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Last weekend, my primary human and I travelled down to Devon for a writing retreat at Stickwick Manor:

Stickwick 1

There was no hint of snow the day we arrived. By Sunday, however, it was deep enough for a bear den:

Stickwick 2

My human was happily writing away, looked up after a few hours and the whole world was white:

Stickwick 3

One of the other writers there asked me to pose with her book, and I was very happy to oblige. We all needed some strength to keep focus with such distracting weather!

Stickwick 4

The manor's playground wasn't really accessible for entertainment:

Stickwick 5

So we had to find other outlets for our creative energy when taking a break from writing:

Stickwick 6

Needless to say, it was rather chilly, so I attempted to warm up on the aga when we came back in:

Stickwick 7

When that didn't work, I tried snuggling up in the window seat:

Stickwick 8

Eventually, there was nothing for it but to retire to our lovely bed, up in the attic:

Stickwick 9

We had a wonderful, and very productive week. We met lots of lovely people, and enjoyed Charlie's wonderful hospitality. The snow disappeared just in time for us to have an easy journey home, but we're missing Stickwick already. We will definitely be going back later in the year, if we can.

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Midway through February, my humans and I joined 1700 other Sea Monkeys upon JoCo Cruise 2018, on the Ms Oosterdam, out of San Diego. None of us had been on a cruise before, so we weren't sure what to expect. The ship was luxurious:

1 Ship 1

And various changes had been made to make the geeky gamer passengers feel more at home:

2 Ship 2

There was a casino on board, but it was mostly deserted throughout the week...

3 Ship 3

...because most of the Sea Monkeys were in the gaming room instead! I liked the fact that signs were available for people to invite others to join their games.

4 Ship 4

We spent quite a bit of time on the Lido deck, as it was very pleasant to watch the ocean roll by, while enjoying a tipple and a snack from the 24hr taco bar.

5 Ship 5

Ten Forward, or The Crow's Nest, was also a nice place to linger, with comfy chairs and an awesome view:

6 Ship 6

If we ever lost track of what day it was, all we needed to do was step inside a lift, where the rugs would help us orient ourselves:

7 Ship 7

On the Wednesday, we ventured off the ship for a boat ride, which took in the local haunt of some seals:

8 Loreto 1

The island we were deposited on was beautiful, though my secondary human reported that snorkelling was quite chilly.

9 Loreto 2

That afternoon, we ventured into the town of Loreto, for a delicious food festival, and an awesome concert by Jonathan Coulton and several of the other performers from the cruise.

10 Loreto 3

Most of the time, though, we stayed on the ship, where there were lots of activities to enjoy. There were shows, panels, q&a sessions, meet ups, workshops, and a crafting session where we made a very fetching fascinator:

11 Crafts

Friday was Formal Night, so the humans put on their glad rags and went for an extended promenade around the whole ship:

Formal Night-JoCo Cruise 2018

There were many interesting creatures to meet on the ship, including this rather unexpected elephant, who lurked under the stairs on Deck 1. Nobody else we asked about it had come across him...

12 Elephant

But most friendly were the towel animals who came to visit us in our cabin every evening. This fine fellow stayed all week, making sure we had everything we needed:

13 Animal 1

Every subsequent day saw a different visitor:

14 Animal 2

Day three:

15 Animal 3

My friend, Mikei, also accompanied us, as part of my primary human's pirate costume, and he was very popular amongst the other Sea Monkeys, as he fit the theme so well:

16 Animal 4

Day five:

17 Animal 5

Day six:

18 Animal 6

On our last day at sea, the main bar on Deck 2 sprouted many, many monkeys:

20 Animal 8

And this fine fellow was waiting in our room in the evening to check we got our suitcases packed and ready to go by midnight:

19 Animal 7

Overall, we had a great time, and would definitely consider going again. We made a few friends, some of whom we hope to see at our gaming event later in the year.

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For the first weekend of February, my primary human and I travelled to Thorpeness for another glorious reading retreat:

Thorpeness 1

We received another lovely goody bag, this time with socks and tea - and had our pile of books all ready:

Thorpeness 2

The cottage had a spacious living room, where most of the reading was done:

Thorpeness 3

The Reading Retreat Totoros were on hand to provide quality control on all the amazing food we ate over the weekend:

Thorpeness 4

We also got out and about on a walk down the beach to a giant metal clam shell:

Thorpeness 5

It was an impressive structure close up:

Thorpeness 6

On the second day, we walked inland round the village and took a look at the House in the Clouds:

Thorpeness 7

Opposite was a rather strange windmill:

Thorpeness 8

Mostly, though, the focus was on reading, and here is a rare picture of my human in her preferred habitat - note the tea and snacks within easy reach, and the fluffly slippers for maximum comfort:

Thorpeness 9

The whole weekend was marvellous, and we're very much looking forward to the next one in June!

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The humans and I spent a convivial few days in Cheltenham over New Year.

There were lots of new friends to meet:

1 Totoros

Presiding over the whole thing was King Boris, who was a very welcoming host:

2 King Boris

This little fellow wasn't in a very good mood:

3 Grumpy Kitty

But I soon won him round, and we became friends too (this had nothing to do with the alcohol behind us, honest!):

4 Happy Kitty

There were also games aplenty, most of which we hadn't played before. We enjoyed Sailing to India:

5 India

We were a bit baffled by Mottainai, but still had fun playing it:

6 Mottainai

It was great to see our friends, both old and new, and a good time was had by all!

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Last weekend, my primary human and I travelled to Devon to take part in a writing retreat. There were only two writers involved, plus the wonderful hostess, Charlie, so it was quite exclusive.

Here was where all the magic happened, fuelled by constant refilling of the teapot!


In between writing sessions, my human worked on the mammoth knitting project she's been doing all year - getting close to the end now, so it was great to have some time to dedicate to it in comfy surroundings.


The bed was gloriously comfy, with a really thick, snuggly duvet, and we got lots of sleep.


The other writer was just across the landing, but she and my human spent most of the time ensconced in their rooms, working away. Mealtimes were very sociable, though, with plenty of opportunity to discuss progress and exchange encouragement.


It was lovely to take a break in the evenings and curl up by the fire with a book.


The house was very isolated, which had a very good focusing effect, and made it feel like we were in our own little world, away from the bustle of London.


All in all, it was an excellent location to make some real progress on a new writing project, and we'll hopefully be able to go back for another weekend next year!

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On Friday, my primary human and I travelled to Suffolk to enjoy a Reading Retreat (http://www.readingretreat.co.uk/), which turned out to be truly marvellous. It took place in a lovely cottage:

Retreat 1

We were shown to a very comfortable room, which was nicely decorated and had lots of character:

Retreat 2

My human had brought some of her own books, and also had some recommended to her by one of the organisers:

Retreat 3

We were also given a goody bag full of all sorts of wonderful things:

Retreat 4

Cressi and Sara, the organisers, had thought of everything:

Retreat 5

And I really do mean everything!

Retreat 6

The kitchen was the site of many an interesting conversation, and lots of amazing cooking:

Retreat 8

We got delicious three course meals every night, each with their own beautifully printed menu. And there was an impressive range of yummy snacks available at any time:

Retreat 7

Each evening, everyone gathered in the dining room to enjoy the wonderful food:

Retreat 9 But, of course, what we were really there for was the reading time. And what better way to enjoy a book, than sitting in a comfy armchair, with a large cup of tea and some brilliantly presented snacks:

Retreat 10

We were both very sad to leave, but are definitely looking forward to attending another of these weekends in February!

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Today, I gained valuable insight into my primary human's life as a writer in London. She graciously allowed me to accompany her to Good & Proper in Clerkenwell, where she was due to meet a friend for a writing date:

Writing Date 1

First, and most important, was breakfast! Writers need lots of sustenance to fuel their creativity. We started with Honey Orchid Oolong tea and some tasty snacks:

Writing Date 2

Then came the choice of which notebook to use. So many pretty notebooks...

Writing Date 3

Apparently, they all have a different and very specific purpose. It's not just that my human is obsessed with buying stationery, no sirree!

But once the notebook was selected, the next decision was which colour pen to use:

Writing Date 4

How writers get any work done at all when they are constantly faced with such difficult dilemmas, is beyond me.

Luckily, Writing Magazine was on hand to provide inspiration, guidance and news of submission opportunities:

Writing Date 5

It wasn't just an excuse to take a break and do some light reading, at all!

Then it was back to the grindstone. Ack! The existential horror of the blank page...

Writing Date 6

Definitely time for more tea - Dragonwell this time!

Writing Date 7

Lest this gives the impression that my human spends all her writing time drinking tea and messing about with different coloured pens, let me assure you that a very great deal of creative work was accomplished, which I am sure will lead to amazing things.

The tea was delicious, though...

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At the weekend, my primary human and I took a visit to see her parents and, while we were there, we played a round of adventure golf. I was on hand to help with the flags:

Golf 1

The course had a safari theme, though it didn't look like this zebra jeep was going to get very far:

Golf 2

This fellow had the right idea, though he probably should have been paying more attention:

Golf 3

To begin with, all seemed serene and pleasant (though my human and I both nearly ended up in the lake after disturbing the turtles):

Golf 4

Some of the animals were a bit excitable:

Golf 5

I saw the sign, but I was rather more worried about him damaging me!

Golf 6

And his friend further round the course was even more formidable:

Golf 7

Luckily, some of the residents were safely confined:

Golf 8

But I decided not to push my luck, and found somewhere safe to take a break:

Golf 9

At one point, some hard manual labour was required to get us across the river:

Golf 10

The golf itself proved a bit challenging in places, and I had to help my human retrieve her ball more than once:

Golf 11

But she was victorious in the end, achieving what was apparently a record score within the family!

Golf 12

We all had lots of fun, and it's the taking part that counts, right?

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Most of the humans on our group holiday last week took the opportunity to explore the surrounding countryside one afternoon. The closest village was Little Cressingham:

2nd Clermont 1

We also found a rather beautiful ruined church:

2nd Clermont 2

It proved a pleasant spot to take a break from walking:

2nd Clermont 3

And we managed to stumble into some quite dramatic lighting:

2nd Clermont 4

We also found reference to the property we were staying in:

2nd Clermont 6

Then it was back to the house for a much needed rest, though some of the chairs were more comfortable than others:

2nd Clermont 7

There were G&Ts all round before dinner:

2nd Clermont 8

And there were plenty of games to choose from to round off the evening:

2nd Clermont 9 It's always good to go for an outing when on holiday, and this walk was very successful!

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The humans and I have just returned from our annual group gaming holiday. This year's venue was Clermont Hall in Norfolk:

Clermont 1a

It was an impressive building - though we did encounter multiple problems due to lack of maintenance, which was a real shame because we all thought the place deserved better care. Still, there was much to admire:

Clermont 1b

Each room had a different style and feel - this one was particularly bright and airy, though the chairs weren't very comfortable:

Clermont 1c

This was my favourite room, where we held a salon event one evening, with the humans taking turns to perform (there was music, recitation, and a very interesting lecture):

Clermont 1d

There was a library, where much companionable discussion and private study went on:

Clermont 1e

This delightful room was right at the end of the house, and hosted both guitar practice and Scrabble:

Clermont 1f

The upstairs landing was spacious enough for a meeting area, though I don't think it was used at all during our stay, as we had so many other rooms to choose from:

Clermont 1h

The master suite was declared quite ridiculous, and my humans declined to use it, though another pair took up enthusiastic residence:

Clermont 1i

This much cosier bedroom was also rejected by my humans, though it was a close second choice:

Clermont 1j

Even the bathrooms were rather splendid (though there were quite a few leaks to contend with):

Clermont 1k

And here, at last, is the room my humans did select for their stay - quite beautiful:

Clermont 1l

As you can see, the environs were quite spectacular, which is why it was so sad that the property had been quite badly neglected. Luckily, the group adopted an equanimical attitude to the problems and still managed to have a lovely time.

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