If You’re Not Happy, Change Something…

This is one of the best bits of advice I ever got at LRP.

If you’re not happy, change something. If you’re still not happy, stop doing it.

Well, on Thursday, I had one of those ‘down on myself days’, where I kept complaining about myself. I have painfully low levels of self-esteem (no, really?) and sometimes that manifests in the worst way possible. The ‘I need to buy some new clothes but I won’t go into clothes shops for fear they’re staring at me’ way. Long term effects of playground bullying are no fun. Don’t do it, kids. But given my current ‘up’ mood, I turned that negativity into positivity. I picked the Son up after work and about two minutes after he got into the car, turned to him and suggested we drop into a local leisure centre and see what activities we could do together. He was quite keen. That startled me, but also pleased me.

I used to go to this particular leisure centre when he was about six, doing the ‘Body Balance’ classes. I loved Body Balance. To this day I can’t tell you why I stopped going. It was a weird class though, had the most bizarre effect on me. The last bit was always a ‘stress-relieving relaxation’ where the instructor turned the lights in the room out and we closed our eyes and did the whole concentrating on breathing thing. The music she played varied, but there was one bit that just… got me. Every time I heard it whilst being all relaxed and chilling after the session, I would just cry. Buckets. Not even unhappy crying. Just a release of tension, I think. Even now, I can’t hear that particular bit of music without tearing up. Someone on the interwebs took that bit of music and attached it to a bunch of utterly glorious space images. It just moves me.

So anyway, this leisure centre is no longer council run and I have to say… what a good thing. It has a completely different air to it now. Active Life is a community project and I cannot help but admire that. For two years, they’ve been investing every penny of profit back into the place and it shows. The dance studio is utterly glorious and they are buying new equipment to replace the old, inherited from a disinterested council stuff. So I stroll in, indicate the Son and say ‘so… here’s the deal, we both want to get fit. What can we do?’

The lovely lady on the front desk showed us the obligatory forms and paperwork, then took us on a tour round the place, including the X-Bike studio, where they run virtual rides from a projector. Utterly brilliant. ‘There’s several instructor-led classes,’ she said. ‘They’re hard work, but fun.’ The tour was great and I cannot stress enough how excellent the customer service in this establishment is. Bigger places could do with taking a few tips.

So because I am the kind of person who has to strike whilst the iron’s hot, I signed myself and the Son up for an instructor-led X-Bike session this morning. At 9.30am. After checking that the Son actually knew what ‘Saturday morning’ was, of course.

My goodness me, I’m unfit. I didn’t get particularly out of breath – I’m not that bad, but oh god, my legs now feel as though they are made from sponge. I happily admit that I couldn’t keep up with the whole class. It is only thirty minutes, but it’s thirty minutes of solid workout. I feel good and energised (and spongy) and although I couldn’t manage all of it, at least I now have a goal. We’re going back tomorrow for the gym induction and I’m going – by myself, which is the hardest bit – but the staff make me feel so comfortable – to Zumba on Monday.

Best thing of all, of course, is that the Son thoroughly excelled and enjoyed it hugely. Having him to go with means that there’s more of a chance I will go as well. It’s brilliant: something we can do together, motivate one another with and generally bond over. So I’m changing something. I’m swapping the sitting around doing nothing lark for getting into the gym and doing classes and burning off that stress.

Oh – and utilising the Dulux ‘reds’ colour chart?

colourchart1

This is not a natural colour for anybody to be.

 

 

Give Them An Inch…

…and they’ll take the damned globe.

Who am I talking about, you wonder? Where will this rant lead? Politicians, perhaps? They’re notorious for such behaviour. How about book reviewers, or film critics, or the people who complain that the shade of blue on the in-game rendering of Grits McLargehuge the Valiant Warrior’s armour in the PS3 OMFGAWESOMES game ‘Final Dawn of Mass Assassin’s Gears of Duty (FIFA Version)’ is two shades darker than it should be?

No. I’m talking about none of these people, although that game has great potential.

No, I’m talking about characters. Specifically, characters who saunter up, take over and then leave you by the wayside gasping in their wake like a fish out of water. Or any land-bound mammal IN water. Why don’t you ever hear anybody say ‘he was like a badger in the Baltic’? Or a monkey in the Mariana Trench? (Probably because, like me, they couldn’t remember the name of the Mariana Trench and accidentally typed ‘Mariachi’. That would be something else entirely).

Baaaaaaad pun.

So yeah. Characters. The Esteemed Mr. Abnett has discussed something similar this week at his blog over here.

I’m writing this story, which I’ve referred to as  Project: Loophole. And like any other story, it has characters in it. A good start. Characters are the flavour on your piece of Secret Midnight Toast. Some of them are evil, some of them are heavenly. Heavenly characters are the topping you spread with abandon on your… hang on. A visual reference may help:

Characters who make you think of the delightful fellow on the left are what you want. The interloper on the right is just wrong, quite frankly.

Anyway.

I have this character. And he’s heavenly. Which is to say, I’ve grown incredibly fond of him over the course of Project: Loophole (which is pretty much at first draft stage now by the way). But tonight, he did something unexpected. He made a decision. And I don’t know what he decided. I’m sure I’ll work it out, but for a fraction of a second, I was infuriated with him.

How can this be? He’s MY creation! My character! And he didn’t even so much as send me a text! I’ve frequently been startled in the past when my characters have done something I’ve not expected them to do. One of my characters in an online roleplaying game I used to participate in did that and his story arc went off in a whole new direction. For me though, that’s what I like most about writing. It’s the fact that I don’t have full control over the characters. I create the situations for them. How they react is almost spontaneous. Obviously, some things happen because they’re meant to. But frequently, the repercussions of those events don’t make themselves properly known until crazy things happen. Like decision making.

Also, they’re not real. Remember Father Ted.

This.

So. Watch out for your characters. They may startle you in ways you hadn’t anticipated.

This rant has been brought to you this evening by the letters ‘P’ and ‘I’ and the number 3.14159265.

 

Life, Death and the Bit Inbetween

Various mind meanderings here. Possibly a bit morbid, but I need to brain-dump it out the way.

First of all, my dad was on the phone earlier and told me this news. This won’t mean an awful lot to most of you, but Dr. Palmer was my GP pretty much from when I was born until he retired. There were two other doctors up at the surgery, but I always wanted to see Dr. Palmer. I have this vague recollection of a very kind, very down-to-earth doctor who always put me at my ease and was outstandingly thoughtful. He was ninety years old, which I admit surprised me because as you know, when you’re a kid, adults already seem ancient. He died peacefully and for that, I’m immensely grateful.

Life and death are things that crop up all the time in my job and which has been heavily featured in the news this week. For those of you who don’t know what I do in my ‘day job’, I work in Cancer Services for the local NHS trust. Now, I don’t have any direct contact with patients, but all the same… certain things happen with people during the course of their pathways through the hospital that means you remember them. Maybe they’ve missed an outpatients appointment for a slightly amusing reason… or perhaps you remember them for more tragic reasons. I was talking to one of the nurse specialists about how I could never do their job. How it must be the hardest thing in the world to sit down with a patient and give them the news that nobody wants to hear.

‘The patients are usually alright,’ said the nurses. ‘It’s the families. They’re the ones who struggle to accept it. Almost invariably the patient takes the news calmly.’ This is in part because they’re expecting it. Of course, some of them are shocked, but for the most part, they take the news with great and admirable dignity. Some of them choose no surgical intervention, some of them are too advanced for surgical intervention, so go for palliative treatments instead. Some, like the patient who came to my attention yesterday, write beautiful letters to the nurses saying (paraphrased): ‘thank you so much for your kindness and care. But I have had a happy life and whilst I have no pain, I will just go about my daily life. When the time comes, don’t be sad for me.’ I heard about this and I was welling up.

The other thing that’s made my heart break this week has been the awful, awful tragedy in Belgium that saw the loss of 28 lives, some 22 of them 12 year old children. Perhaps it just hits very close to the mark with Smallish being around that age, but for one of the very few times in my life, the phrase ‘my heart goes out…’ is true. Those parents… I can’t start to comprehend what they must be going through. On the day Smallish was born, at 32 weeks gestation, there was a strong chance he wasn’t going to make it to lunchtime. I was lucky.

It’s true what they say. Hold onto what you have, because you never know when it’s going to be taken from you. This has been acute for me this week with the annual run-up to Mother’s Day. I miss my mother very much and I always will. But I won’t forget her. I’m going to go and find a bunch of freesias somewhere tomorrow (her favourite flowers) and remember her in that way on Sunday.

Perhaps all this sadness is the natural balance to the quiet rage I had last week at my day job. Perhaps it’s karma’s way of reminding me how bloody lucky I am. I have a husband and son who I love dearly, my dad, my brother, a home of my own… my two jobs and some quite extraordinary friends. I have enough money to pay my bills and feed my family; with a little left over for luxuries. I am lucky.

Religion and culture notwithstanding, there is a very strong possibility that this life is all we have; this shot on Earth the only one we get. Why do we spend so much of it wishing for things we can’t have, or things we should have done? I am trying – although it’s hard at times – to adopt the ‘live life to the full’ attitude. This has been quite effective, although last week at work did induce Much Rage. But then you stop, you take a step back. You see 22 sets of grieving parents and you think ‘I have no problems’.

None at all.

Be well and be happy, Interwebs. Here, here is an amusing picture to help you be happy.

Well? How else do they get the curl right?

When Senior Citizens Go Bad

I’m trying to clear up some space on my hard drive and I came across this, which was written for absolutely no discernible reason one afternoon. I wrote it whilst working at a former job where I had long periods of time to twiddle my thumbs and it was inspired by two of my older colleagues having a dead-straight-face serious conversation about Werther’s Originals.

Just thought I’d share it for the LOL value. Or not. Whatever. Also, it gets it off my hard drive. And gives me a reason to briefly procrastinate, although I’m more than half-done on Project: Loophole tonight anyway.

Continue reading

Yes! We Are All Individuals!

Realisation comes quite slowly at times, but I had a wee bit of an epiphany this morning.

After the cats woke me up at 7am by persistently purring and literally using my bladder as a trampoline, I meandered downstairs and idly flicked through the virtual pages of the interwebs. My second short story, Action and Consequence, went into the new edition of Hammer & Bolter, which went live for download yesterday. I had received a couple of emails and PMs from people telling me that they’d enjoyed it. That was nice.

The epiphany came in the realisation, obvious though it is – and much as I well know it – that different people like different things. All of the comments and feedback I’ve gotten thus far have been very positive. But interestingly, some people liked A&C more than Primary Instinct, and some were the other way around. For no readily apparent reason, I found this quite interesting.

Since Primary Instinct was published, I’ve been a little anxious about stumbling upon reviews. Even when you know that you’re not going to please all the people all the time, there’s still a little part of you that hopes at least some people will enjoy what you’ve written. The Warhammer fandom is a difficult beast, I think. It’s made up of a lot of different people and they’re all going to differ in their individual tastes. Rightly so – how dull would the universe be if they all liked the same thing? Hell, even in this house there’s differences of opinion on what we like to read. Dearly Beloved might like one thing, whilst I’ll sort of shrug my shoulders and extol the wonders of something else… to which he shrugs his shoulders.

With the help and guidance of Them What Knows, I’ve started to learn to take reviews and feedback – both good and bad – in a very detached way. Approaching them from the angle of, as already said, ‘you can’t please all the people all the time’, I’ve discovered that swipes without basis just roll off me. (Case in point: the most carefully thought out review ever. ‘I thought it was ‘meh’. Note: I’ve read that about a couple of the big-seller BL books – Prospero Burns and The First Heretic have both been described in such a way. I consider myself flattered to be put on the same level as Dan Dan the Writist Man and Aaron Dembski-Bowden. For what it’s worth, I enjoyed both of those books and found nothing ‘meh’ about them at all. Go figure).

And it’s not just books, either. Music, films, milk or plain chocolate… everyone likes different things. What really sets my teeth on edge though are those arrogant people who are not prepared to accept that just because they think something is either ULTRASUPERMEGAFANTASTICANDAMAZING or OMGWTFBBQBAD other people don’t agree. Very much the ‘everyone is entitled to my opinion’ people. Those are the people you will never please.

Occasionally I’ll play a little game on my Facebook or Twitter feed that I call ‘Either/or’. It’s just a little bit of fun and apart from the people who never quite get the basic rules (the basic rule is… either one thing or the other. Not a random other option), it can be quite entertaining. It’s always fun to see how opinion divides. Occasionally someone will post in horror that people have picked the ‘either’ rather than the ‘or’. (Airwolf or Blue Thunder for example got quite a lot of people het up).

I love how everyone’s different.

Rambling… reminds me of a Far Side cartoon I saw once:

The Four Basic Personality Types

I had a theory that you could tell the basic thinking types of people by handing them a jumbled Rubik’s cube (pretending, for a moment, that nobody knew what it was) and explaining that they had to solve it by making all the colours match on every side. This theory was actually based on my brother’s and my own approach to solving it. The Rubik’s cube would thus present the following three types:

1) Methodical thinkers (also known as ‘the sensible ones’) The ones who take a moment or two to understand the fundamental mechanics of how the cube works, the way it twists, the way the rotation of the pieces makes a massive difference and then proceed to twist their way to the solution. This was my brother.

2) Lazy thinkers (also known as ‘massive cheats’) The ones who peel off every label but the centre ones and stick them back on again.

3) Lateral thinkers (also known as ‘slightly odd’ or ‘engineers’. Which are similar things) The ones who deconstruct the cube and then rebuild it… in my case with the phrase “you didn’t say I couldn’t solve it that way”.

I digress. Again. Sorry. Shouldn’t attempt stream of consciousness blogging first thing in the morning. Where was I? Oh yes.

There are a whole bunch of methods to describe the fact that people have individual tastes, likes and hates. ‘What’s sauce for the goose is not sauce for the gander’, for example. What a very silly phrase. But yeah. I get its meaning. Look at the nursery rhyme of Jack Sprat. The man who disliked fat on his meat andwho had a wife who would eat no lean. What a weird arrangement they had. Incidentally, the Politically Correct version of said nursery rhyme:

Original:

Jack Sprat could eat no fat
His wife could eat no lean;
And so between them both you see
They licked the platter clean.

Under the terms of Political Correctness, this should now be taught thus:

Complications arose during a non-congressional investigation of dietary influence. One person (of the male gender) was unable to assimilate adipose tissue and another person (of the female gender) was unable to consume tissue consisting chiefly of muscle fibre. A reciprocal arrangement betweent he two – who also happened to be a party of a domesticated alliance – allowed for the total consumption of the viands under consideration. This was ultimately achieved, thus leaving the original container of the viands devoid of any contents.

I find that funny. There’s probably plenty of people who don’t.

Right. Breakfast, I think. I’d ask you to recommend what I should have, but I don’t trust your opinion.

Stupid O’ Clock on a Sunday Morning

Oh look, it’s 00:41.

I was going to go to bed at about 11pm, then I got sucked into RP in Silvermoon. Which is fine, except now I’m outrageously tired. Had an awful night’s sleep last night, courtesy of one of the neighbour’s cats slinking in through the cat flap at about 4am. After THAT little altercation, where one of our two cats made her displeasure about this state of affairs well and truly known, things quietened down for an hour or so. Then the other cat decided that the belt on the dressing gown hanging from the bedroom door was the BEST TOY EFFA and made a lot of noise about it.

Woke up and the sodding snow hadn’t miraculously gone anywhere overnight. So started day relatively grumpified.

However, did get a good way through the edit of part one of Gildar Rift, which I hope to email to the editor-beast on Monday, a nice week ahead of schedule. I’m still very proud of myself for hitting that first deadline without too much of a worry. Now just to write the rest of it with the same optimistic outlook. Go, go Gildar Rift!

I shall go to bed in a minute and mutter rude things about my cats, who will come up to bed with big innocent eyes and happy, contented purrs… and then they will unleash hell.

Little bastards.

In other news… my birthday is rapidly approaching. I will be many years old. But for once, I’m not worried about it. I finish work the day before my birthday and have the week before Christmas off. I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to that. Just me and Small Son (and I think my dad’s threatened to come visit the weekend of my birthday – great! He can look after Small Son whilst Dearly Beloved and I go out for a nice meal or something). My birthday’s on the Friday, his is on the Monday after, so that’s always quite handy.

It’s 00:53 now. And the snow still hasn’t melted. Why not? Where are the snow fairies with their magical vacuums to suck it all away? Useless little folk. Why do I bother going to the trouble of willing them to exist when they don’t do what I want them to do?

An aside: I thought about LRP today for the first time in ages! You know what I thought? I thought ‘I’m so glad I don’t care about it any  more’.

It was a nice feeling.

00:57. I’ve told the person I’m RP’ing with on WoW that I’m outta here at 01:00. Hopefully they’ll respect that and not go into a mardi with me for bailing.

Another aside: Ooh, I used the phrase ‘go into a mardi’. I haven’t used that since I lived in the Midlands! I’m reverting!

People are strange things.

01:00. I haven’t typed ‘/quit’ yet. *gears up the attempts to wrap the wee scene*

I washed our underblanket today, by hand. That was a laugh a minute, I can tell you. The darn thing absorbed all the water on the fething planet and is currently a sodden mess in the bath until I can muster the energy to deal with it. Stupid blanket.

Which reminds me, I must put the duvet cover and pillow cases back on before I get into bed tonight.

01:04 – it’s working!

Wait… hold on… not quite…

NO NO NO! DON’T GET DRAWN INTO A DISCUSSION ABOUT YOUR CHARACTER’S STORY SO FAR! MAKE HER GO READ IT ON THE FORUMS, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT’S GOOD AND HOLY!

01:07 – /quit

Woot!

Bedtime for me, then I think.

Goodnight world.

</stream of consciousness>

Uphill Struggles

Well, I ended up being off work for three days last week what with the Being Ill thing.  It was a nightmare when I went back in on Friday – my job is pretty time-dependent and three days is a very long time in terms of pulling patient pathways together.  But you know: it was genuine being ill and now I’m on the road to recovery.  Still coughing quite a lot, which is a pain in the arse.  Particularly because so much coughing leads to great acid reflux which just makes me feel constantly hungry.  I could do with chocolate right now, in fact.  But there isn’t any.  As usual.  Because I’m good at heart.

I haven’t done a lot of writing in the past week, although yesterday I prodded chapter nine of ‘Childhood’s End’, my Silver Skulls ‘prequel’ to see what fell out.  4,400 words fell out in something like three hours.  Clearly my muse just required a good prodding.

I need to turn my attention to the fact that there’s a faction banquet next weekend.  For those of you who don’t know this about me, one of my hobbies is LRP (live role play), which largely involves running about in a field with the weapon du jour, beating the crap out of like-minded, consenting adults.  Seriously, a hobby in which you get to hit people and not get into trouble for it?  What’s not to like?

About three years ago, I stopped being a player and become a member of the organising staff group.  This eats into my time far, far more than you’d think: I have to write plotlines for around 100-150 people to engage with and keep them all busy.  This is no mean feat.  Nice feedback comes when you get players saying things like ‘woah, that was awesome’.  For the most part, they’re all pretty cool people.  Every now and again though, you just feel SO much like you’re spitting into a force ten gale with them.  Some people can be pretty ungrateful if they don’t think they’re getting enough ‘me’ time.

Roleplayers are pretty histrionic (and I do count myself in that number) and very demanding on a personal level.  Imagine what it’s like wiwth a room full of people who need to be constantly reassured that it’s All About Them.  Then tease that out to people phoning me at all hours of the day and night to complain that it’s Not Enough About Them.  I have days when I could just walk away from it, were it not for the nicer, less ungrateful people involved.

I’m not selling my hobby very well, am I?

It’s given me good things.  It’s given me confidence and it’s given me an escape and it’s given me a dislocated jaw… there’s the joy of contact sports for you.

But still.  When a handful of people start whining constantly because things aren’t going the way THEY want, it can be totally disheartening.  I’m sure the banquet will be good fun – the menu’s certainly pretty appealling:-

Cold starter of

  • skewered meats
  • olives
  • salami, cured sausage
  • flat bread
  • houmous
  • Haloumi cheese skewers 
  • Chutney
  • mulled cider

Course 2

  • slow cooked beef in red wine served inside warm crusty bread
  • medley of mushrooms cooked in red wine served in warm crusty bread (V)

course 3 – non meat course

  • red pepper,olive, cheese and onion tart with salad
  • stuffed peppers  (stuffed with cous cous, apricots, mushrooms, pine nuts and tomatoes)
  • stuffed aubergine

Course 4 (main meat course)

  • trio of roasted meats (depending on what is cost effective and available probably roast pork, sticky chicken legs or goose, slow cooked lamb)
  • honey roasted veg
  • garlic roasted new potatoes
  • (V) pine nut roast with a lemon and herb stuffing
  • tomato and cider gravy
  • belly pork

Course 5/6

  • Roman pear jelly made with sparkling white wine
  • Greek yogurt with almonds
  • honey biscuits
  • Turkish delight
  • candied fruits
  • cheese