Sunday update 23/09

It’s still Sunday so this is not late.

This week I have mainly been consuming media. Which makes it about the same as every other week, come to think of it. I finished listening to the audiobook of High Rise by JG Ballard which will definitely be getting a blog post. I finally got round to watching the first Kingsman movie, which might also be getting a blog post. I have been playing a lot of Destiny 2 which will, again, be getting its own blog post.

I also got out of the house. I went all the way to Edinburgh for a milkshake. Which might seem an odd choice given that I’m lactose intolerant but in my defense it had rum in it and I was consuming it in the presence of a friend. That friend gave me a birthday gift, a copy of Art Matters by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell. And a reminder that at least three people care if I finish my current novel.

Yes it was my birthday this week. I am a year older and supposedly a year wiser. Not that I’ve ever claimed to be wise. I’d settle for being slightly less foolish but I am doubtful that it applies.

My mother continues to recover from her injuries. Regular readers will remember that my mother fell over her front steps and broke both arms. She broke her left forearm and wrist and her right shoulder. She already had an operation to pin her left arm back together. She’s recovering well from the first surgery.

The doctors took much longer to decide what to do about the other arm because she’d broken the top of the humerus bone, she has osteoporosis and they thought she might need a shoulder replacement. She had the shoulder replacement op this week and the break turned out to be worse than they thought. The top of the bone was shattered and she needed a different kind of replacement than they’d been expecting. She is recovering well from this new operation but it’s going to be a while before she’s back to full health and she’s going to need additional support.

It’s frustrating that there’s very little I can do to help. She can’t move back into her own home until her shoulder has healed. She can’t stay with me because my house is no more suitable than her own. It’s the same problem with the rest of the family but at least they can help to adapt her house or clear it for sale so she can move somewhere more suitable. I’m just stuck here too far away to help and too broke and disabled to travel there regularly. All I can do is maybe crochet her some ponchos and that doesn’t seem like enough.

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Sunday Update 16/09

I’m updating on the right day. Go me.

I’m back home from my trip to the frozen north to see my mother in hospital. She’s doing remarkably well for a woman her age with osteoporosis but they still haven’t operated on her broken shoulder. My youngest brother, who is coordinating the family response, is having trouble finding out what the doctors actually plan to do about it and when they plan to do it.

We’re also all still having trouble getting my mother to answer her damn phone. The mobile phone industry needs to get to work and develop the perfect phone for her. It would have flashing lights like a police car and an alert with the volume of an air raid siren so she knows when someone is calling. Also handcuffs so she can’t lose it.

I’m back home but I’m discovering that I used up a reservoir of spoons I didn’t know existed on my trip. As a result I feel like I’ve mined out new veins of exhaustion. I’ve also spent a week without wearing my medical grade compression leggings. I can’t walk anywhere without feeling like I’ve been stabbed in the calves and my left knee is being a total bitch. It is just not a team player. Still, it’s better than a couple of broken arms.

I haven’t done any more spinning so I can only assume that I continue to be crap at it. I have done some Tunisian* crochet and I’ve discovered that I’m really out of practice with it. I feel like I might be ready to really get into Tunisian because I’m starting to see the possibilities.

I haven’t done much writing but I am listening to a new audio book and that’s writing adjacent. It’s High Rise by JG Ballard, read by Tom Hiddleston. I might write more about it later because I have thoughts but it’s probably a good idea to finish it first.

I did finally get back to looking at my completed novel again, the one I tried queering but then gave up on because I started to suspect that either I’d fucked up the opening or it just wasn’t the right time. There might be a couple of things I can do to it to make it better. I still don’t hold out a lot of hope but it’s something to do while I wait for the inevitable stupid apocalypse.

*Tunisian crochet is halfway between knitting (two long needles holding a lot of loops at once and working the whole row of stitches) and crochet (one short hook working a single stitch at a time). It’s one long hook and that picks up a whole row of loops and then works each stitch individually. The finished fabric is similar to knitting and has a clear front and back but is thicker, like crochet.

A delayed update

Two weeks I managed, two weeks before I missed one. Pathetic.

This update is late because my Mother fell down last week and broke both arms. We don’t do things by halves in my family. We either survive unscathed or we need to be literally pinned back together. She’s going to be fine but I’ve had to travel back up north to do my bit to help out. She’s doing remarkably well for a woman in her seventies with multiple breaks but it’s still going to be a long road to full recovery.

It’s funny. I’ve done loads of stuff in the last week but I really can’t bring any of it to mind. It’s hard to think about anything else. I keep coming back to the thought that she’s so lucky to live in the era of modern medicine and so am I. It’s possible that she will make a full recovery and go on for years as a cyborg grandmother. Just 20 years ago we wouldn’t have been contemplating a full recovery. 50 years ago she’d have been lucky to survive. 100 years ago she would have had no chance. And if she’d fallen just slightly differently my brothers and I would be arranging a funeral rather than researching shoulder replacement surgery and trying to sort out a handrail for her front steps.

We’re also lucky that we live in a country with socialised healthcare. My mother will not have to pay a penny for her hospital stay no matter how long it is. The aim of her care will be to get her back home in the best of health so she can get back to being a grandmother. No one in the hospital will be looking for excuses to charge for anything.

Stay safe and healthy out there/

All hail the Internet.

There’s a lot of horrible stuff happening on the internet. It enables a lot of terrible behaviour. In the developed world most of us have come to rely on it as a distraction in ways that can’t possibly be good for us. The Internet also connects us to each other. We don’t always use those connections sensibly but they can be very powerful. So let me tell you a story about connections.

The other day a friend of mine posted a link to a music video on Facebook. He’d found the band online and been so taken with their name, The Church of the Cosmic Skull, that he’d checked out their music on youtube. He said that their music wasn’t really his thing apart from one song that had really got under his skin. I was intrigued (and it is a really cool band name) so I watched the video.

This video.

It has a gloriously understated note of all pervading doom. It’s like the soundtrack to the Scarfolk website.

Afterward I turned to my spouse (who I met via the Internet on the message board of the Fortean Times magazine back when meeting via the Internet was still weird) and I suggested that we listen to more of The Church of the Cosmic Skull. As we listened to the music I gave myself a gel manicure, using materials ordered on the internet and shipped all the way from China, and skills that I learned watching youtube tutorials.

We loved both their albums instantly and as my spouse was posting a link to the video for Black Slug to a Tumblr blog I returned to Facebook to thank my friend for his link.

Seriously though you should check this one out. It sounds like a lost Hawkwind track from back when Lemmy was still playing the base and the video looks like it they sneaked onto the set of ‘The Devil Rides Out’ and shot it when everyone else was asleep.

He replied “This is why the Internet is more often than not, the best thing ever,” and reminded me that if it weren’t for the Internet we would never have followed each other on Twitter and never have become real life friends. If there was no internet then there would be no NaNoWriMo and no Aberdeen NaNoWriMo group having meetings. I wouldn’t have been able to persuade him to come out to one and he would never have met the woman who is now the love of his life.

The internet allowed me to meet my spouse and most of my friends. The internet lets me stay in touch with friends I would long ago have drifted away from.The internet keeps me connected to my family. The internet lets me do detailed research for my novels. I don’t even have to stop writing to do the research. I can do a google search then read all the relevant stuff while I’m taking a five minute break to drink my coffee. The internet allows me to learn new skills.

Without the internet I might not be a writer and you certainly wouldn’t be reading this. So thanks to Tim Berners Lee (inventor of the World Wide Web) and all hail the conquering internet.

Sunday Update 02/09

Here we are again. My second Sunday update. I know, I’m surprised too.

I continue to work on the sexy spy novel (Project Kindness). This week has been tough. I’ve spent most of it trying to fix one scene at the start of part Five that just gets worse the more time I spend looking at it. I can’t tell if the scene sucks or if I’ve just been looking at it too long.

I’ve also been working on my next project, Project Academy, by creating some of the cast of characters and talking to people who know more about education than me. I am almost certain that it’s a terrible idea for a book but that’s not going to stop me. Writing prep usually involves a lot of seesawing back and forth between the fear that the idea is terrible and the fear that the idea is great but I’m not good enough to do it justice.

This week I dragged my other half out to see The Meg in the cinema. I liked it. My other half not so much. If I can write a review then I’ll have two posts this week. We also sat down and watched The Equalizer in preparation for watching the sequel in the cinema. I’ve already written one post about The Equalizer so all I’ll say here is that it’s good, it’s on Amazon Prime, and if you liked John Wick and you also enjoy action films when they’re slightly slower paced and more thoughtful you’ll enjoy it.

My attempt to learn to spin has continued. I am still terrible at it but I have now produced a very small amount of something that’s not entirely unlike yarn. I will continue in this endeavour.

In my continuing, life-long quest to be organised like a proper grown up I have a fancy new planner. It’s got an app to go with it. I’m supposed to set aside time to feel grateful for stuff and start the day by deciding when I’m going to do stuff. I did a personality test to get these personalised suggestions and it’s like they don’t even know me. Nevertheless I am attempting to use it.

No further news from my Mother on her tick problem. Nothing further on the stockpiling for Brexit. Good luck, take care of each other and I’ll see you next Sunday if I don’t see you before.

Sunday Update 26/08

I’ve decided that I need to get back into regular blogging. I’m starting with a weekly update on the… um, usual stuff that I update on. Lets see how many weeks I can keep it up for.

It’s official that I won’t be pitching at Bloody Scotland this year. I got the rejection email this week. As I previously said I’m not too upset about it because the novel I was going to pitch was one I felt in two minds about actually finishing.

I am back working on the sexy spy novel that I’ve nicknamed Project Kindness. Coming back to it after a break has been a weird experience. I have enough distance now that it no longer feels like something I wrote and that means it feels like I’m editing someone else’s work. However I’m still too close to it to be sure which bits of it, if any, are actually good.

Much of the rewriting and editing on Project Kindness is of the deeply finicky and technical type. I’m constantly wondering which order to put the scenes, when to switch point of view characters or jump from a-plot to b-plot and exactly where to cut each scene for the maximum impact when we come back to those characters.

I’m also still looking forward to NaNoWriMo this year. As previously stated I’m hoping to work on a YA (Young Adult) novel so that I can finally have a novel I can show to my kids. My previous attempts to write YA have been failures due to my stories running away from me. Or in one case to two characters in their 40s deciding that this was the book they were going to consummate a 7 year long flirtation in.

In non-writing related news I’ve decided to try spinning. I already crochet and I’ve been known to knit but this is my first attempt at spinning. I ordered a drop spindle kit that came with some carded fleece ready to spin and today was my first try.

OH MY GOD I suck at spinning. I really suck at it. It’s been a long time since I tried a new craft and discovered that I had zero aptitude for it. It’s kind of embarrassing to be this bad at the foundational fiber art. That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop trying though. Stay tuned for future updates and possibly photographs of my cack handed attempts at producing yarn.

This week I also had not one, but two phone calls from my mother that had me running to Google. It happens occasionally that she phones me talking such utter tripe that I’m convinced that she’s flipped. Sometimes she just has a bee in her bonnet as a result of uncritical newspaper reading. Other times a quick google will reveal that she’s right-ish she’s just doing her usual thing of communicating the facts in entirely the wrong order or using language usually associated with people who need a lot of medication to cope with reality.

Once I’d done my googling and decoded what she was saying it became clear that the area she lives is suffering an infestation of “corn ticks” (so called because the engorged ticks look like corn kernels) and that she’s allergic to the ticks and they’re causing lung inflammation. All that explains why last week she phoned me up to cough at me so badly that I was worried I’d have to call her an ambulance.

No further news on my ongoing attempts to stockpile enough food to survive Brexit. See you next week if I don’t see you before.

The pain difference.

I’ve been thinking this week about pain. For most people pain is an alarm signal from their body. It exists to bring attention to something gone wrong or as a warning to not do that thing again.

For those of us with chronic pain conditions that signal can be a constant background noise. When an alarm sounds constantly it becomes stripped of its meaning. It doesn’t stop being irritating but it does get downgraded from a stab of panic, and the accompanying burst of adrenaline, to a dull, grating, near-constant anxiety.

For the most part it’s not pain that stops me from doing things. Almost everything I do is painful. Some days are more painful than others and some kinds of pain are more tiring or distressing than others but that’s not the problem. It’s the mental strain of dealing with the pain that holds me back.

And for most people with a chronic pain condition there’s also the lying. Or perhaps I should call it acting or maybe pretending. There’s usually no point in telling people how much pain we’re in. They can’t do much to relive it and most of them don’t really care. It’s impossible to prove that we’re in that much pain so it’s easier for them to believe that we’re exaggerating.

There’s an underlying assumption that comes with civilisation that all problems are soluble. That’s why so many people want to believe that ‘Big Pharma’ is covering up a cure for cancer and that most unemployed people could find work if they just had the gumption. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of believing that we are the masters of our fate. People like me are proof that bad stuff can happen at any time and for no reason.

Most of us cover our pain up. We don’t talk about it. We minimise it, downplay it and lie about it if we have to. Sometimes we do that when people could help. Sometimes the pain is less painful than watching someone else feel bad about the pain. And there’s always the fear that if you’re honest about the pain that you’ll drive people away. Either because they don’t want you to be dependant on them or because they can’t bear to watch you suffer.

Well I think I’ve depressed everyone enough for one day. You may now go back to whatever you were doing before I distracted you. But if you feel like buying me a coffee to cheer me up you can visit the Ko-Fi website to do it.

The other kind of plan

In my previous post I talked about my writing plans. This is a post about my real life plans.

I don’t do a lot of planning. I’m very bad at it and my experience of life has led me to conclude that it’s mostly pointless and will only make me miserable. It doesn’t matter what I want, what I plan, or what I work for because I’m not going to get it no matter what I do. It hurts less to just accept whatever hellish hand life is going to deal you and work from there.

And since we’re on the subject of hellish hands it’s time to talk about Brexit. Britain is getting closer to crashing out of the EU with no deal. I know that some people say that wiser heads will prevail and it won’t happen or that it will somehow all be fine. I don’t believe in either of those.

I believe in preparing for the worst. Scotland will be dragged out of the EU along with the rest of the UK. There will be no deal. International trade will slow to a crawl. There will be food shortages. There will probably be some sort of rationing but the people organising that rationing are going to be the people who got us into this mess so I don’t expect it to be competent or organised. At the very least I expect shop shelves to look pretty bare for a couple of months.

I can’t afford to wait until the new year to start my food stockpile. As we get closer to the deadline the prices of canned and dried foods are going to rise. I need to start putting aside food now. I need to work out which foods my other half is prepared to eat, what we can afford and where we’re going to keep it all.

I’ve chosen to begin with noodles. Dried noodles keep for ages and can easily be combined with stock and frozen, canned or dried ingredients to make something filling and tasty. Noodles can also work well with pickled foods and home pickling is something I also plan to look into.

I’m open to suggestions so if anyone has any ideas for recipies feel free to share them in the comments.

Time to make a plan

For the last few weeks I’ve been drifting. I was stuck between writing projects. I couldn’t work out what I wanted to focus on and I felt lost. It’s time to pick a direction and start walking.

I haven’t heard anything from Bloody Scotland so I’m going to assume that they don’t want the story I pitched for Pitch Perfect. Frankly that’s a relief because I didn’t feel ready to finish it. For now Project Cecil can stay on the shelf.

I’ve decided that this year’s NaNoWriMo first draft will be of a story I’m calling Project Academy. It’s another attempt to write some YA (young adult) fiction so I’ll have something that I can share with my kids. I’ve already done most of the pre-November work on this story.

That means that I have until the start of November to work on something else. So I’m going back to Project Kindness, my tale of sexy spies and Celtic gods. I’m sure my beta readers will be delighted*.

I’m aware that for most of my readers this doesn’t really count as a plan. None of this is moving my ‘career’ along. It’s not going to solve any of my real life problems. I admit that I have no idea how to have a ‘career’ and that most of my real life problems are insoluble. I do have the beginnings of a plan for a small part of my real life problems but that is a post for another day.

 

*That was probably sarcasm.

I’m not dead I just don’t have anything to say

I’ve been so quiet recently because I don’t feel like I have much to say. This is unusual for me but then these are unusual times. It’s hard to find something to say when just looking at the state of the world makes you want to scream.

I try not to be distracted by all the horrible stuff that I can’t do anything about but I can’t pick something to focus on. I’m drifting. I was working on a novel but then I put that on hold to work on something that I could pitch at Bloody Scotland. I’ve submitted my short pitch but I’m not working on that novel just now because I don’t really expect them to want it. I started work on the prep for a new novel so I’ll have something to write for NaNoWriMo but shouldn’t I go back to finishing the one I was working on?

I suppose the real problem is that it all feels pointless. Everything seems pointless. I am one of the little people and there’s not much I can do about anything. I’m at the mercy of events driven by people with so much money and power that they don’t have to worry about the consequences of their actions. I’d be better spending my time learning more about growing vegetables and stockpiling cans so we can survive Brexit.