Tag Archives: writing

I want to be straight! (Yeh) I want to be straight! I’m sick and tired of taking drugs and staying up late.

It occurred to me, the other day, that it might be prudent to try and explain why it takes me so sodding long to write a book. So in this gargantuan half rant, half post with a dash of tirade I am going to try. Basically, it’s about admin.

Frankly, I think I may be unique in the extent of my total and utter inability to organise anything easily: be it myself, others, things I find it incredibly hard to sort them out. Indeed, I would probably have a second life to live if I could somehow claw back the endless hours I spend looking for my glasses and my keys.  Also my life is ruled by Murphy and his law, no, not Murphy; Sod. Presumably that’s why, in the perfect irony, I have been given a life where I have to organise a lot of stuff, mostly to do with other people’s lives. Because I’m shit at it and someone up there thinks that’s funny. Like the time I declared that I’d never ever marry a lawyer … and the right man came along and of course he was, indeed, is, a lawyer.

This time of year McOther’s working hours go crazy, he has corporate events to go to at the weekends, the NFL play matches at Wembley which, as he spent his formative years in North America, he is desperately keen to attend – also at the weekends – and they make a 40 minute game take hours … Suffice to say, McMini misses his calming presence. So do I. This year, my organisational inability over the months coming up to Christmas seems to be particularly bad. I know I like variety and I know I have a sense of humour but it would be nice if just once I could organise one single smecking thing and have it go according to plan. Not that I do plan. Ever. Because there’s absolutely no effing point. But I do kind of, prime stuff and expect … results of a certain nature.

Case in point. This week. This week is not so different from any other week in my house other than that it’s got me feeling a little down. I don’t know why because this is my life, this is how I live but I’ve found myself wishing I could be one of the normals. To explain what I’m talking about … well … here’s the story so far.

We arrived home from our half term trip abroad rested and ready for action, except my iPad – which I had dropped for the second time before we went away, breaking it for the second time, Gorilla Glass my arse – decided to die on the Sunday night. Properly. So, as the folks who were going to fix it for £50 when they got the screen hadn’t rung in three weeks I decided I’d better get my wallet ready for a spanking and try the Apple store.

A few minutes later, I walked into the kitchen and just happened to notice McCat popping in, with grey feathers hanging out of his mouth. He had a squint round as if checking the coast was clear and made to head out. I shut the cat flap knowing that there was a body out there, one he was going to bring in, disembowel and eat bloodily and messily on the beige carpet outside our spare room.

No.

Not happening.

Looking out into the garden to check I could see a lot of feathers in the light from the kitchen window. It looked as if someone had burst a pillow out there. So McOther and I concluded that there would, indeed, be a body. On his mission to put out the bins McOther had a look and discovered that contrary to our expectations there was a live victim. A pigeon, looking very sorry for itself, with few wing feathers, a bald neck and absolutely NO tail whatsoever. Inevitably, we christened him Kojak.

There wasn’t much we could do for Kojak at 8.00 pm on a Sunday night except leave him and hope he recovered, the reasoning being that he’d be gone or dead in the morning. Monday dawned and Kojak was not dead but unfortunately not gone either. I would have to rescue him.

Bum. I didn’t really have time for that.

So I chalked him up as another thing to do after the school run and my, now, inevitable trip to the Apple store with my smashed and non-functional iPad. I locked the cat inside and off we went to school.

Surprising joy from the Apple store. The iPad hadn’t really died, it was just pretending, the smashed glass was lifting and not conducting so well so the screen was beginning to stop working. I decided to skip the folks who hadn’t rung me about the screen in 3 weeks and took it to another store. Yes, the fellow told me, he could fix it and would do so by that afternoon at 4.00pm (thank you Sod, who rules my life and knows the school run has me going past there at 3.30pm).

I left it and went to the gym for dodgy knee maintainance. That done it was home to find out what to do with Kojak. After about an hour surfing the internet which only told me that a trip to Norfolk was required – 30 miles away but probably at speeds of no faster than 30mph the whole distance on a good day. This was not doable in the time I had left if I wanted to present myself at the school on time to get McMini. In desperation I rang the Vet’s.

‘Bring him here,’ the told me.

So I captured Kojak, which took a bit more doing than I expected, because he’d perked up quite a bit, and carried him round to the Vet’s in a box.

kojak

Kojak in his box looking surprisingly perky

Kojak despatched to safer climes, I returned home, released the cat, cleared up the thermonuclear weapons-grade pooh he’d done in his earth box, washed up breakfast and even managed to write about 3 words before it was time to go collect McMini. We faffed about long enough to be able to visit the shop mending the iPad at 4.00 and discovered that the people who mended it last cocked it up and broke some stuff – including the wifi transmitter, which explains why it was so shit. So he would get the parts and call me when they were ready. (Does this sound familiar?).

Tuesday passed without incident – or contact from the iPad menders. Wednesday was visit-the-parents-day and the journey to and from Sussex was surprisingly smooth. Only a small stop at the Dartford Tunnel where I received a text to say that my iPad was ready for collection and arrived home just too late to be able to pick it up. I also discovered that I’ve driven my car through a hole somewhere, the tracking was out and I had therefore spunked an extra £15 worth of petrol on the trip on a smooth journey with no major delays – it having used the entire tank instead of the usual two thirds. Having a quick look round the car as it was parked at the pump I saw one front tyre was a little low. I drove over to the air line, which someone else arrived at just before me, of course, and while they did their air I opened the boot and rummaged about for my car’s handbook.

I found it, but I also found stern warnings about putting air in when the tyres are hot. The car must have been stationery for 3 hours minimum. Then, I must drive no more than 1 mile from cold and then check the air. I must not drive no miles. One mile it must be, two was too many and three was right out, one and only one mile must I drive etc.

Overjoyed that here was another bit of administrative shite I could piss my precious time away doing, ie go get the tracking done and the tyres balanced and do the sodding air, I felt a little deflated for a moment. Then I remembered. Never mind, at least something had gone according to plan. I was going to get my iPad back.

Now, when I go in my car to my parents, my fibit thinks that I am running up and down 300 flights of stairs and walking about 40,000 steps. It kind of buggers up the averages so I take it off and do it up round my bra strap, where, strangely, it ceases to log all non-existent activity. Clearly despite being jiggly, my jiggly bits are not as jiggly as … well … you know. You get the picture. This means I had taken it off and snapped it round my bra as I left Mum and Dad’s. As I approached the traffic lights at the end of the road ASDA is on, I’d remembered I must put it on again. By the time I pulled up at the ASDA petrol forecourt I had, of course, forgotten all about remembering.

While I was filling the tank the empty road outside ASDA filled up with traffic as the council offices emptied at 5.30 so I took my place among their 8,000 employees, most of whom seemed to be in cars, queuing for the lights. It took me 20 minutes to get home and I broke the good news about the iPad to McOther and had a lovely chat with McMini. I went upstairs to have a shower and put my pyjamas on before supper at 6.30. Then I looked at my fitbit. It wasn’t there.

I took a rain check on the shower. Instead I searched my car – even under the seats, a process which involves feats of contortion few humans, other than lotus owners, are capable of – and failed to find my fitbit there, either.

Arse.

I drove to ASDA. Was it there? Was it bollocks?

I asked at lost property, ‘No,’ the lady informed me. ‘If it hasn’t been found after half an hour it probably won’t be but pop in when you are here next week.’

I trudged back to the car park, cursing myself for being such a spacker.

When I got home McMini threw open his arms.

‘Mummy, I’m so sorry to hear about your fitbit, come and give me a hug so you will feel better.’

As I hugged him tight and looked over his head to the kindly face of McOther it did occur to me that every cloud has a silver lining.

Sometimes life feels like this ...

Sometimes my life feels as if it’s like this. Other times …

Welcome to my world.

… it’s more like this. Welcome to my world.

Wednesday night poor little McMini had another bad dream about the air raid siren. Who thought World War Two was a good topic to teach 8 year olds? Seriously? Nobody with an 8 year old kid, that’s for certain. He was so scared he was shaking, a couple of times his fear has been enough to make him throw up.

Thursday I went to the shop to pick up my iPad. I discovered that the shop didn’t open until 10.00 am. As I was on the way back from the school run this was a bit of a pain. So I went and did some shopping, did another knee improving session at the gym and went back to the store at 10.30. It was still closed. No note of explanation, according to the door and their website, it was working hours and should have been open it just … wasn’t. I texted the chap who had let me know the iPad was ready, asking what gives. He explained that his colleague would be there on Friday, definitely and we arranged a time for me to pick up my iPad. Disgruntled at schlepping up the hill for nothing I grumbled my way home. Oh well, at least it would be there the next day.

In the evening, I went to a skiing lesson. Yes, buggered knees aside, I thought I’d give it a go because McOther and McMini can do it and want us to go on a family skiing holiday. But I have to see if it’s physically possible first. Hence the lesson, the third of three, which started at 7.00pm. It’s in Ipswich, 30 minutes down the A14 … or not because it was blocked. The minor roads either side were gridlocked and it took me an hour and a half to get there. On the upside, I found out enough in advance to leave early and only be 15 minutes late.

This morning, Friday, I locked my keys in the house. It says a lot for the regularity with which I do this that I forgot to mention it until the last edit of this tirade, and that I was back in, picking them up and locking up properly in about 30 seconds, causing McMini to exclaim,

‘Mummy you are just the best burglar ever!’

Pshaw! M T blows casually on fingers. We weren’t even that late.

But that’s what I mean. Nothing, and I mean nothing goes according to plan. If a simple 10 minute phone call can turn into five hours of endless buttock numbing tedium it will. If something that should be straightforward and simple like, ‘please can I have this?’ is able to turn into five days of wrangling, begging and pleading, it does. Nine times out of ten it’s my own fault or because I’ve been a total dork and missed a deadline or some step that the normals take in their stride. What is going on? Is everyone else’s life like this or is it just mine? Maybe my people skills are crap. But really, what is so difficult about,

‘Can you fix my iPad.’
‘Yes, you can pick it up tommorow.’
Next day: ‘Hi I’ve come to pick up my iPad. I see your shop is actually open at the times the notice on the door says, and at the time I arranged to pick up my iPad and pay you money.’
‘It is, indeed, madam. That’s how the retail business is usually conducted.’

This morning I made sure I was doing something interesting in the time until the iPad repair shop opened, at 10.00. I had breakfast with a friend. Again, I gave the shop a bit of slack. Again, at 10.30 they were still closed. I sent a stinking text to the fixit man saying his colleagues were tossers (politely, obviously) and asking when was he next in. So I’ll be picking it up on Monday.

And in the middle of all this stupid shit, I’m trying to write a book. And I had two hours to work on it today. But I couldn’t. Because I’m too smecking cross. So I did another welter of overhanging admin and wrote this, instead. If I could give up writing, I would, but I need it. It’s like some horrible drugs habit. I’m a high functioning authorholic.

You see this is the problem.

My brain hates admin. It wants to concentrate on the important things in life like making shit up and … I dunno, listening to music, drawing, or the view, or the next joke. If I have loads of crap to remember to do it gets kind of fried. So if all the stuff I have to remember, like making bank transfers, checking cash, booking dental appointments, going to them, booking a slot to get my car’s tracking done – going to the post office to collect the parcel that some dickwad has sent me with £2.00 to pay because they didn’t put enough stamps on it, in case it’s important (it never is) – if all that total wanksputle starts to overwhelm my brain it just thinks, fuck this for a game of soldiers I’m off and then it buggers off somewhere, and I wish I knew where but I don’t. It just switches off.

And it switches everything off, including the important stuff that I’m interested in and actually want to remember, like that cunning plot twist I’d thought of for my book, or remembering to put my watch/fitbit back on, or forgetting that my iPad cover comes off and it drops out sometimes … onto the floor … and breaks.

And I end up giving myself even more administrivatative shit to sort out because I’ve forgotten deadlines, and then I end up getting even more pissed off and frustrated and angry that the majority of my span on this earth is going to be spent sorting out mindless shitty shite for me and others who can’t do it without my help. For the rest of my days. Oh yes, and in between all of that there’ll be lots and lots of chronic knee pain. The outlook for the rest of my life is incredibly bleak.

No wonder I need to escape.

And yet … for all that. I know I’m happy. Because it’s friends and family and the people around a person who make their world, not this shit. I just wish … well … that there was a little bit less of the shit sometimes or that occasionally, just once or twice, when I tried to do something, it went … OK it’s never going to go according to plan but maybe if it could just go wrong the way it does for normal people?

So there you go. Here’s a joke. You have to read it out loud though .. and to be honest its a bit crap

What do the Portugese do with their cars?

I told you it was crap.

On a final note, McMini had a Boy’s Brigade meeting tonight about a mile from our house so I drove there and then went to ASDA to do the tyre pressures on my car. You’d think I’d have managed that but no, it turns out that air, these days, costs 20p. And I left my wallet at home and I don’t have a 20p piece anyway. So although I’ll be in the right place in the right circumstances tonight, nothing can be done. (There’s no kiosk at ASDA so I can’t get change and no other garages who do have a kiosk nearby). Then, as I unlocked the door upon our arrival home, I somehow managed to bend the yale key. I unbent it and it works now but not before we had to go through the conservatory door because, initially, it didn’t. And so the madness continues …

Joy unbounded.

 

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Oh dear, it’s not them. It IS me. #remain #leave

Well, this has been an interesting week. For better, or worse, Britain has voted to leave the EU. As a mum with an 8 year old in a local state school with a very wide range of nationalities attending, the majority of voters asked in my extensive Playground Polls came up Remain.

There is a reason. This:

Evilposter

A lizard with opposable thumbs in front of a racist poster.

In the absence of any real facts, and after right wring extremists murdered an MP for her pro-IN, pro-refugee, humanitarian beliefs, it was all about sticking it to the racists for us. So what I saw winning, when Leave won, was fascism and a sheep like mass of people voting the way they were told to by the Sun.

And we’re at the beginning of the century, the world economy went down the toilet a few years ago and is still only recovering. And despite that recovery it’s left a lot of people in deep, deep financial plop. Which is a worry. Because that’s the kind of climate in which fascism takes root as folks look for someone to blame and some of the rhetoric flying around about immigration and letting in refugees is … disturbingly familiar.

However, I have a handful of highly intelligent, sensible friends voting Leave. They’re good people, decent people, one is about where I am politically, one way to the right but the other two are further left. They are never going to vote for racism, no way, no how – even the right winger. So I asked a couple of them what the hell they were doing.

They put forward lot arguments which made sense – but all the arguments for both sides make sense when you uncover the facts that’s part of the trouble – but the salient point was one about how they believe the people of this country feel about politics.

Which is, that our politicians are condescending, aloof, self important and that they no longer listen to, nor have any respect for the people they are supposed to serve. My Leave friends felt that through the gradual change, over the years, from debate over the issues to personal attacks, most politicians have not so much lost our respect as earned our contempt. We believe what they say about one another. That’s why so many young people don’t or won’t vote, which is bats of them but that’s another story.

Furthermore, many leavers are every day people, but poor people, the folks who feel disenfranchised and without hope, because successive governments have stood by and let their places of work – in some cases, whole industries – die. Leavers are people who worked in our pottery industry, our coal industry, our manufacturing industry, dairy farming, fruit growing, the Cadbury factory, the steel industry. Most of our heavy industry was up north. And that’s why the folks up there are angry. The big agricultural areas in East Anglia voted Leave too. And a lot of the seasiders.

They feel that when their livelihoods and their whole communities were at risk, successive Governments, labour and Conservative stood by, didn’t step in, didn’t help. Failed them. And yes, there are probably more positve things to do than concentrate on your anger and bitterness about a past that is gone and a future that cannot be. But maybe they were just trying all that time to get someone, somewhere, to listen. And heaven knows, I graduated into a recession, I felt washed up, useless, dismissed as junk before my working life even began so I can actually really sympathise with that.

And so when the government asks for their help now their reply was a resounding fuck off, in this case, in the form of a Leave vote, to sock it to the Man. Whereas we in Remain, even if we’d thought of it, would probably have demurred from socking it to the Man when it’s just swapping one Man for another.

I suspect many people, both those voting IN and those voting Leave, may well share some very similar sentiments about our politics and politicians. We just reacted in different ways.

And in that one thing, lies our hope.

MPs have to learn from this, they have to start believing again, they have to relearn humility, that they are public servants, that it’s not about power for them but about working for us. And those who take such things seriously need to make sure that we, the electorate, realise that they, at least, are listening. They need to be Jo Cox, not Boris Johnson.

And as for tomorrow. What’s done is done. This is complicated, and it will be difficult. A lot depends on the negotiations surrounding exit. I hope Scotland and Northern Ireland give it some time to see what we come out with before they vote to leave and the UK is broken. Because it looks as if we, Britain, might actually have a chance at a new beginning, a new start. It’s up to us. It doesn’t have to be about racism, immigration and bigotry. It can be about unity, it can be like the 2012 Olympics.

Because for all my initial horror at the result, and for all the wailing and gnashing of teeth I’ve done on Facebook with my like minded friends, when we get to the bottom of things, it turns out that despite being on opposite sides of the debate, many of the folks who voted Leave are closer are closer to us than we think. And if they are we can work with that.

Here’s hoping.

Some good pro leave posts:

Roughseas – there are some good comments on this one and I had a long chat with her too: https://roughseasinthemed.wordpress.com/2016/06/24/brexit-its-real
Jim Webster, again more comment chat as well: https://jandbvwebster.wordpress.com/2016/06/24/the-road-from-the-bigoted-woman-stops-here/

A couple of good pro remain posts from writers, like myself, who hadn’t even thought of sticking it to the Man:

Chuck Wendig the thinking American’s view: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2016/06/24/you-want-trump-this-is-how-you-get-trump/
Charlie Stross sums up the initial feeling in Remain at the result: http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2016/06/tomorrow-belongs-to-me.html
Lee Harris – just a nice cynical post about the Remain point of view. http://leeaharris.com/brexit/
I need to comment on these.

 

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Underground, Overground, Wombling Free…!

It’s a long time since I wrote anything on my blog. There is a reason. It’s because Real Life has been quite hectic. Worse, it’s been hectic in a way that has meant that I need to write to stay sane. That’s where I’ve been. Writing, and driving 130 miles to Sussex in the middle of the night to accompany one parent to hospital while a carer stays over and looks after the other, then doing the full care package for a day and dealing with all their heating and the cooker being turned off due to a gas leak on one and a half hours’ sleep… that kind of thing.

But now I’ve just finished half term week during which I was compelled to leave my characters to their own devices and interact with Real Life. So here I am, sorting some bits of real life out before I go back to my routine of not very much time, but a bit more than before, and a lot more of it spent writing. Also, my parents are on a more even keel now, so the desperation with which I escaped into my made up world is not quite so marked.

As you probably know, both my parents are in their 80s and they need a bit of help. To that end, I’ve been trying to get some disability aids out of Social Services for them. It’s not that social services won’t give them, just that it takes ages. There’s one particular thing called a ‘perching stool’ which Mum could really use in the kitchen, right now. But there’s a 20 working day waiting time before they can even call you back and start the process. I have been wondering if I should buy one – if Social came up trumps with a second I could always put the bought one in the greenhouse for her. But I was havering, because they cost a sod of a lot of money, these things.

So imagine how insanely chipper I was to discover this bizarrely obscure item in a skip this morning, just outside my gym! It was brand new and it wasn’t alone. It was in there with three other disability aids: a riser loo seat for people with dodgy hips which was still wrapped in its plastic and a really handy trolly-cum-walker with two shelves for trays. All had labels on with a number to call for collection after use, so at the least, I thought, if Mum and Dad have no use for them, I can ring the number and get them back to people who need them. Anyway, I had to take the trolley because it was the only way I was going to get the stuff, plus my bicycle, home. So, with the help of three of the ladies who also attend my gym, who praised me for my Womble* like tendences, I climbed into the skip and relieved it of its disability enhancing contents.

SkipScore

If anyone had ever told me I would get excited about finding items like these in a skip I’d have told them to piss off. Luckily, no-one did. Unlike the time I said I’d never marry a lawyer and then…

It will be even more of a challenge to get the things – which are square and firm and most non-folding – from Bury St Edmunds to Sussex in a Lotus. I might have to borrow McOther’s car.

Even so it’s a bit of a result. I am, naturally, hugely chuffed to have these difficult-to-get things fall into my lap, instantly, when I never expected them to, and for free.

Mwah hahahahrgh! Sometimes the stars just align.

 

*If you don’t know what a womble is, click here the song explains it. Obviously, they are a lot more interesting when you are 7.

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Surviving trolls, extremism and other curses of modern life

<<<<POLITICS WARNING read on at your own risk, I can guarantee I’ll offend the entire world with this one.>>>>

A couple of weeks ago, I was standing on a rain soaked road in France in a Barbour which is not at all waterproof looking at this field. In all truth, I didn’t really connect. It looks pretty unremarkable but the odds are that if I’d been there 600 years earlier I’d have seen the bodies of several thousand French soldiers, 3 days dead, most stripped completely naked by looters from the desperately poor local population after the important stuff had been removed by the English (I bet those clothes lasted some local families a couple of generations). That’s because 600 years (and 3 days) previously we are about as sure as we can be sure of anything in history that the battle of Agincourt was fought on this particular field.20151029_114039

As I understand it, one of the defining aspects of the battle was that the ground became a quagmire. People sank in the mud and suffocated, just as they did 500 years later, a few miles down the road, on the Western Front. Once I heard that it made connecting a little bit easier.

There’s no hint of the carnage that took place there now. There’s a museum, a memorial and not much else. It was a bloodbath and it horrified the people of its time just as the first world war did, just as the deaths of those 60,000,000 victims of the second world war (if you count civilians) did, just as 9.11, 7.7 and last week do.

Those Agincourt deaths are not at the forefront of our consciousness any more. As I said, the area is not far from the fields which comprise what was once, part of the front line in WW1. Likewise, apart from the odd memorial and the war graves you wouldn’t necessarily understand the horror of war from what’s there now. Although the bucolic peace belies the truth, farmers are still killed and injured every year by unexploded ordnance buried under the tranquil landscape. They will be for some time. Things are not always as they seem.

Maybe, as wars pass out of living memory, they cease to be so real to us. How do we keep remembering, understanding?

When I grew up there were plenty of people around who had fought in the second world war and still some who had fought in the first. It was in their consciousness at all times, and so it was in ours.

As they die out there is one experience in my life that I begin to value more and more. An RS lesson I was given when I was about 17. It comprised my A level set, three of us, the teacher and a visiting Bishop. He was about 70, Mark Greene his name was, and he was sitting on a rickety arm chair which tipped up, dumping him onto the floor. I remember that. I particularly remember our poor teacher’s flustered efforts to help him up and his calm, unfazed reassurances that he was fine.

But what I really remember about that lesson was the story he told us. At the end of the war he was with a detachment of forces in Germany and on the day it was liberated, he was the 20th allied soldier to walk into Belsen.

We didn’t know that’s what he was, of course, I’m not sure the teacher even did. I don’t even remember how it cropped up. There’s a bit of a memory gap between the chair incident and it suddenly hitting me, very forcefully that this man was telling us what it was like to walk into a death camp for the first time, when you hadn’t realised they existed, when you didn’t understand, first hand, what human beings were capable of doing to one another, or at least, in an era when the general consensus of opinion was that we’d evolved past all that.

He proceeded to tell us about the experience. What he felt, smelled and saw. I have seen videos of what was there since which cast a whole new light on his words and made his understated, calm description of the facts all the more powerful. He wasn’t ’emotional’ as he described it. He cried no tears. But the strength of feeling in his voice was striking. He avoided emotional trigger words, he told us about the smell of excrement and rotting bodies but spared the grisly details. He talked about seeing piles of grey sticks and only realising, at second or third glance, that they were people and that some were still alive, just, and moving. I remember thinking that I was hearing about one of the defining moments of the 20th Century from a man who was actually there. I still get goose pimples when I think about it. Mainly because I suspect I am unlikely ever to come so close to history again.

And then Paris last week. And all the absolute tosh that’s been talked on the internet since about religion, and the Muslim faith. We don’t seem to be learning do we?

Aldus Huxley, I think it was Aldus Huxley, said, “Propaganda is the art of convincing one group of people that another group of people is not human.”

One of the defining things about the concentration and death camps was that the victims were stripped of all humanity. They were not to be dignified with a name. They were given a number. Their names were verboten. They all wore the same uniforms. They were as robots. Nothing.

And that’s how you hate. That’s how the Daesh are able to kill the way they do. Because to them a non Daesh child is not a human child. Then again, I’m not sure how the Daesh manage to have kids because as I understand the tenets of their extreme doctrine, their menfolk believe women aren’t human either.

So how do we beat them? Well, turning their victims away, or ‘Closing the UK’s borders until Isis is defeated’ is patently bollocks. Making all Muslims wear an armband, well, yes, Mr Trump, I refer you back to Belsen. We’ve done that before, quite recently and I don’t recall it working out well. You need to have a word with yourself mate.

Someone at church the other day who said there is an easy way to make all these memorials to past battles mean, or continue to mean, something. Give the dead names. Pick one solider, research him, find out who he was. Suddenly they stop being numbers and turn back into people. And after last week, in Paris, I thought that all the more.

It’s very easy to generalise about people, to isolate ourselves, to become ‘them and us’ about practically everything. Now more than ever we seem to be particularly vulnerable to a black and white generalist view of the world which is simply a lie, a fairy story totally removed from the truth which we tell ourselves because we cannot handle the uncertainty of grey.

I can see it in myself. When it popped up in the news recently that Jihadi John had almost certainly been killed in a bombing raid my first instant thought was, ‘serves him bloody well right. You live by the sword you die by the sword.’ But then I thought about it some more. It’s hard to consider someone like Jihadi John as a human being. Really hard. But somewhere he has parents and family who loved him, some might even be anguished by what he has done. Somewhere there might have been a mother, a father, a wife begging him to turn to compassion and humanity again like the family of an addict begging them to forsake the bottle. We are all equal, we are all human. He was a sad pathetic thing, broken inside, but to deny his humanity, however much he seems to have forfeited his right to be seen as human, maybe that is the cause of the trouble.

People like Jihadi John, people like the lads who killed all those people in Paris, probably get off on the feeling of power or that they are physically doing something to make a difference than politics. It’s in our nature to want to change the world. That’s why we’re high achievers in so many ways. Their acts are inhuman so perhaps the only way we can defeat their inhumanity is by holding onto our humanity.

The minute we cease to see your enemy as a human being, you have given in to hate. In my view, if we give into hate, we’re no better than they are. An ability to love and respect others is what sets normal people apart from the extremists. The way to understand the gravity and the evil of war is not to look at the casualty numbers, it’s to remember that they are people. To give them names.

Every now and again, someone special comes along like Jesus, Budda, Mohamed and the like and they try to persuade people to treat each other as they’d like to be treated themselves. It’s ironic, isn’t it, how fast we manage to turn that into intolerance and hatred. If the devil exists, he must be laughing.

If we have a battle cry, perhaps it should be that of Antoine Leiris, whose wife, Helene was killed at the Bataclan.

“I will not give you the gift of hating you.”

It seems to me that, if ever we need to foster a culture of love and tolerance, it’s now.

 

 

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Detail: What Noticing Stuff means to a writer.

Some random true life stories this week, as inspired by Mr Chuck Wendig’s blog, even if I’ve missed the deadline and my very tenuous efforts to link them to my ‘job’ – which is really just an incredibly expensive hobby.

Story 1. Years ago, in the mid 1990s, I was driving to my job one summer morning. My journey to work used to take about an hour, 20 minutes to the outskirts of Cambridge and 40 minutes queuing. I drove an elderly Triumph Spitfire so the morning queue had a worrying tendency to turn into a game of temperature gauge chicken. On the up side, even if I had to sit there with the heater on to stop the engine boiling, at least I could take the lid off.

So there I sat, at the end of the queue, in my car. I leaned back looking up at the blue sky I saw, where other’s saw the deadness of their car’s upholstered roof. An aeroplane flew across and directly above me. As I watched, it began to blow out smoke – not yeek-my-engine’s-failing-and-I’m-about-to-plummet-out-of-the-sky-type smoke you understand – stunt plane smoke like the Red Arrows (or les Bleu, I don’t have a picture of the red arrows) blow out in red white and blue. Anyway, I watched and as it flew, smoke in full er… puff? It drew a circle. Then after a bit of flying back and forth, it put two eyes inside the circle and a smily mouth. Then it flew away. What I liked about that was the fact that the pilot must have known that hardly anyone would see what s/he did but they went and did it anyway.

Thank you Kate Jackson, over at Roughseas for having a picture of the Red Arrows blowing out volumes of exactly the kind of smoke I’m talking about.

How does that pertain to writing? Well, to me it says that sometimes, even if you think only one person in a thousand will ‘get’ something, it’s worth putting it in if you believe in it. Why? Because chances are, they’ll be aware that this is a very obscure joke and putting it in will make them feel like you’re sharing secret code with them.

Onto the second story. A week or so ago, at the school picking up my son. I was just having a quick chat to his teacher about his maths when a helicopter came over.

“How very odd coming up out of the sun like that and flying so low,” said McMini’s teacher.

“Yeh, and they’ve got the door open,” I said, as we both looked up. “Perhaps we should give them a wave.”

We duly both did, along with McMini, who didn’t need much encouragement. The wave spread – or several other folks had the same idea – and then to our amazement the helicopter did an circuit of the playground, the folks in the open doorway leaning out and waving like looners. Then everyone waved back at them: the kids and some of the parents were even jumping up and down and cheering. The helicopter then headed off. None of us know where it came from, where it was going, or why it flew over us. But we do know that pretty much everyone felt good after it had gone, including, perhaps, the folks in its open doorway.

Relevance to writing is a bit thin here, I’ll give you, but perhaps it shows the value of a wave and a smile, the power of simple things, or of small acts of friendship. I’m a great believer in approaching the internet like that. It’s full of people who’ve had a bad day and are ready to rip your head off, but sometimes, all it takes to break the ice is a kind word, a smile or, yes, a cheery wave.

Which brings me to the last story.

As most of you know, my Dad suffers from memory loss. Before all that hit him, he was a life long lover of wine and spent many hours poring over lists from the Wine Society, and other esteemed wine sellers, selecting and buying wines. Many of these were bought to drink with Sunday lunch, which was a bit of an event in our house, or at the riotous dinner parties my Mum and Dad used to have. One of his favourites was a claret called Leoville Barton. For some years, he bought cases of it to drink on special occasions – although my Dad being my Dad, quite a lot of quite mundane occasions were ‘special’.

The other night, a friend came round to dinner and we had a wine tasting. We put the bottles in socks and juggled them about a bit and then tried to guess what they were and who’d brought what. One of the wines felt familiar and I realised that it reminded me of the Chateau Leoville Barton my Dad used to love and which, I admit, I rather like, too. And as I said this to McOther and our friend, I suddenly felt incredibly affected. I was amazed how a single flavour could bring back such vivid memories of the happy times I’ve had drinking a glass of that wine. And as I remembered my Dad as he was then, it hit me, anew, how much of him has gone forever.

So what do these things mean for writing? Well, maybe that small things, tiny details inserted in the right place, can show the reader volumes about your characters without you having to tell them. I guess it also means that a deftly added detail can be incredibly poignant or can make the difference between a boring scene and diverting one. Perhaps it also means that as writers, we should train ourselves to notice all this stuff – or perhaps the fact we do is what sets us apart and makes us writers. Perhaps some of the battle we face, when trying to turn our writing from good to amazing, is working out which details to add, and when; and even more importantly, which ones to leave out.

 

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A question of perception

It’s another ‘I’m an idiot, learn from me’ post today. It’s also long. Apologies for that but there’s rather a lot to say.

Recently I’ve been trying to get the initial ideas and machinery in place to launch a new book. There are several places where I’m stuck, mostly the same, old same old: you know, stuff like actually managing to write a blurb that makes it sound appealing or coming up with a viable title. There is also the aspect of things I might unknowingly stuff up.

OK, so I try to act with professional integrity. This is the internet. Whatever I do I will offend someone but I try avoid any dishonourable, shabby, dishonest or generally reprehensible behaviour if at all possible. I try to love my internetty neighbour the way I’d like to be loved myself.

However, I’m a writer and a flawed human being. I frequently offend people without even realising. Indeed, if life was a game I suspect unwitting offence would be my Special Attribute. A couple of things have happened, recently, that have made me very aware of this and concentrated my attention on the matter of how hard it is to achieve a good reputation on the internet, how difficult it is not to cause offence, however well meaning your actions may actually be. And how difficult it can be to gauge how others will react to your actions when the only guide you have is to imagine how it would feel to be on the receiving end.

It’s not just about trying to act with decency and integrity at all times. It’s about whether people think think you are. A lot of that is about what folks believe your intentions are. I think that no matter how genuine you wish to be, how honest you think you are being, or how principled you aim to make your approach, if you are selling anything, however obliquely, there are certain quarters of the internet where any attempt to connect on your part will be considered a hypocritical attempt to befriend people in order to sell them something. So far with me, it’s kind of been the other way round. But a couple of things have really surprised me, recently. Stupid things I’ve done without realising they were stupid.

On the up side, since I’ve made these monumental fuck ups, it means that by describing them to you at length I can ensure that you don’t have to. Here’s what I’ve learned from this series of unfortunate events…

The dreadful truth about titles.

I’ll fess up. I got in a bit of a muddle publishing my last two books. The main problem was that when I finished the third book in the K’Barthan Trilogy (as it was then called) I discovered it was a snadge over 300,000 words long. What to do? If I produced a paperback then, by the time I’d factored in the kind of discount that would pay the middle men (60%) I would have a book that cost about £25. So there’s book 1 at £9.99, book 2 at £11.99 and book 3 at £24.99. With books 1 and 2 ending on cliff hangers it does rather look as if I’m holding readers to ransom to find out what happens. Luckily there was a point where I could split it. So I did. But that cost more. Another £800 or so to be precise and another £90 plus 20% sales tax to upload it to the print on demand distributor I use.

With money tight, the question raised it’s head of spending a further £90 plus tax per book to change the word ‘Trilogy’ on the cover and front pages of the first two, to ‘Series’ in print. Also, what little traction the series had was as the K’Barthan Trilogy. I asked folks, took advice and tried to imagine how I would feel if a trilogy I was following had four books. The folks I asked reckoned a 4 book trilogy was not unusual and that no-one would mind. Since I’ve read the Hitch Hiker’s ‘trilogy’ and was delighted when it kept growing, rather than upset, I saved the £180 and went for the 4 book trilogy.

How wrong I was.

A couple of months ago the third book got a blistering one star review, slamming me for writing a fourth instalment. I paraphrase but the gist was like this:

“I know your game,” it basically said. “You’re just going to write book after book and never end the story, because you’re just a bastard writer! And all you bastard writers ever want to do is rip readers off and make us pay and pay so you can buy another set of gold plated wheels for your Mercedes Benz. Well I’m not reading any more of your crap you… charlatan!”

Fair enough, this case, someone has clearly watched too many episodes of ‘Lost’, and that £50 a month I earn from my writing may well look like the gold-plated-alloy-purchasing big time to some folks, but I was completely thrown. First that they were upset, second by the enormous gap between their perception of my personality and the real one.

OK, we all know the golden rule is DO NOT ENGAGE. NEVER reply to things like that.

I broke it.

I commented on the review apologising for causing offence, explaining that it wasn’t intended, that the story ends at the conclusion of the fourth book (in case anyone else reading that review wondered) and then I offered to send it to them for free so they could find out what happened. They never replied. I went and changed the title from ‘trilogy’ to ‘series’ in all the ebook files and on all the listings on every retail site I sell through – it already said it in the product desription. Naturally the retailers all accepted my chages except for Amazon who asserted that if it said ‘trilogy’ on the book cover (even if it’s too small to read) it will be called ‘trilogy’ until I pay the designers to change the j-peg and upload the new one.

I chalked it up as something to watch and a change to do when I brief the designers about my next book.

During last year, I entered both books for the excellent Wishing Shelf Book Awards. When the feedback came through I was very surprised to discover that readers there, too, had commented negatively about my writing a ‘trilogy’ of four books.

Clearly, something that hadn’t registered with me was really pissing other people off. So what have I learned from this litany of amateurism?

  1. Give yourself options.
    My four book ‘trilogy’ has royally ticked off a whole bunch of people. Folks I will never get back. Folks who will consider me a wanker forever and spread their opinions near and far. But the problem would never have existed if I’d had the wit to call it the K’Barthan Series from the get go. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, so learn from mine: if you’re writing a trilogy then, in the name of the almighty don’t call it that. Call it a series unless it’s actually finished, has three books the same length, and you are about to publish the first one.
  2. Give yourself some slack.
    Accept there are some things you can cover with research and some things that only experience will show you but.
  3. When experience does kick you in the teeth, learn from it.
  4. If you can repair the damage, do it as soon as you can but think it through, don’t hurry it or you may just make things worse.
    OK, so I can’t afford to get rid of the bloody ‘trilogy’ moniker until the entire series is edited at the end of November. The covers, I can, and will, change sooner. For now I just have to accept that I’ve fucked up, chalk it up to experience and learn from what I have done.

The grim truth about interacting on the internet.

The second smack in the face from reality came this week.

Recently, I’ve had a facebook ad running which offers the first two books in the K’Barthan Series to anyone who joins my mailing list. I’d heard that a good way to identify a market of people to show your ad to is to choose an audience who like books by an author similar to you. It then suggests you make reference to the author you, and they, know and love and suggest that if they like that stuff they might like yours. I’m always a bit leery about this, I mean, all those reviews saying I write like Adams are just setting folks up for disappointment because I don’t. But I thought it might work with a humorous bent if I aimed it at Pratchett readers.

After a bit of tweaking and watching and tweaking I ended up with an audience who liked Terry Pratchett books and an ad which referenced CMOT Dibbler.

OK, in my defence here, I wrote the copy while Sir Terry was still around but this is what it said:

“If you like funny British science fiction and fantasy why not check out this freebie: The K’Barthan Series stands complete at four books and I’d like to give you two of them. Yes, this all sounds a bit CMOT Dibbler school of marketing but I’m hoping you’ll find a lot more quality literary meat in these books than there is REAL meat in CMOT Dibbler’s sausages.

All you have to do is tell me where to send them – the books, obviously, real sausages will not be involved.”

Then there was this picture and the title and caption below.

FACTWSfacebookAd

“I’M LITERALLY cutting my own throat here.

If you love a bargain, help yourself to two award winning funny sci-fi fantasy books, Few Are Chosen and The Wrong stuff, parts 1 and 2 of the best selling K’Barthan Series are usually £4 but they’re free for a limited time. To grab yours click here.”

To start with, I got sign ups, shares and a couple of joky quotes about the quality of the meat – is it named? Yes it’s called Bob. In other words, exactly what I expected. Then a few days ago, from New Zealand, this:

Pep A: Ripping off a Terry Pratchett character to sell your book? Poor form?
Pep B: Poor form? Fucking shameful.

And I looked at it and I thought… what happened there? And then the ad got this comment:

Pep C: Well. He’s dead now.

And the penny dropped.

Yes M T you daft, fucking moron! He died. And so suddenly this ad is not joking about characters we know and love from a favourite author. It’s trampling over people’s memories of a great man and maligning the dead. Events can cause changes in perception. And I completely missed that. So I’ve removed the ad. Because although it was working really well I didn’t think of that, and while, personally, I think it’s a bit weird to be offended, I do absolutely get why someone might be.

Have I replied or apologised? Well… no, because of another particularly important thing that I’ve learned about the internet, so that you don’t have to is that it’s bat shit crazy, and also:

  1. The international nature of the internet is a two edged sword…
    Yes, you can talk to the entire globe. Unfortunately, not all of it thinks the way you do. That means you can and will offend thousands of people effortlessly and unwittingly at the touch of a button: not just people in Britain but folks all over the world.Seriously though, I’m not American, from the RSA, Kenya or Zimbabwe. I’m not Australian, or a Kiwi, or Tasmanian or from India, Pakistan or South East Asia. I’m not from Holland, Germany, France, Russia or any of the myriad other places where people speak English and read my books, in English. I lack the instinctive grasp of other cultures that will enable me to see the point when funny becomes offensive to them if it doesn’t to someone British. But because I’m speaking English and they speak English too, THEY EXPECT ME TO.
  2. The internet contains a huge gap in perception.
    The aforementioned gulf between the spirit in which I act and interact on line, who I think I am, and what others perceive me to be. Frankly, it’s enormous. 90% of communication is non verbal and boy does it show on t’interweb – mainly through the medium of folks becoming very suspicious of one another. And what that equates to, if you’re selling anything, anywhere on line, is an assumption that nothing you do is genuine. That everything is crafted, honed and perfected with your eye on the next sale.So while you’re trying to just be, write a blog, do stuff, keep people informed, have a presence that’s just yourself: a benign and friendly presence, there are folks out there who will dismiss it as the work of a rapacious scammer who sees everyone as a potential victim (including them, unless they’re ‘careful’ a.k.a. prickly, aggressive and ready to take offence at the drop of a hat).
  3. 3. People are going to drop their weird shit onto you.
    There’s a saying, ‘you can please some of the people some of the time but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.’ I understand this but it seems that in today’s world, if you do anything that might put your name into the public domain, like paint, write, make music, act etc you are expected to please everyone, all of the time. Worse, if you don’t, no quarter will be given.Genuine mistakes, or simple errors of of judgement, far from being forgiven, are seen as an act of cynical aggression towards your innocent audience. A lot of people out there don’t really like themselves. They think they’re cynical, cold hearted conniving little shits, and guess what? Because they believe that about themselves they’re going to believe it about you too.
  4. Give them some slack. Try to stay positive and accept that sometimes you will offend others and it can’t always be helped.
    Long ago, I decided not to worry about the nature of the net. I am who I am and it’s hard to be anyone else. I know I will make mistakes and all I can do is try not to. It’s worth making peace with yourself and accepting that sometimes, no matter how benign you want to be and how hard you try to avoid hurting people, you will cause offence. Sometimes all you can do is apologise, chalk it up to experience, learn from it and move on. Sometimes our attempts to interact with people we don’t actually know personally, can be interpreted, by some as evidence that we’re out to get them in some way. It doesn’t matter how much cobblers that is, they’ve been burned by others and but there’s no way we will ever convince folks like that of our good intentions. There’s no point even trying. Indeed, the only thing you can do about them is hope to heaven that they never, ever find you.

So what can we do? How can writers or artists or anyone creative who interacts regularly on the internet behave ‘well’ without becoming too slick, too spun and anodyne?

Perhaps we can’t. Or perhaps all we can do is our level, genuine best to avoid saying anything that would offend us if you were on the receiving end. Do unto others and all that.

If you’re laid back and you write humour which, by its nature, is subversive you will undoubtedly prick the bubble of the pompous at some stage. But you may also stuff up and the way I have though sheer naivety, lack of foresight or plain ignorance and unwittingly offend many, many folks – good decent people who you don’t want to upset. When you do, I guess the only course is to chalk it up to experience – apologise if appropriate/possible and move on.

Few people do things deliberately to offend, whatever many internet users think. Most of us offend because we’re human, and flawed; and that’s natural. If we never cocked it up we’d be actual God. Because perfect is impossible unless you’re Allah, right?

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Welcome to my world…

Just a quick post before I go into low internet access mode for three weeks… not that you’ll be able to tell the difference between that and me in full internet access mode, seeing as I’ve failed spectacularly to do anything internetty for a long time. Life has just got a bit busy and when that happens, I use computer time to write and my socialising and promoting tends to be put aside for a while.

It all began with a hurriedly organised birthday party for McMini complete with cake. Mmm… Making the cake was interesting. McCat likes cake so the reason that bit in the middle of the neck is a different colour is because that’s the bit McCat excised while I was answering the door.When I came back he ran off with it. It was OK though. The rest hadn’t been touched so I cut out a good margin either side and put in new cake and new icing. Couldn’t get the icing out of the gaps though.

IMG_2408

Bakugan cake…. it’s supposed to be the little fellah at the top.

The next cake,  one for McParents’ – on my side – golden wedding. This time it was the raw mixture that got eaten while I was answering the door. I knew I shouldn’t have turned the mixer off. Came back and McCat had his head in the bowl snarfing.

All the cake making gave me a bit of an IBS attack. Trying cake mixture. I think eating some rather old smoked salmon with scrambled eggs for breakfast followed by courgettes fried with some decidedly elderly pancetta for lunch may have contributed too. Still cake made McMini and I iced it without a serious hitch, except that I couldn’t get the dates to fit and I’d planned it most carefully so I couldn’t work out why. Oh and McCat stole a sausage from my lunch plate but at least he left the beautifully (erk it’s all relative) iced cake unmolested this time.

All ready for the day, I woke up on the morning and I discovered that I had vertigo (this is how I do hayfever). Serious, 18 pints on board style spins, so I spent the first hour shouting, ‘Europe’ into the big white telephone without much coming out and waiting for the hayfever pills to kick in. Amazingly they did, the vertigo stopped and off we went. Even more amazingly, we made it in time for the lunch, with some to spare.

All went well, the cake was much admired, McMini had fun with his cousins, the grown ups had fun too and hoorah! All went swimmingly. Even better I got a big rest on the Saturday as McOther and McBrother took McMini to the fair – the vertigo was better but I still questioned the wisdom of watching a lot of stuff going round, and round and round: or worse, sitting on it while it did.

That night while looking for a shoe, I only had one pair and I could only find one – because I’d washed the other one and forgotten that I’d put it behind the curtains where it would get a nice 2 hours of sun on it to dry it before I got up. This simple fact obscured temporarily, I was searching the house. Heard Sis In Law call for my brother. Great, she would almost certainly have clocked and seen the shoe. I looked over the bannisters and there was my sister in law, lying on the ground at the bottom of the stairs wrapped in a duvet.

“Er that’s quite an unusual place to stop… are you alright down there?”
Not really, I’ve broken my ankle.”
“Ah,” gulp. “Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’ve done it before.”
“Right. I’m guessing you heard it crack?”
“Yep.”
“Ah, that’s enough to convince me. Tricky, hang on…” I trundle down the stairs to join her.
“I think I’m going to throw up.”
“OK… let’s get you a bowl.” I run and get bowl. “Did you hit your head?”
“No, I held onto the curtains.”
I look at the curtains in front of the door, clearly she has grabbed them, the hooks have broken one by one and they’ve fallen down, lowering her gently to earth as they do so.
“Lucky! OK, I’ll go and get McBro.”

McBrother appears and suggests going straight to A&E but I persuade him to call 999 so we get a paramedic to evaluate her first before moving her. Sis in law agrees she’d like us to do that. McBrother calls ambulance.

“Ooooo!” calls my Mum from upstairs, “Can I press our red panic button?”
“No,” says McBrother.
“He’s ringing an ambulance,” I tell her.
“OK.” She sounds disappointed.

I am sent to stand in the road waiting for the ambulance. They have verbal directions from McBrother but they will not find our house if they use sat nav. This is because Google Maps is convinced that our house is not where we live, but somewhere a few miles away. Every now and again I contact Google and explain where it really is. And they usually write back to tell me that an adjudicator has looked at my request but that I am wrong. Growing up there, is clearly not enough.

There is a problem with this though, I only have one shoe, but luckily Sis In Law’s shoe has broken in Worthing at the fair and she’s had a bit of a spree while buying a new pair and bought some crocs, too. I slip my vile feet into them and then, weird of weird, put on my panama hat despite the fact it’s 10:30pm and dark  (what in the name of heaven is that about) and trot dutifully out into the road. The ambulance is lost and I run, or at least, I do ‘the gait’ because I can’t run, down the road to it. It arrives and it’s a car. There is no room for me in there with them so I tell them where to go. I run along after them. They drive past. I wave my feeble torch. They stop. I show them.

When I get to the house a few minutes after they do, they are evaluating Sis In Law.

So, the long and the short after this examination was that we discovered she had broken her ankle, on Brighton Gay Pride night, when a lot of other people in the locale, after injudicious amounts of dancing and alcohol, had broken their ankles – and other bits of themselves – too. There was a one and a half hour wait for an ambulance – but that was OK because the Paramedic car had come in about 10 minutes and we had the all clear to take her in ourselves. But the 2 hour wait in casualty (even in Worthing) was a bit more of a bummer. Fair play to her and McBrother that they made the lunch the next day, successfully consumed a heavy meal on a couple of hours sleep and were rather more awake than I was.

“How was your weekend?” a friend asked when I got back.
Was that out of the ordinary for a trip to my folks? No, not really.
“Same old same old,” I said.

On a side note, they’re going to give my Mum a new hip. She finally has a date: slap bang in the middle of our holiday. It’s a worry but less of a worry than when she was in limbo without one. Perhaps that’s why for  have been even more numerically challenged than usual this week: worry. It does make me a bit more ditzy. Let’s forget about that, though and look at some photos. First: the Golden Wedding Cake. Remember I couldn’t work out why the numbers didn’t fit?

Cake: Before...

Cake: Before light dawns, can you spot the deliberate mistake?

Yeh, well, as I was about to serve it up, my uncle noticed it had the wrong date. Yes, I’d put 2005 instead of 2015. A bit of an, ‘ah now I get it,’ moment. Of course the numbers didn’t sodding fit. They were the wrong ones. It’s not even as if I got the date of the marriage wrong, as in 1965, it the bleeding date NOW. Oh well. Luckily it was easy to scrape one side of the O off and turn it back into a 1.

Cake: After, with the RIGHT date.

Cake: After, with the RIGHT date.

Then, two nights ago we had some folks for dinner and when I asked how many McOther said, “eight with McMini.” I translated this as 9, which means I managed to lay an extra place… for a person who didn’t exist… and even worse to not actually notice until I was serving pudding.

So there you have it. My family is still a group of people that THINGS HAPPEN TO, my cat is a mentalist who probably has some kind of feline eating disorder and I’m completely fucking bats.

Never mind… At least there was lots of cake.

My brain and my life.

My brain and my life.

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