Sad Times and Halloween

Last week was completely hectic. I’ve spent most of this week winding down after it, and sorting out things I didn’t manage to get done. My grandmother passed away on the 27th of October, and it just so happened that some of my relatives were coming over to visit for Halloween on the Wednesday of last week, so the funeral was delayed until Thursday the 31st. It was an odd feeling, a mixture of sadness and general shock, as everything happened so quickly. She seemed fine one moment, then was admitted to hospital on the Saturday night, and died the next morning. She had been diagnosed with Lewy body dementia (a type often associated with Parkinson’s disease) around 10 years ago, and depended on my grandfather as her primary carer until late July of this year. My grandparents were married for 57 years – almost a lifetime. I am not at all religious as you may know, but the funeral service was nice. The minister had spent a few days with granda and the family finding out as much as possible about granny to put together a life story for the service; all the cherished memories of her. She once cycled to Dublin for a dance! Can you imagine that now? You would want the best bike and equipment, and it still would be a daunting task. She rode an ordinary bike, in a dress, and managed to get there and back without any bother. She was also a great pianist, playing solely by ear without ever needing sheet music. Granny may have lost many other memories, but she never forgot how to play.

Regardless of the circumstances, it was nice to see the family again and to spend time with them. We even had a night of watching old home videos, and got to see granny in her prime once again. On the day of the funeral, we were all enlisted for a mass catering operation, making 5 or 6 loaves of bread into sandwiches, and industrial scale tea production. There were a lot of sandwiches, buns, traybakes, and cakes; some of which we are still making our way through now.  Their house had been packed with visitors the whole week, as granda seemed to know just about everyone in the countryside, and had done some joinery or carpentry for them. He even made my school’s trophy cabinet.  They were a busy few days, and seemed to fly by in a blur.


My sister had been organising a Dia de los Muertos night, inspired by the Mexican Day of the Dead, for the Monday of Halloween week. It was a good night, with Latin music playing, a Flamenco guitarist and dancers. I was completely out of ideas for Halloween costumes until she told me about the event. How could I combine Halloween, Dia de los Muertos, and video games? Grim Fandango! I had the perfect costume idea. I was going to be Manny Calavera, the protagonist of Grim Fandango, which I wrote about here. As far as adventure games go, it has to be my favourite, and up there with my all time favourite games. I set to work on getting hold of a white tuxedo, and making a mask. It just so happened that I had off cuts from the poster I presented a few weeks back, so I was able to roll them into a tube, and stencilled/drew the face on to the paper, and then cut out the eyes. Some reinforcing with cardboard was required, and later modifications to make the eyes completely black, but the end result was good. Easily my best Halloween costume ever, and the first one I’ve actually put effort in.

Calum and I, at the Dia de los Muertos event in White's Tavern
Calum and I, at the Dia de los Muertos event in White’s Tavern

The gloves weren’t right though. I wanted to get better looking ones than the plain black gloves with bones stuck on top, but the ones I ended up with were unworkable. Somehow I managed to hold a margarita, but that was the height of it. And the eyes made it difficult to see, and the lack of mouth meant that no-one could understand what I was saying. All in all it was a horribly impractical costume, but looked pretty awesome, if I do say so myself. It also got an outing in Lavery’s on that Tuesday night, but the jacket now needs dry cleaned. Badly.

The Ghost Bus and “Thorsday”

Ah, the very spooky Ghost Bus Tour! I won two tickets in the raffle on Dia de los Muertos night for a Ghost Bus tour of Belfast, with a value of £15 each. If I had paid £15, I would expect a pretty damn good ghost tour, and to be terrified. Sarah and I were all geared up for a bus ride that promised to be at least amusing, if not terrifying. It was certainly terrifying, but not for the intended reasons. The terrors took the form of a community group of what appeared to be disadvantaged youths aged 10-16. Now, not all young people are unpleasant. Many are perfectly amicable and do a lot with their lives. This was not the case here. We spent an hour and a half crammed into the top deck of a bus, having the integrity of our ear drums tested by many, many screaming children/adolescents/youths, cursing and generally abusing the tour guide, who was trying his best to quell the beast but coming up short. There was a lot of potential, and the idea of driving round Belfast in darkness unable to tell where you were going while being told spooky stories was a nice one, but when the background screaming was as loud as a jet engine that simple idea becomes difficult to execute. I did get to wrench one of the character’s head back into place, and Sarah almost got to perform an autopsy with a modified paint roller-cum-meat hook, so all was not lost. The guide was very apologetic, explained about the mix-up that the group ended on the bus, and offered us a tour later that night, but we had a movie to get to. Thor: The Dark World!

Loki's Daddy Issues
Loki’s Daddy Issues

I had organised a cinema trip to go and see Thor: The Dark World for the QUB Sci-Fi and Fantasy society, expecting 10, maybe 20 people to be interested. 10 is a nice number, not too many to go missing. 20 is a bit more challenging, but nothing I can’t handle. 51 people was definitely a push. Particularly when they decide to drop out after I have booked tickets for ridiculous reasons, one of which included not wanting to walk to the cinema alone. On a Friday evening in a safe part of Belfast. Needless to say, there will have to be some adjustments to the cinema trip policy before the next outing. It all worked out well in the end, and I can contact the manager to organise future trips more easily. And this was all I was thinking of, almost forgetting about the Norse god himself. Thor: TDW is a good film. I much preferred it to the first film, which was decent, but not terribly exciting; just a middle of the road super predictable comic book hero movie. I know origin stories all follow the same formula, but I’m sure they can bend the rules slightly, and make it a tad more interesting. I fear I am also Loki-d out, as he does pretty much the same thing in every film, yet Thor keeps trusting him, and no-one seems to see the problem in this. He’s a good guy right? He only tried to destroy absolutely everything a few times, right? Otherwise Sci-Fi and Fantasy is going well, aside from our last minute zero-notice room evictions which make getting people to the right room tricky. Apparently they are just double booking the room now without telling us, which is totally great…

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