Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Right To Read

This cold isn't a bad one as it goes and it seems to be moving quickly through the various stages. The worst thing is that I haven't been sleeping well and this worries me because usually it matters. But then I lost almost an entire night's sleep at the weekend with apparently no ill effect, so perhaps something is changing. Or perhaps not as I certainly feel like I could use some sleep just now.

Yesterday I was reading about the Books Before We Die campaign and the RNIB's Right To Read Charter. Apparently 96% of all books published don't make it into large-print, audio or braille formats. I didn't realise things were so bad. I have very good sight, apparently, but I have had problems reading because of various cognitive symptoms, which result in a kind of temporary dyslexia. The letters of the worlds slide together and muddle, the words within sentences do the same and so on. This doesn't happen as much as it used to, but for example I always read sheet music through coloured celophane and my computer is set up so I'm writing in black on an off-white colour - for some reason pale pink works best.

Some years ago (I was about to say a few but in fact it's six or seven) I was trying to do A-Level English Literature. I didn't finish it because my health relapsed. Anyway, I had to read Jane Austen's Mansfield Park as a set text. Jane Austen rocks, but it is not the easiest thing in the world to read*. I tried to get it as an audiobook and it being a study piece, I tried to get it unabridged. To my horror I discovered that this, a classic by perhaps one of the greatest authors that ever lived, was going to cost over fifty pounds to get as an unabridged audiobook. Eek!

So not only are the vast majority of books unavailable, but those that are cost an absolute fortune. However much Jane Austen rocks, it can't be worth fifty quid just to read one of her books. And yet, a lot of abridged talking books, of which I have experience for the reasons described above, are pretty naff.

These days, because the talking software packages are so advanced, a great deal could be achieved simply by putting books into electronic format. There is a big issue with pirating, but the fact is most sighted people want to read books on paper – it’s not like music where a CD produces the same sensory experience as music on a computer or iPod. The majority of people would still buy books in paper even if they could download the book onto their computer screens for free.

I think it’s a scandal there is so little provision. Most of us are going to experience a deterioration in our sight at some point if we live long enough and the idea that the only version of Captain Correlli’s Mandolin I got to know was the saccharine excuse for a film fills me with horror.

You can volunteer to go read to visually impaired people or record readings for the RNIB. Having become so incensed, I am planning to volunteer for the latter once my cold has cleared up and I can actually talk.

* The first sentence of Mansfield Park is as follows:
About thirty years ago, Miss Maria Ward, of Huntingdon, with only seven thousand pounds, had the good luck to captivate Sir Thomas Bertram, of Mansfield Park, in the county of Northampton, and to be thereby raised to the rank of a baronet's lady, with all the comforts and consequences of an handsome house and large income.

Five good things about having a rhinovirus.

I now have a cold. It's not too bad just yet, just a killer sore throat. This coincides with the day upon which all my general disorganisation catches up with me; I now have three piles of paperwork - mostly junkmail but there's an IB50 (benefit form) and a credit card statment in there somewhere - and I've run out of socks.

So to cheer myself up I have been pondering the five good things about having a rhinovirus:
  1. You get sick, you feel crap, but then within a matter of days you feel a lot lot better. This is not the usual pattern with my health, which gets worse and remains so for months and months if not permanently. I may sound sarcastic but this is a real bonus; if I am better within ten days it will restore my faith in my immune system and my body in geneal.
  2. Colds don't spoil everything. Not like flu and it could be flu or some other nasty bug which turns your brain to mud and leaves you in bed staring at the insides of your eyelids. With a cold you can watch movies, listen to music and maybe even do something useful and productive if you pace yourself.
  3. You don't have to wash your hair. You're not going to go out and anyway, having wet hair and not being able to dry it properly by yourself, which is the case with me, is going to make things worse. My hair is long out of laziness rather than vanity and a cold frees me from the chore of its maintenance.
  4. It doesn't feel so indulgent to fall asleep during the day. I don't know why it usually feels indulgent even though I do it most days and usually when I can't actually keep myself awake any more. Something to do with the "Sick Role" I think.
  5. You get to consume sweet and syruppy things; lemon and honey, rum and blackcurrant and stuff like this. Yummy!
So there you are; I bet you wish that you too had my cold! It's not something to sneeze at - I certainly wouldn't turn my nose up with such an offer at issue. Unfortunately, when you do have a cold, you don't feel like any hanky-panky. Get it? Oh dear, I need some Lemsip.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005


Today I have been writing very slowly, but when it goes slowly it usually means it’s good and won’t need too much editing. My doubts about the entire project are back though, as they seem to be whenever I reach any sort of landmark, like the 60,000 word wordcount on my final draft.

It could be a load of rubbish. I think it’s fairly incredible that I carry on despite this fact, really. I mean, it could be an almighty waste of time and energy. I could have been busy playing Solitaire or watching daytime TV for the last two years. I’m not afraid that it won’t get published. If it is any good then I believe it will get published eventually even if it takes ages and ages to sell it. However, it’s the fear that the first person to read it over will get to the end, look rather embarrassed and say they liked the bit with the chickens.

At the moment I am especially worried about one of my main characters, who I can’t really work out. The others I know as well as close family members, but this one I have doubts about. I’m not confident about whether she is convincing and consistent in her behaviour.

One thing that sometimes helps with the characters is to find on-line freebee personality tests or psychometric tests and to answer the questions as the character would answer them. Most of the results you get on-line are pretty rubbish, but the exercise is useful. And naturally when you put the bad guys through these tests you don’t get results saying;

“You’re an Evil Genius. You are highly creative, frequently coming up with ideas which your friends and colleagues may be disturbed by. You have a good sense of humour and take pleasure in the pain and suffering of others. You like to be in control and are happy to use the threat of violence in order to achieve this. Although family is important to you, you accept the fact your mother never loved you.”

Instead you get a description which is perhaps much closer to how your Evil Genius might actually see and understand themselves – which is more important than the truth when you’re considering their motivation and behaviour. At least it is unless you’re prepared to accept that Evil Geniuses do outrageous and often illogical things because they’re mad and bad and that’s all there is to it.

You may be either relieved or disappointed to learn that there are no evil geniuses in my novel.

Yesterday was the first drug-free day in about six months. Well, not totally, but nothing with codeine it in. Today I'm back on them as the battery of the TENS machine appears to be on its last legs. But certainly progress has been made.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Happy Easter!

This evening (Saturday) we watched Something's gotta give with Diane Keaton, Jack Nicholson and Keanu Reeves. It is about a middle-aged script-writer who winds up caring for her daughter's sugar-daddy after he has a heart attack at their home. Despite being a romantic comedy complete with cringe-worthy moments, it was a tight script and everyone acted beautifully - even Keanu. Rubbish ending though. Really rubbish. It was so close to being a good ending, but it was rubbish.

To make up for this we then watched Point Break (Keanu and Patrick Swazee (sp?) ) which is an excellent film. I always forget how good it is, but it's really very good indeed. Keanu is totally at home here, he just runs around a lot, surfs and jumps out of planes looking intense and beautiful. Although I must say the older Keanu in Something's gotta give has a little more meat to him (physically and otherwise) and did do some excellent expressions of a jealous lover. Bodacious.

Anyway, during this time we drank a bottle of white wine my folks brought back from Cephalonia, the Greek island upon which Louis de Berneres masterpiece Captain Correlli's Mandolin was based (my Granny always calls it Kleptomania - there ought to be an island called this - if you discover one, you now know what to call it). Captain Correlli is a brilliant book with a rubbish ending. The behaviour of certain characters made no sense. And then, given that the lovers were pointlessly, stupidly parted for fourty odd years, it would have been okay if Pelagia had shot Correlli for being such a owner-operator, but instead she hits him over the head with a frying pan. Which is comic. And I was crying at that point; I wanted the guy dead.

It occurs to me that my folks went to Cephalonia in 2001. So that wine has been hanging about some time. It was okay. I know nothing about wine. Hal once shared a bottle of wine with me that tasted like honey-suckle, really gorgeous, but apart from that it all tastes a bit... well... uriney. Goodness I am a little tipsy.

This together with the remarkable effects of the TENS machine have made me wide awake approaching one in the morning - worse, since the clocks are going forward, we will skip straight to two o'clock in the morning. Considering that I have a minimum of ten hours sleep every night, tomorrow may be a little disrupted.

As today I have been researching chickens and the keeping of chickens for my book, I shall now write great drunken lyrical prose about chickens. Did you know that if your chickens have large crowns, you need to rub them with vaseline in the winter to prevent frostbite?

Anyway, Happy Easter everyone! Now I appear to be comfortable without the use of codeine I hope to spend what part of the day I see painting my little wargaming figures, which I have previously been unable to paint for (a) pain and (b) drug-induced clumsiness.

TENS update

He he! It works! It took ages to be really effective and I think the battery is struggling so I'm giving it a rest in case it runs out over the bank holiday weekend. However, eight hours has passed since my last dose of painkiller and I do not feel the need to have any more just now - a real breakthrough. Naturally no miracles, but still. I feel happier than I have felt in a good while. Probably only a few days but it feels like months. Hooray!

Clocks are about to go forward so we lose an hour in bed... groan.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Feeling TENS

Well yesterday there was a big thick fog in my brain. Could I be less articulate or more ranting? I have been suffering lately. Nothing terrible, it's just the constant juggling of activity, rest, nutrients, alcohol, pain-killers, laxatives, herbal remedies etc. I made another doctor's appointment midweek as the new meds are worse than the old but I couldn't get an appointment before next Friday (and since it'll be April 1st he'll probably tell me I'm pregnant).

Today I received a TENS machine on loan from my sister and am wired up to it. Not sure how much or indeed whether it is working, but it feels funny, thus it makes me giggle and cheers me up a bit. I think it is helping actually. My legs were ready to fall off earlier (or at least, I was ready to saw them off without anasthetic) but now they just ache a lot.

My sister also sent me chocolate and I wasn't expecting to have any in the house this Easter so that's good. Also my nearly-but-not-quite-yet brother-in-law sent me a print of one of his photos. You can admire it yourself here.

I actually went into town this morning, which was a mistake. It was very busy and wet. Tourists out in town today have no patience and few manners. I have two rules when it comes to navigating the crowds in my electric wheelchair;
  • Always treat others with the utmost courteosy.
  • Ignore the needs of those who do not do the same.
Thus I create pedestrian traffic queues by waiting at one end of the bridge while an slow moving elderly lady - who could not have easily moved out of anyone's way - crosses safely. Since most people in town in Whitby on Easter Saturday are tourists, on holiday or out for a day trip, I'm not sure what they're in such a hurry for.

It was a fairly pointless trip into town but I managed to bump into someone who has never seem me in a wheelchair and probably doesn't know about me being ill or anything. So that would have been a surprise for him.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Sex selection

There is an article on the BBC news website about synaesthesia, which I previously misspelt. I've gone back and corrected my spelling now. Anyway, you can read about some research into the subject here.

Also in the news this week is a report by The Commons Science and Technology Committee which suggested there was no good reason to spot parents having IVF from choosing the sex of their babies. You can read about this here. I think the Committee lacks imagination.

The issue isn’t to do with creating an unbalanced society; in parts of the world where elective abortion of female babies or female infanticide has become prolific, things are bound to balance themselves up within a generation or two. Females of marriageable age will become rare and sought after. Throughout history there have been periods where the dowry was given to the bride’s parents from the groom’s parents and this may even return. In the UK this probably isn't an issue at all.

The issue is to do with people’s unreasonable expectations of parenthood and how this effects relationships after a child is born and existing in the world.

Folks get confused about the difference between sex and gender. Sex is your biological leaning; your femaleness or maleness – however, a good number of babies are born ambiguous, then there are folks who differ from the standard XY and XX chromosomes, so it’s not always straight forward. Gender is what you are socially; your femininity or masculinity and being a social construct, this varies according to cultural ideas of feminine and masculine. There are some typical traits associated with femininity and masculinity; for example, your average male and your average female, should two such creatures exist, could be expected to perform differently on a number of practical tasks and psychological exercises.
It is however almost impossible to work out what is biological and what is conditioned when it comes to psychology. A person’s attitude towards issues such as relationships and their ability to perform at a task is effected by all number of influences, natural aptitude, instinct and also experience of this sort of problem, motivation, identity and so on. There are lots of fun and more thought out tests on-line to test the sex or gender of your brain. The most comprehensive one is at the BBC here but it takes a while to do. Whenever I do these things I come out male/masculine although remarkably on the BBC I was slap bang in the middle. This wasn’t helped by the fact that I outperformed both the average male and female score on all the aptitude tests, but still…

Anyway, back to my point about babies. A close family member and a close friend were the only female children among several brothers. Both their mothers despaired of them because these girls were not girlie enough. They didn’t enjoy shopping with their mothers. They weren’t motivated by pretty clothes, make-up and so on. These women are not and were not especially unfeminine or tomboyish, but they were both a disappointment and a concern and it's affected their self-esteem ever since.

When [...] was working in a model shop, he had a woman come in looking for something for her son. She described how she wanted to get him a model of a tank or a plane because they were worried about the way he was developing. He didn’t seem interested in tanks and guns, instead he was into dressing up… as a wizard. A wizard, for goodness sake. I wonder why that was.

This is why parents should not be allowed to chose the sex of their offspring, apart from perhaps in very special circumstances for medical reasons. Anything you are selective about before the birth of a child raises certain expectations about the sort of child you would like to have and that is simply not something we have a right, let alone an opportunity to decide. Despite the phrase “designer babies”, the fact is that you can do very little to determine the experience and traits of your child before birth and only so much you can do after the event.

Similarly, you can’t prevent your child being born with an impairment, you can only prevent your child being born with certain sorts of impairment with screening. But that’s another issue I may rant about at another time.

And frankly, people who think their boy has something wrong with him because he wants to dress up as a wizard as opposed to playing with guns and tanks shouldn't be allowed to have children at all. But I'm not sure how you would legislate for that one...

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

My Day Out #3

This news story amused me yesterday if anyone wants a giggle.

Last night we went out for tea at the Duke of York with our friend, which was really good except four hours passed since my teatime tablets and I had to demand to go home earlier than anyone else wanted to call it a day. This taking painkillers with food is a pain in the posterior. Plus people kept bashing into the back of my chair. Maybe the problem with this isn't obvious.

Okay. If someone has both legs but has to use a wheelchair, then very often it is because they have some sort of pain disorder in either or both their back and/ or legs. If it stops them walking about normally, then it is going to be significantly uncomfortable.

Now a wheelchair has a less stable structure than a normal chair. Apart from anything else your sat at a higher position and your feet aren't on the floor. Therefore, if someone knocks into your chair, your whole body is jolted. Now this may be slight, but when you are in pain this may be the equivalent of closing a car door on your thumb. Ever done that? Exactly.

Of course other people don't know this, other people don't have perfect co-ordination and if I want to sit in a crowded pub I knowingly and willingly expose myself to this sort of thing. I just thought it might be useful to explain this briefly in case it made any difference to anyone. I know I take up a lot of space, but it is my personal space. If the wheelchair was my flesh you wouldn't knock into it and if I ate enough hot cross buns I could probably reach that size.

Hot cross buns... mmm... aren't hot cross buns just the best thing about Easter?

Anyway, we had a good time. Our friend is over fifty and thus suffers from this Jamie Cullum problem I described here, but apart from that he is excellent company. When [...] and our friend get together they do a grumpy old man routine which always amuses me. This is not a party piece, it's just something they slip into unwittingly.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Spring has sprung - dwoiing!

Here is a very silly poem [...] likes to recite at this time of year;

The spring has sprung, the grass has riss'
I wonder where the birdies iss'
The birdies is on the wing!!
but that's absurd,
the wing is on the bird.

I have no idea who it is by - I did attempt to find out but I failed.

I think spring must have sprung. It's really warm and sunny and I'm thinking about going out without my trenchcoat. I only have to persuade myself to go out at all, which is taking some effort. I want to go out but at the same time I'm dopey and I don't really have anywhere to go. I think I will wait until [...] leaves the house then follow him about at a healthy distance.

There's an awful lot of sexual activity going on in our fishtank. The place is littered with roe (literally; the floor is covered with it, the glass is covered with it - there are even eggs above the surface of the water). The snails are also covered with the stuff, but they are getting up to their own shenanigans, especially the largest snail who seems to be either mating or laying eggs every time I look up. The first time we saw it mate it picked on the very smallest snail and we considered that the large snail might actually be attempting to eat the little one since it was squishing it about and sucking upon it. But then it let the little one go, trundled across the tank and laid a great long trail of eggs (about 50 x 8 millimetres - most of the snails only lay 8 x 8 millimetre blobs).

Some of the fry, the baby fish, seem to be surviving and growing without getting eaten, but I'm not sure if realistically they have any chance. Similarly, both the snails and the fish appear to like the taste of snail eggs. I don't suppose any of them have read any Doctor Spock.

I really want to get on with painting my wargaming figures and try to have a battle on Wednesday. Everybody else fights with half painted figures but I can't do this, they have to be perfect before they can be fielded. This is why I haven't had a battle despite having had these models since Christmas.

I also want to get on with my book, but I think I need to get some fresh air without the exercise before I can concentrate on anything. Easter is coming and Whitby may get pretty crowded with tourists - I hope it does for all my friends' sake whose livelihoods hinge on this stuff, but it does mean it gets rather uncomfortable in town.

By the way, dwoiing! is the sound of spring springing.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Wowza Technology

I was doing some research into Palm Pilots, personal organisers and the like today and asked my nearly-but-not-quite brother-in-law what he used. He recommended the Hipster PDA. How's that for state of the art?

50, 000 words

Yesterday I reached the 50, 000 word point in the final draft of my novel. I probably have to write another twenty or perhaps thirty thousand words, but these are only the limbs of the story; the torso and head are already intact, breathing and cogniscient. Once I have done, I will of course need to go through and revise and re-edit a fair amount, but still. This means, in a sense, I am on the home run.

It may be only another two or three months before I am finished. This prospect makes me feel quite queasy to be honest, but also very happy and motivated to get on and get it done.

In the meantime, I have been to the doctor and got a prescription for a different sort of painkiller. My GP says I may have become used to the codeine, so this is a sideways move. I'm not so sure, the pain was really bad again yesterday and I was having spasms in the night. I was half inclined to get out of bed and take some neat rum to calm this down, but then I wouldn't have slept well - which I didn't anyway, but I hoped I might once I got off. Anyway, new prescription, some hope and I can always go back if they don't work.

Last night I went out to Wargaming again and spent the evening hearing the life story of a young farmer, discussing issues as diverse as The Wind and the Willows and
Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Which was interesting.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

A Day In The Life

Today was an up and down all over the place kind of day. Brain hasn’t engaged at all at any stage. I got a letter in the morning which I was really pleased to get and attempted to reply to it straight off. The brain not working this proved to be a complete waste of time. I was so fogged out by around lunchtime that I ended up listening to The Archers – the omnibus no less. This was bad, very bad.

Big positive in the afternoon though. Very recently, a friend put [...] on his car insurance. We don’t have a car, very few people can justify a vehicle in Whitby since most of us can walk from one end of town to the other without breaking a sweat and those of us who can’t can taxi the same distance for three pounds fifty. Anyway, given that I can’t do trains and buses, access to a car significantly opens up our horizons and today we went to Sandsend, which is just up the coast from here. Apparently Elle MacPherson lives there or there abouts but as I don’t actually know who this MacPherson fella is, I can’t tell you whether I saw him today. We went to the Wit’s End CafĂ© (highly recommended). I had a Chelsea Bun. Well, you were going to ask.

[...] hasn’t driven for about six years so he’s rather nervous at the moment, but it was still great to just hop in the car and do that. I haven’t been out for a week or so because I’ve been sleeping on and off all day, despite sleeping all night and half the morning. It suddenly comes upon me and could be fairly problematic if I wind up dozing in my wheelchair in the centre aisle of Woolworths.

When I came back and rested for a bit I had the stupid idea of dying my hair. I bought some henna stuff from Lush called Caca Rouge, which I think translates as Red Dung (and it looked like it too). This was a long drawn out process which was totally knackering and at half past ten in the evening has resulted in slightly redder hair in patches than I had this morning. Super.

This evening, while my head was smelling of cloves and wrapped in cling-film we watched A Fistful of Dollars which I hadn’t seen before. It’s kind of cool. I want the tab for the theme tune so I’m off to look for that now before bed. Nighty-night.

Monday, March 14, 2005

What did happen on Easter Saturday?

Despite the fact that yesterday seemed to me like the coldest day this year, spring is almost upon us. We are planning a trip to my folks in sunny Suffolk at the May Day bank holiday weekend and that’s only seven weeks away. Wowza.

My friend Vic and I were arranging to talk on Easter Saturday and we were trying to work out what it was that happened on the first Easter Saturday. We decided that they all sat around saying “You know, I keep looking up at that cave half expecting to him strolling out, bold as brass.” and of course they would have had the will-reading. Items we decided would be in Jesus’ will included;
  • Carpenter tools, various, mostly only light use
  • Seven loin cloths, freshly laundered (one size)
  • One pair of sandals, used, some water damage
  • Those “special” demijohns
  • Recipe book; How to Feed 5000 on a Student Budget
That was about as far as we got. Any more (non-offensive) suggestions?

I asked my sister, a practising Christian, what happened on Easter Sunday and she suggested that they all went shopping for Easter Eggs, although naturally they didn't eat any until Jesus had risen...

Of course Whitby, the town where I live is not very famous for being the place that the date of Easter was decided in 664. The Synod of Whitby was mostly about the British (such as we were) adopting the Roman customs of worship as opposed to the Celtic version, but a universally agreed date for Easter was a by-product. So there you go.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Snail update

We decided to name all the snails Albert except for one who we called Albert. Remarkably eighteen out of the twenty are still alive and the two that died were probably dead already – one had a nasty dent in its shell and one was, well, quite literally just a shell. Although the fish have shown interest in them, Klutz and Schmuck are as their names suggest rather stupid whereas we seem to have bought the most intelligent snails to even walk… slither… trundle along the planet. The snails, which are hermaphrodites (not asexual as I earlier suggested), have laid eggs but the fish are at least more cunning that stationary spawn and these have got gobbled up.

As for the functionality of our snail population, our tank has gone from being lined with a thick layer of green algae to being spotlessless clean in the space of a week. We thought it would take a while – naturally these things move at… well, snail’s pace.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Ouch, that smarts!

Physical pain isn’t the worst thing that can happen to you, but eventually it consumes all the joy in everything else. Which is why I need to make a doctor’s appointment; there is a difference between stoicism and martyrdom. You have to have some decent cause if you prepare yourself to suffer. Not wanting to take more powerful drugs or admit that at least one aspect of my condition has changed for the worse aren’t really good enough to pin my colours to. Of course, a true stoic would just get on with this and not mention it, but I have been struggling with the decision to ask for a review.

I am also at a loss as to why things may have become worse. One explanation is that I have somehow become used to my painkillers. I have no idea whether this is possible or likely. Another explanation is atrophy, but I haven’t been dramatically altering my activity levels; surely even if my muscles are wasted, they would be accustomed to these kind of levels and only complain when I attempted to increase my amount of exercise? Plus actually because my brain is working well and I have a sense of having energy, I am moving about quite a lot despite the discomfort. I can’t do distances and I can’t stand still for any length of time, but I get up and move often throughout the day.

Another explanation is that things have got worse for some other unknown reason. This prospect is just depressing, but at least my brain is okay. I am still moving on with my book, a 1000 words a day most days. If I can do something about my pain and still have the lucidity to write life shall go on and everything will be all right.

Anyway, today I am listening to Contraband by Velvet Revolver, a band which includes Slash and Duff McKagan from Guns'n'Roses and Scott Weiland from Stone Temple Pilots among others. It is a good album, very catchy tunes. Not sure I'm in the right mood for it today though alas. I think I need a particular track by John Cage today...

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

In slow motion the blast is beautiful

Sorry, but I’ve been listening to the album The Final Straw by Snow Patrol. I am really excited about this album. It strikes me as being in the same league as Automatic For The People, Abbey Road orOK Computer - definitive. I only wish the band had come up with a better name before producing such a work of genius. What’s more they released the one duff track on the album How To Be Dead as a single. It’s a mediocre song. The rest is almost perfect. I love this album. Not like Keane’s Hopes and Fears which I haven’t listened to since I wrote about it and am about to give away to my friend. Download the single Run from iTunes if in doubt. Although this may well be the best song on the album, what a song! I know this album came out last year but I’m a little slow on the uptake, okay?

I managed to write my final few paragraphs yesterday and they rocked. I can’t share the whole thing because it gives a lot away, but the last sentence is;

Now I thought of her from time to time and that was all.

Are you blown away or what? Okay, I know what you mean but like I say I can’t share with you everything I write or you would get an entire novel in a rather strange order. The important news is that all my strings tie themselves up rather neatly. I mean, not too neatly, I don’t use the phrase happy ever after but everything ends neatly enough. I don’t have any disappearing characters as I did in the first draft. Seriously, I had one character who left his house half way through the novel, the main character’s brother no less and was never seen or mentioned again even though we spent much of the story in his house. None of that, so that’s good. Progress is being made.

Monday, March 07, 2005

The climax of the story

Today I am working on the final chapter of my book. This doesn’t mean I’m nearing the end of this draft, I just feel the need to straighten out the ending at this stage so that I am sure about exactly where I’m going - I daresay I will have to rewrite this when I arrive at it a second time.

I am not very good with endings. I prefer asking the questions early on in the book. And endings are more fragile; you can really screw things up. Everything comes to an end very quickly, almost by accident or luck in my book and I’m not confident that this is going to satisfy the reader. Then again, if the climax didn’t involve any element of good or bad fortune, then it would be very predictable.

Plus, I really struggle to make life or death decisions about my characters. In the very first draft, the ending came as a big fight in which most of my characters were killed one way or another. It was a ridiculous fight really. At one point someone chopped someone else’s head off - I can’t believe I wrote that now, it was just so over the top. Subsequent drafts have made the ending far more subdued and hopefully more believable. I just hope it’s not a total anti-climax.

Oh, this is such hard work.

On a more positive note, I feel confident that I have successfully disabled one of my characters. Of course it is my ambition to get published and go pro, but primarily I wanted to write the sort of book I wanted to read and right some of the wrongs I see in books and other forms of story-telling. I wanted to include a strong realistic Disabled character whose disability was totally incidental to plot. This week I’ve been checking my facts with my friend Bob and feel quite confident that I have pulled this off.

I pray to God this is my final draft. Nobody asks me how it is going anymore, I have been doing this for so long. In a way I am glad they don’t because there’s not much I can say about it, but in a way I feel entirely unsupported. Then again, I know I always ask others how they are getting on at work and what else they are up to and perhaps this is not the way others operate. I am always a little paranoid that because I am ill and everything moves at a slow pace for me, nobody actually gives a monkey's what I do with my time.

Then again again, I know this is partly to do with the people I chose to talk to. There are various family members especially, who sometimes talk for hours about their work, the petty intrigues within their social circles, minor health problems and gardening projects but are pretty keen to get off the moment I volunteer a snippet of information about my own life. It is difficult in such cases to work out whether it is because I am extremely boring or because they are.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Snail Mail - Literally!

Twenty snails arrived in the post today. Honest. I ordered them on-line a few weeks ago but they were apparently delayed by the weather (?). They are perhaps the most unusual thing I have ordered on-line except for a brood of chickens for a family in Africa on behalf of [...]'s nephew at Christmas but naturally the chickens didn’t come to our address.

The snails, some of which are yet to be named, will help to keep the fish tank clean as they trundle along eating algae and fish debris all day long. They also mate when left to their own devices, but with Klutz and Schmuck about, any eggs or offspring are liable to be eaten. In fact, the fish will attack the snails, which is why we’ve got twenty; we expect at least some of them to get sucked from their shells in a gruesome mollusc massacre.

There are two sorts of water snails, ramshorn snails which are kind of ammonite-shaped, flat coils if you like and stagnails which are curvy conical.

I buy most things on-line for a number of reasons, the biggest one being that I don’t get out much (you’d noticed, right?). I buy all my groceries on-line at Tesco, I buy most of my clothes in the world wide jumble sale they call eBay and I would never dream of buying any CDs or DVDs in shops – they’re always so expensive compared to places like 101CD and Play. The first thing I ordered on-line was a bra from Bravissimo and my mother became very anxious about my bra size being accessed by hackers, apparently unconcerned about the security of my credit card number. I have been ordering most things online for seven or eight years now and have had no major problems. But no live organisms before now.

In case anybody else wants to purchase water snails, check out Paul Bromfield Aquatics.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Goldfish Facts #5 (not really many facts though)

I had almost forgotten about this! Ah well, truth be told that this week I only have one goldfish fact;
  • Dry fish food can make a goldfish constipated.
See? A bit rubbish. So instead I shall give you a run down all the other goldfish related blogs I found on the Internet today:

  • The Goldfish Chronicles "Recording the attention span of a... oh look, a javabean"
  • Blue Goldfish "discovery, journalling and conversation - primarily about culture, religious issues, and American politics"
  • The Goldfish Bowl "Graham Tyler's thoughts on SharePoint, Live Communications and Office" (yawn!).
  • La vasca del Goldfish I don't know what this one is about as I have no Italian but Altavista Babelfish translates the title as The Bathtub of the Goldfish and the bit which I think is the description as "In an pleasant evening housewife, to the eve of three days via for Passover, it is finally reached the moment of one carried out epochal for mine blog:" Okay...
There is also a Japanese site called the Goldfish Blog but I can't make head nor tail of it. Unlike the Italian one which we all understood. Naturally it is my intention to make this Diary of A Goldifsh, the most popular blog with the word goldfish in the title and today I have weighed up my competition. What do you think?

Virtual makeovers

I need to get a hair cut. My hair is long and thick, is a bother to wash and more significantly takes an age to dry. I don't have the strength in my arms to blow-dry it. Plus it's rather dull and boring to look at. However, it's been like this for ages. The hairdresser isn't convenient for me and my last visit was about seven years ago. So being nervous about change I bought a Virtual Makeover CD, where you put in a digital image of yourself and put different haircuts on you, different colours. Even makeup but I make about as much a mess of that as I do with make up on my own face.

This is great fun and I'm half inclined to publish the results and put them up for a public vote. Unfortunately, I'm not sure if I could cope if everyone wanted me to have a blonde perm and naturally I can't grow a beard, although I now know what I would look like if I had one.

Otherwise I am beavering away on the book or else sleeping. Shall report again soon.