However, I thought I'd say a few words about the house-warming party we held to celebrate Paul's arrival on Earth (thus completing the relocation that began a whole year ago when I first moved over to Oxford at the end of last summer).
Dan had once again written a murder mystery for us. With 13 major characters and a handful of additional minor characters, it was our most complex and challenging one yet. I decided to make a cold buffet, on the grounds that I wouldn't have a clue about the plot if I was cooking for 20 during the evening itself. Consequently, I started cooking on Thursday evening, worked solidly all through Saturday and Sunday, and finished the last bit of prep 20 minutes before the start of the party on Sunday evening. Honorable mention should be made at this point of Finbar, Liz and Simon, who turned up early and were a massive help in getting all the food finished on time. Simon earned millions of points by clearing a big stack of washing up. Sadly, these didn't count towards his score for the mystery game or he would have easily won the evening...
As usual, things were a little awkward as we settled in and started the party off. This time round, they were more awkward than normal since half a dozen of the guests were delayed at the hospital with Becky's friend Zara, who had suffered an asthma attack (but was later observed smoking a ciggy and deemed to be recovering!). Consequently, we had a longer than usual bit of hanging around and making small talk while Dan frantically shuffled characters to allow us to start when his mum and her partner arrived, Becky having elected to wait at the hospital.
Dan had tweaked the free-form format slightly since Murder in Space, so we started by introducing ourselves and revealing a couple of clues. There were a few additions to the format that I really liked this time, like the fact that some clues were in other languages which only a handful of characters could translate (although in my case, when I asked for clues to be translated I never got them back...). Things quickly became hectic, with everyone rushing around following up leads, forming alliances and trying to winkle information or plot items out of each other. One particular highlight for me was the very dramatic scene where the college librarian (Finbar) confronted one of the staff (Andy R) about his misappropriation of funds, bellowing "Tworings!" across a crowded room to get his attention. Fantastic! Sadly, the librarian paid for his bravery and deductive prowess with his life, becoming the murderer's second victim of the night. As a librarian fan, I found this deeply tragic.
At the end, it turned out that the person who I suspected (and made such a convincing case against that others suspected him too) was not the murderer, and we executed an innocent man. And I failed in my objective of making sure that I came top in Potions. Unsurprisingly, Liz got the most points, having achieved all but one of her objectives. The real murderer failed to get elected to the newly vacant post of Dean, which was all he wanted, so it was all a lovely lesson in the futility of life and how crime doesn't pay. Or something.
The important thing is, everyone was nice about the food. The 'magic' idea that I'd had for drinks didn't work out so well - I had this great plan to fill glasses with frozen fruit juice ice-cubes in a variety of colours, and then add clear spirits and mixers. My theory was that all the ice-cubes melted they would produce pretty swirls of colour. It didn't work out that way, at least partly because the only colours we managed were red and yellow and the resulting concoction came out an unpleasant fleshy pink after a surprisingly short time. On the plus side, we had plenty of drink and after the murder was over many guests stayed around chatting and hanging out. The party ended up lasting until around 2am.
Monday I felt incredibly ill. I'd drunk way, way too much booze on top of deliberately dehydrating myself whilst cooking (to minimize bathroom trips) and spent quite a lot of the morning throwing up. The folks who were still around made an expedition to the Victoria Arms, our adopted local (there are closer pubs but they aren't as nice), and ate lunch together. I managed to pick at some food, and by the time we got home I felt almost normal again. As we waved each group off, I felt grateful for the people we know and the fact that they continue to come through for us when we want to indulge in these crazy activities. Thanks so much to everyone who came down for the party, I had an amazing time and I think Earth is now very definitely Home.