Omg, for once it’s not a Shell post. Our XmasGoose writeup is courtesy of AryaStork, cross-posted (with WoW names added in) from her blog over at The Hippy Geek. Enjoy! – Shell

The first weekend after Christmas was set aside for internet geekery. I’ve been sitting on this post for a while as I wasn’t sure of the start – Or middle – Or end.

When we teach internet safety, one of the first things we drill home is that people online may not be who they say they are and meeting up is a bad idea. So what do we do? We book a massive cottage for a long weekend with 16 people who have pretty much only ever met online (aside from the couples – Those of us married to each other know each other quite well) – Oh and add to that offering a lift to the guy who lives up the road from us.

After driving 3.5 hours north (like really north where the signs point to Northern towns instead of just saying “The North”), we arrived at our cottage. The cottage was a strange conversion of many little cottages on the ground floor and an enormous first floor. The plan was to wrangle me upstairs then spend the next three days without leaving the house so I could scoot about happily in my wheelchair. We arrived having not been full of conversation as I was exhausted from work and more than a bit nervous. The long journey had been counteracted by installing me on the back seat surrounded by my full body cushion, covered in blankets, and wedged in by bags.

Can you find my legs?

I was left in the car whilst discussions took place about how to wrangle me upstairs. After a while in a dark car, I was met by progressively larger and hairier men who all greeted me by name. Sidenote: I’m reasonably sure that had this also included a winged set of Cumberbatch angels, this would be easily mistaken for having died and gone upwards.

I digress. Hello once more hairy menfolk – Oooh with vodka homebrew. Yep. I’m not intimidated, or in fear of my life. My WTF-are-you-doing metre has never been good. Shell was there – it’s all good.

Said hairy men assist with crutches and me onto them then laugh hysterically as I bum shuffle like a toddler up a set of unnecessarily steep wooden stairs until I’m sat on my arse on the floor greeting everyone else. Not wholly dignified, but hey, start as you mean to go on!

After some initial vodka based icebreaking (thank you DT) we discovered that midget prostitutes are a thing in Europe, fruit vodka is yummy, Colbey watches some very dodgy manga, and it is scientifically feasible to build a wall out of cultivated living human liver (but you’d need a gate). It turns out that when you stick a load of socially awkward nerds in one cottage and add alcohol, amazing things happen. They talk, for a start. This was an unhealthy concentration of programmers & IT professionals – usually there are normal people to balance out the weirdness, but not this time. Dan The Accountant (Darkgrunge) was no match and so just came over to the dark side.

Card games commenced. Starting with Exploding Kittens, and quickly descending into Cards Against Humanity.

Shell found the safest place was away from the smut and instructing from afar, much like her pixel driven clothwearer. I know she’ll hate me for including the photo, but she looks awesome in the Jedi slanket & this photo is nice. She looks happy. I like this.Gralius looks confused.

I never did thank him for helping me upstairs. Thank you Gralius 🙂

This is pretty much how the whole weekend went. Card games included, but not limited to : Exploding Kittens, Cards Against Humanity, Flux, Uno Accountant Edition, Munchkin!

It was also decreed that all must wear a onesie at some point over the weekend. Taq won hands down with his seal. I mean, how could he not win?!?

Eventually, the nerds needed more distraction than just paper based games and Roastie plugged in his PC (oh yes, he’d driven all this way with his gaming rig which someone had to sit in the back with). He’d also brought the Steam box so not only did we have instant PC games, but the ability to connect 8 XBox controllers. The second the OS flickered into life, it was like watching nerdy moths. Nonetheless, whilst most got stuck into a game of Gang Beasts, it gave some of us chance to catch up in person and fully connect people’s online names to their real ones. (Click image to embiggen)

Eventually, everyone gathered around the TV for the final few rounds of Gang Beasts before moving onto Mount Your Friends. If you haven’t discovered this true joy of a game, stop reading this and go buy it. It’s utterly childish, but so much fun.

The word of the weekend has to be “motherf**ker”, not only because we were all child free for a whole weekend, but because of the overheard conversation where it was asked if that was actually a swearword. We nearly fell off our chairs laughing.

Over the course of nearly 3 days we consumed a diet of nearly pure junk food in which my gluten free diet went out of the window, or I’m sad to say into my intestines (I also discovered chicken tikka masala pizza – try getting that in the home counties). There were cups of coffee in there somewhere and Roastie consumed more beer than I’ve seen him drink in a long time.

On which note! Roastie relaxed. With me installed and Shell quietly looking out for me (yes, I noticed and thank you xx), he stopped fretting and chilled. He regained the colour in his face, enjoyed being with other people, and we felt like a reasonably normal couple, aside from him relocating my shoulder for me after a particularly enthusiastic round of Uno. I won. Totally worth dislocating my shoulder for. As he put it back in, I winced as it tore a ligament slightly (the loud snap probably didn’t help) and I was compared to John Wayne. Ha! The only reason I don’t yelp that much is I know how bad it will be. You scream when the pain is an unknown quantity. It took a week for it to stop swelling – Uno is a dangerous sport.

When it was time to leave on Sunday, we eeked it out for as long as possible with me having that same twisty gut, don’t-want-to-say-goodbye moment that we had at EGX. It didn’t matter that we’d see them all online within a week once we’d all recovered from so much social contact, the magic spell over our tiny nerdy bubble was going to be broken and we’d have to stop laughing. Even packing up was funny, aside from Anteia falling down those damned stairs – I had said I wouldn’t catch him, but every single one of us shrieked like a girl and had visions of him re-breaking his poor shoulder. Aside from Mona, who true to form called him a penis.

I dislike that we live so far away from so many of them (although we made a promise to meet up more regularly with those closer – And for reference, meant it :p ). There was a point very very late one evening where we all got a bit of an insight into each other’s psyche and found out that we’re really not that different. Somehow, through all those millions of players, we found a group of kindred spirits there, none of whom were psychotic axe murderers, and all of whom gave me a whole weekend of feeling like a normal person instead of that person who’s ill.

Driving home, I hid under a blanket and watched downloaded episodes of Silent Witness whilst trying not to barf (gluten combined with slow transit & car sickness is grim). I will admid to a teeny bit of under blanket sniffling.

It’s not goodbye, its au revoir. And if you need me, just put your fingers on the keyboard and /whistle

<3<3<3<3

Shell’s note: Can I just also say thanks muchly to Colbey for the lift down, Dave for the lift up, Gralius for the Greggs pasty and use of your more private toilet, DT for the awesome drinks, Mona for all that cooking of pastries and washing up, Roastie for sorting out the epic takeaway order on Saturday night that tested the capacity of the local food industry, Taq for that pizza I stole (it was nommy), Anteia for not breaking anything, Steve for not being half as bad as they made you out to be, Crowy for not giving me grief about having to sleep in a twin room, Mr. Crowy for generally putting up with a group of loud strangers, Darkgrunge for giving us all laugh by turning up in formal attire, and especially Mitzy who accidentally took on the responsibilities of checking us in and out (and also shared his phone internet with a fellow wifi-less nerd). Arya, the “MongBear” is now in pride of place in our living room!

p.s. Faraku you owe us an origami swan!

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