtime, which was unusual. Most start first thing. But that’s good, because you can arrive early and practice. So I got all suited up, and started stepping through the routine on my own. It was hectic. Couples were hurtling past me at great speed. I was worried about getting in someone’s way. I could feel people watching me. But it was necessary: I was making sure I knew how my normal dance routine worked on a bigger floor.

I had a theory that this was my problem. You learn a routine in a dance studio and you unconsciously orient yourself by the landmarks of the room. You do this step at this corner, at which point you start heading towards that mirror. Maybe, I thought, just maybe, I’m unable to adapt on the fly. I just needed to practice on the bigger floor itself.

Ok. Great. So I’m stepping through the routine, and, without warning, I completely blank. This is unexpected. I shouldn’t be blanking at this point. I’m not with my teacher, I’m not actually competing – I’m just practicing. I have time to work things out. This is the easy bit. Yet, here I am. After a few seconds of cluelessness I step off the floor and just stand there, trying to work out what’s going on.

It’s bloody weird. It’s not panic. I feel pretty calm. It’s more like fight-or-flight. I know what I want to do. But I just can’t think. The next step won’t come into my brain. I try to work backwards, and find I can’t even remember the preceding steps I did do correctly.

Interesting.

I stand there for maybe a minute. It feels like forever. I try to kickstart my brain with the usual tricks: come on, pull yourself together; you’ve done this hundreds of times; you can do it. But it doesn’t work – I get nothing in return. So I wait. And, eventually, thoughts happen. I remember the next step. I remember what came before. I step onto the floor and continue. The thoughts come more easily now. I loop the routine a few times, and I hit a couple of mental blocks, but this time only for a second or two – and they get better with each loop.

I try a different dance (I’ll be doing 5), and exactly the same thing happens – I blank, step off the floor, and wait till my brain finishes whatever the hell it’s doing. Then it’s better. Not entirely better, but a lot.

Is this choking? Stage fright? I don’t know. But making myself go through it seems to help. If I can do it pre-competition, great! But the key question is: will this make any difference under the pressure of the competition itself?

Answer: yes! A couple of hours later it was finally time for my round, and I found it much easier. I had a couple of scary moments, but the next step always came into my head in time. Result! However, it turned out not to count for anything. There were only three couples in my heat, so we were told to consider it a warm-up round. The final would be three hours later.

I screwed up the final. I went wrong on the goddamn second step, because like a fuckwit I was thinking about an upcoming move instead of concentrating on what I was doing. And at this point I fell to pieces. I couldn’t get myself back on track, kept trying to fix things in dumb ways, and generally made a fool of myself in front of judges who used to be on Strictly. FFS. Cue two days of self-flagellation. BUT! I didn’t just forget everything. It was a different fuckup. This is progress.

So I reckon I have two problems (once I start concentrating properly, anyway):

  1. Blanking. God only knows what’s happening here, or why, but practicing on the actual floor beforehand seems to help.
  2. Not losing my mind when I make a mistake. I don’t know what to do about this one yet. But I can work on it!

Ironically, I won a giant trophy. Third place = trophy. Basically I bought a trophy. I have a few trophies like that. One day I’ll earn one!

iPhone vs SLR

As the old saying goes, the best camera is the one you have on you. The camera I have on me is my iPhone. I take a lot of photos with it, despite having an SLR that’s obviously higher quality. But it’s so much easier to do things with iPhone photos! Emailing / Twitter / Google Photos. Quick and easy. Not to mention the weight. And smartphone cameras are pretty great these days, aren’t they?

Hmm. Last night I was at the Blackpool Tower for their New Year’s Eve bash. Here’s a shot I took on my phone, and put on Facebook:

Blackpool iPhone

And here’s one from my SLR:

_24A0283-2

The SLR is a good 2kg, including its wide-angle lens. But still. Gotta have it on me more.

You Need A Budget

In January 2014 I set myself a new year’s resolution: control my money better. This was a long-standing ambition and a genuinely tough problem for me. I’d put in plenty of effort in the past, but failed each time. Nothing stuck: budgeting spreadsheets, Microsoft Money, detailed spreadsheets for specific projects – everything seemed logical and comprehensive, but never actually worked. But I needed to do something: the previous December I’d come back from a dancing competition in Paris to find £1000 less in my account than I’d anticipated through my amazing Winter 2013 Budget Spreadsheet, so this was getting serious.

So I tried You Need A Budget. And by that March, I pretty much understood my finances for the first time ever. 18 months later, I’m now fully in control of my finances and have been for over a year. It’s really quite a profound change in my life.

The YNAB approach is essentially this: take all your income for the month, and allocate it to a series of buckets. £500 for the mortgage, £20 for broadband fees, £15 for books, £40 for spending money, £50 for savings – you get the picture. Allocate all of it. Much of this will be informed guesswork, but that’s fine. Then, as the month goes on, track what you’re actually spending. Literally every penny. They have apps to make this as quick and easy as possible. If something comes up that’s unexpected, no problem: create a new bucket. At this point you’re not too worried about going over your limits (assuming you aren’t in dire straits) – that comes later. Right now it’s about tracking where your money’s going.

Come the end of the month you’ll have a general idea of what’s what. Some buckets will have money left in them. Some you’ll have gone way over. Some of this will be surprising – I was taken aback at how much I was spending on going out for lunch at work, for example – so you might make some immediate changes. But don’t be too rash – this is how your life is, and making big changes might not be necessary as yet.

Then set up another budget for the next month. It’ll be much more based in reality than the previous one. And this time, re-allocate as you go. The important point is that you don’t need to stick to your initial budget. You obviously don’t want to overspend, though, so whenever you empty a bucket, shift money from other buckets. If you want the new Neal Stephenson book, great – is there £10 in the Books bucket? If not, move £10 from the General Spending Money bucket. Need to get a plumber in at short notice? Ok, there’s no choice – the only way is to pull it out of the Savings bucket; so be it.

Great, you’re now up and running. Each month, allocate all your income to the buckets. Obviously expenses will come in that you’ve forgotten about, so create new buckets as needed. What about if you’re saving for something in particular? Create a bucket for said New Laptop, put £x a month into it, and make sure you don’t spend it. YNAB will carry the total over from month to month. Do the same for quarterly / irregular payments – set up a bucket, put £x into it, and when that payment is eventually due it’ll empty the bucket and you’ll barely notice. The idea is that you stop relying on the amount of money in your current account as the key figure in your finances – instead you imagine it sliced and diced into a few dozen buckets, and track each one individually.

The basic philosophy is: life happens, but live within your means. Of course unexpected things will happen, and your life will change. And of course it’s bad to be spending more than you’re bringing in. But similarly, give yourself a break. You’ll make mistakes, impulse purchases and the like. Pretending that you won’t, and that your life will be stable and predictable, is not going to help. You won’t get it right each and every month, but you need to understand your finances well enough that you can roll with the punches.

Also: forecasting is bollocks. It’s never going to be correct. Life is just too complicated. YNAB has some forecasting features, but they strongly advise against using them. Looking back on an incorrect forecast feels like a failure, and feeling like a failure means you’ll probably stop doing it. It’s the same reason that productivity experts advise against daily to-do lists: you’ll never complete everything on them, which means you’re ending each day on a down note. Instead, set things up so that you see your successes, while still understanding what’s coming next.

All of which sounds great in theory, but how does it work in practice? The YNAB site has a huge amount of guidance, plus free webinars, on how to manage your particular situation. And it did take me a few months to properly get my head around everything. There are some complexities such as tracking work expenses (easy enough once you know how), and I found it difficult to click into the mindset of tracking things month-by-month, rather than forecasting ahead. But by about April I had it all sorted.

18 months in, I try to reconcile my bank statement with YNAB once a week. This takes maybe 20mins. I put each payment into YNAB, and say which bucket it’s from. I’m lucky enough that I don’t have to worry about every purchase sending me overdrawn, so I don’t keep an eye on it every day. But I know what’s going on. This works well. I pay as much on card as possible, and try to put the big cash purposes into the app. I admit I no longer track every penny, but have an Unknown Cash bucket that always somehow ends up with twenty quid in it. I’m happy to live with that.

The best bit comes at the end of each month when I see how everything turned out: how much or little each bucket has left. There are often pleasant surprises. I didn’t eat out as much as I thought, say, so there’s £20 left in the Restaurant bucket. I can drop that into the Savings bucket, or maybe treat myself to a guilt-free meal. Or just leave it in the Restaurant bucket – it’ll roll over to the next month automatically, and it’s always nice to have a buffer.

Obviously some months it goes the other way, and you have to roll over a debt. YNAB handles this automatically, and gives you less money to spend the next month. But in general I’ve found that you get better at this. You just become more aware of where unexpected things are likely to occur, and give yourself some leeway. But even when it does happen it’s far less painful and guilt-inducing, because I know exactly what impact it’s had. That all said, in 18 months I’ve usually ended up with a surprising (if small) deficit that I need to decide what to do with. It’s hard to express how much of a psychological difference this makes. It’s so much nicer than making a forecast and finding you were just wrong. It makes the whole thing a pleasure, frankly.

And then at the end of the year you can use YNAB’s reporting features to entertain and occasionally appall yourself at how small numbers add up to big numbers. I’ve given how much to the Turkish cafe near the office?!

So that’s how it works. The only catch is that YNAB isn’t free. You can try it out for 34 days, then it’s £40. Ouch. But for me it’s been more than worth it. Yes, in theory there’s nothing here you can’t do in a spreadsheet. But screw that. Tracking payments is undeniably laborious, and you want as little friction as possible. Their software makes it pretty easy. There are desktop and phone apps that sync automatically (this happens via Dropbox – nothing’s stored on the YNAB servers). The apps are thoughtfully designed in that they autofill existing payees, for example, and track payments using GPS – so that the next time you add a payment in M&S they’ll guess it should be for the Clothes bucket. As you’d hope for £40, the apps work well.

In short: YNAB worked for me. It’s the only thing that ever has. And I recommend it.

The holy grail of the YNAB process is this: get to the stage where every bucket has enough in it to cover you for an extra month. That gives you a hell of a lot of leeway if things go wrong. I haven’t tried for that yet, but it’d be a good goal.

2014, then

Highlights

  • Entered a bunch of UK dancing competitions. These are tougher than the international ones: there are more competitors, and the standard is higher. This was entirely the point, as I wanted to be challenged. And so I was: I failed, and I failed hard. Honestly, it was ridiculous. In the entire year I got through a single round, which took me into a quarter final. This was tougher to deal with than I’d anticipated, to be honest. But I’ll keep working. Hopefully I’ll get better. And it meant I got to dance at the Blackpool Winter Gardens, which was great (the dancing world is the only place the word ‘Blackpool’ is spoken with reverence).
  • I also went back to the competition at Disneyland Paris, where I promptly came down with a head cold the moment I stepped off the Eurostar. Grrr. But I managed to dance everything, if not at a particularly high standard, and we managed to do our showdance. There’s no close-up video of that, but you can see us in the distance:
  • I was on the BBC2 quiz show Pressure Pad, along with a team of celebrants:
  • I spent my birthday afternoon learning to be a trapeze artist:
  • Danced a showdance at a gala in June:

 

  • Survived the World Humanist Congress. 18 months of preparation for 1000 delegates from 50 countries attending simultaneous events around Oxford across 4 days. I was photographer so was needed everywhere – which was good, as it meant I didn’t miss anything. Quite possibly the most intense 4 days of my life.

Favourite books

  • Joyland – Stephen King. A bit of a departure in that it’s barely even a chiller, but it’s really quite touching.
  • A Monster Calls – Patrick Ness / Siobhan Dowd. Can’t say much about this. Not going to forget it any time soon.
  • The Sense of Style – Steven Pinker. All the attention has been on the final 1/3 of the book, in which he demolishes preachy grammar ‘rules’. This is fun, but I found the first 2/3 more interesting. It’s full of practical advice on writing clearly – complete with reasoning that goes far beyond the it-just-is tone of similar books. Tom Freeman’s mini review says everything I would, but better.
  • Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic – David Quammen. Fascinating, well written, and scaring the hell out of me.
  • Dataclysm – Christian Rudder. The OkCupid stats blog guy gets a whole book to play with, and spends his time merrily discovering counter-intuitive results in massive data sets. In the first few pages he kills the idea that men’s attitudes towards female attractiveness are being altered by routine photoshopping, for example. Never really stops after that. Ends too early.
  • I also worked through a dozen or so Harry Bosch books. LA homicide detective who can’t be beaten for getting stuff done.

Last year’s resolutions

  • Dance more, dance better. Kinda managed this, though I could still practice much more.
  • Less work, more holidays. Lulz. No.
  • Do more stuff. Didn’t really manage this either.
  • Budget. This I did! It actually worked! Separate blog post coming up, now it’s been 12 months.

2015 resolutions

  • 1-3 of last year still need doing
  • Do…something. I’m restless at the moment. Work is a bit same old, and I’m not progressing. Need to fix.

Why you don’t like photos of yourself

Me: Hello! I thought you might like this photo of you.
Them: Oh god it’s so awful.

I understand this, I really do. I used to be the same. But now it makes me sad.

If I’ve sent you a picture of yourself, it’s because I think you look good. And I’m probably a better judge than you. Not because I’m a photographer, but because I see you like everyone else sees you: I see the non-mirror-reversed version of you. And unless you’re a model or a visual performer, you probably don’t see this version very often. And it looks weird. And I can see why your gut reaction is negative, as it seems to look worse. But it’s not worse: it’s the you everyone else knows and loves. You’re just not used to seeing yourself that way.

Smartphones know this. Ever notice how your front-facing camera previews your selfie as a mirror-image, but saves it as a non-mirror-image? They don’t have to do that. They could save the mirror image, and you’d probably like that more. But other people would like it less – it doesn’t look so much like you – and the point of a selfie is to look good, right?

If someone else thinks you look good in a photo, you probably do. So maybe try to think of the photographer before instantly firing back how much you hate it. While it’s not nice to be told your work sucks, it’s also sad to think you’ve made someone’s day worse. Especially when you know they actually look good.

Candyman

I was feeling pretty run down. Had been for months – maybe a year – and I figured it was lack of sleep. This was new: I often sleep badly, but I’d never had problems with tiredness. But, you know, age. So I bought Night School, and worked through its recommendations. I put up blackout curtains. I cut out blue light. I timed my sleep to circadian rhythms.

It didn’t help. I got more sleep, sure, but still woke up with what I can only describe as a mushy head. The brain-feel that everything is further away than it should be. It was a dull weight at a particular point inside my skull, and it wouldn’t clear until lunchtime – if then. I started to wonder if I was massively run down. Or could I be stressed, but repressing it? Maybe I was ill.

It was none of these things. It was lack of sugar.

I wasn’t eating stupid amounts. A slice of cake after lunch. Shared office sweets in the afternoon – maybe a chocolate bar if someone was going to the shop. An M&S sponge pudding in the evening. I knew I had a sweet tooth – it’s a running joke at work – but it didn’t seem excessive.

Then one day I found myself feeling better earlier than usual. I eventually clocked that I’d had a couple of biscuits before lunch. A vague hypothesis started to form, and solidified over the next week as I tried having sugar at different times. Assuming I wasn’t placebo-ing myself, there was a clear pattern: if I didn’t have any sugar, the mushyhead was still there in the evening. If I had cake, things were a lot better.

Well. Didn’t like that. I’m not good with needing things. What if that thing goes away? Or what if I become properly addicted? It’s one of the reasons I don’t drink: alcohol is scary subtle, and I know where I’m vulnerable. But. What if the sugar was the only thing defeating the mushyhead? What was causing what?

In the end, my dislike of addiction won out. I went cold turkey, and had a shitty week. The mushyhead became permanent, and worse. This actually made me more determined – if things were that bad, I was doing the right thing. Even if it only helped a little in the end, I’d be better off.

Then a week later I woke up and everything was smooth. There was no mush. No weight. It was like I’d had an incredibly refreshing sleep. It lasted the morning, the day, the week. It’s lasted.

This honestly came as a shock. I hadn’t expected the mushyhead to go completely. I thought sugar was exacerbating another problem – I didn’t think it was the entire problem.

Sorry to sound like an advert, but I really can’t express how much better my life has been in the last couple of months. I can’t think of anything I’ve done that’s had such a big impact on my day-to-day life. I feel and think better. The mornings are pleasant. I’m probably nicer to be around. I’m definitely happier. Basically: wow.

Just to be clear: I am not joining the anti-sugar brigade, fashionable as that is. I don’t claim to speak for anyone other than myself. I can’t imagine this is a widespread problem – my reaction is probably abnormal. And I haven’t given up sugar altogether. My rule is: at weekends, after tea. That’s worked fine. (Plus, I’m not even 100% certain sugar’s the problem. It could be chocolate. I’m just not inclined to run the tests on myself to find out).

But, if you suspect you’re in a similar position, I really would recommend severely cutting back on the sugar and seeing what happens. Worked for me.

2013, then

Ok so this came round fast. Has anyone looked into whether time is still working right? I have suspicions. But highlights of the year:

  • Danced a lot, with much training for a showdance in April then an amazing Pro-Am competition in Paris in December. I also found a few more local events to go to, with open-air dancing in Regent’s Park being a particular highlight. And I got to see the best dancers in the world compete at the Albert Hall.
  • I had a big year at work, given that I essentially took all their systems apart and started from scratch. It was pretty stressful, and it’s taken a long time to get stable again, but I’m happy with it.
  • Moved boat, which involved sailing the new one through the centre of London on a very hot, very busy July afternoon. Biggest achievement here: not getting creamed by a Clipper. Those things move fast. New boat is lovely, has actual central heating, has space for all my books, and feels like a proper home.
  • Dressed up for Dapper Day at Disneyland Paris. It was cold. It was wet. It was great.
  • Ate 10 Creme Eggs in 10mins in a competition for charity. This was exactly the same as my competitor, but I then won the ensuing egg-off by a fraction of a second. Was worryingly unscathed afterwards.
  • Turned 30, and the world didn’t end. Not sure about 31, though.

My resolutions last year were:

  • Reply to people faster. Lulz. No. I am so bad at this.
  • See more films, and go to the theatre sometimes. I was pretty good at the former – I tried to make myself do this when I knew otherwise I’d just be moping at home, and I saw most of the big summer films. And I saw Burn the Floor and Midnight Tango, which were both great dance shows.
  • Try to relax more. Ha. Well, after a fashion. Work was completely deranged for the first half of the year, and if I wasn’t actually at the office I was still worrying about it. But dancing kept me sane – it’s almost impossible to think about other things when at the studio, and I enjoy it more than anything else.

There’s nothing much on the horizon for this year bar a wedding or two, so I’m free, free! Resolutions:

  • Dance more, dance better. Practice practice practice.
  • Less work, more holidays. My first proper break wasn’t until December, which was a bit silly. I did fit in a weekend in Bath, though, and that was great, so I want to try more short trips like that.
  • Do more stuff. 2013 was too low on stuff – I need to seek out more things happening in London, and just go on my own.
  • Budget. I keep getting this wrong, so am going to try out You Need A Budget.

Here’s to a bouncy and shiny 2014.

10 years old

My little blog is 10 years old today. Blimey.

That’s a total of 728,396 words, over 3,502 posts. Plus 6,828 comments, and over 35k words sitting in unpublished drafts.

‘Wonga’ wasn’t really a popular word when this site started. Now it has connotations, and I sometimes worry new people must think it’s all about me spending money, or something. I even got a confused email about this once. In reality it was just a funny sounding word, and I liked it.

This site’s seen me leave home, start and shutter my own business, get into my long-term interests of Humanism and dancing, study for a part-time degree, have a few spectacular crushes and one terrible break-up, first-draft two novels, get seriously into photography to the extent that I was photographing weddings and holding my own photography exhibitions, move to London, transition from angry-atheist to what I’d previously have called an accommodationist, and start work at the BHA. Quite a bit.

I look back on the early posts with some pride, and the occasional cringe. I was probably too open. Definitely too emotional. I’m certainly never going to be able to run for public office. Not that I intend to, but, you know. The passive aggressive martyr posts of my early twenties are a particular highlight. As are the many opinions that obviously came straight from other people. And the angry-atheist stuff just isn’t me any more.

But there’s plenty I’m proud of, too. My post on an attempted phone scam got me onto BBC Breakfast, and hopefully helped some people. The Derren Brown post became a chatroom in a ‘little corner of the web’, with hundreds of comments. And I’ve made really good friends; the old Bloggers4Labour group was the first time I’d really socialised in the real-world with new people, and I doubt they realise quite how much of a difference this made to my life (thanks particularly to Mr Skuds for encouraging me). And I had a lot of discussions about religion, and free speech, and morality. I had fun.

But by far the most searches to the site still come from ‘strictly come dancing tickets’, due mainly to a seriously effusive post about my trip to see Strictly in 2006 (the second sentence of which is definitely going to come back to haunt me).

Obviously I don’t write as much as I used to. For a few years it was multiple posts per day (self-employment rocks), but then Twitter quickly became the medium of choice for quick thoughts, and at a certain point I stopped finding my own long-form opinions that original or useful. But I still like writing up interesting things I’ve done, both as a diary and for friends and family. And I still love writing. When I can’t dance, and all the humanist goals have been achieved, I’ll use one of my lifetimes to finish those novels.

Thank you to everyone who has read, or commented. I like to think I still pop up in a few people’s feedreaders. It’s very nice of you.

Dapper Day 2013

Me at Dapper DayI first heard about Dapper Day via Boing Boing, who described it as:

a day when masses of well-dressed, nattily turned out happy mutants converge on Disney parks to enjoy a day in fine style.

Obviously this attracted my attention. I was in Disneyland Paris last year, and enjoyed it a lot. And I am, you know, occasionally a fan of dressing up. Therefore: win. But, as ever, the problem was finding companions.

I’m generally happy to do things by myself, since the alternative is not doing them at all. But I couldn’t go alone to this. Walking around the park all dressed up, I could cope with. But standing in long queues on my own all dressed up, not so much. So I launched a mission to find co-adventurers, aware this was a bit of a long shot. I’d had a summer of difficulty finding people to do free London stuff with, let alone a not-cheap trip to France. Yet – amazingly – somebody volunteered immediately, and stuck with it as quite a few others faded in and out. Hooray! I’m very grateful.

Five weeks later I was on the Eurostar, and full of bounce. A nearby 2-year-old nearby explained to me very seriously that she was travelling to Disney Zoo to see Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse and Donald Duck. Which, to be fair, is pretty unassailable logic. She wasn’t as excited as me, though. I’d spent a bunch of evenings trawling Oxford Street for dapperness, then going home and deciding this was insufficiently resplendent and I must do better. I’d worn stupid shoes to work for a while so that I could actually walk on the day itself. I’d bought a cummerbund just for the bow tie that came with it. SERIOUSLY. A CUMMERBUND. WHO BUYS CUMMERBUNDS. And I had my secret weapon: a gold pocket watch that I actually really like and am trying to think of a way to wear in general life without looking like a massive douche. I was ready.

And much fun it was. It was wet. Very wet. But we had a hat and a parasol, so who cares about wet. We got some properly excellent double-takes from adults and outright gawps from children, plus a family who asked to take our photos as we were ‘far too cute’ and ‘should never wear anything else ever’. There were also some ride operators who knew about the day, and when we walked past Captain Jack Sparrow he spotted my friend and very obviously looked her up and down. Although thinking about it that is probably his job. But still.

There was a dearth of dapper, though. We were briefly concerned it might just be us, until we spotted some finely attired visitors on Main Street and gave them an awkward wave. Then we got worried that they might be incidentally dapper, and we looked weird. There should be a hand signal or something. But upon heading to the planned rendezvous points we were indeed not alone. There were about 50 of us, and everyone else was French and didn’t speak much English, but nevertheless were able to say they thought I look like David Tennant so are very lovely people and friends for life. We took over one end of the paddle steamer, then had a mass ride on the carousel, which was of course excellent because everything is excellent on a carousel, posed for group photos in the castle, and generally walked around feeling quite happy. It was delightful. If wet.

I didn’t take many photos as there were a couple of official photographers, but their photos have yet to turn up. Grrr. Here’s an idea of how we all looked, stolen from Facebook:

1237211_629906017050061_1089626116_o

photo (3)

So, in summary, it was ace. Entirely worth it.

I do note that the US Dapper Days attract a lot more people, though. This year they filled the paddle steamer:

1264640_621402804567049_235312805_o

I am plotting a trip to LA.