Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Good Things #3 - Before you was born, dude

The most exciting thing going on just now is that my sister Rosemary is twelve weeks pregnant. Today it is exactly twelve weeks which means I am allowed to tell you about it.

This is what a person-to-be looks like at twelve weeks. Despite the cutesy prose, it is quite an informative site. I was rather concerned to read that Tinker's vocal chords are developing already, but then when I asked Rosie whether they had a preference for a boy or girl she said, "Well now most Cathedrals have girl choirs as well as boy choirs so it doesn't really matter."

"I'm not sure about having such expectations," I said, "I mean, this child might not have a musical flare - it might even be born deaf or something."

To which R responded immediately, "Oh then it would have to learn the xylophone!"

Rosie having babies is something R and I have talked about all our lives and despite my own decisions, I know this is so right for her and indeed Adrian, who will make a really excellent father.

Tinker (as this unborn child shall henceforth be known) will not escape a musical education, but it is that passion that'll be developed first and foremost - most children who have music lessons forced upon them have decidedly unmusical, predominantly image-conscious parents. They will also have tutelage in the visual arts, in science and sport. Adrian speaks French, German, Portugese, Italian and has a smattering of Russian. Between the two of them, Rosie and Adrian have a pretty firm general grounding in any general subject that might be of interest, so I'm sure it will receive encouragement and support in anything it wants to do, which is the greatest thing anyone can offer a child after love, which R & A have in plentiful supply.

I suppose if Tinker needs to know anything about books - proper books - he or she will have to talk to his or her auntie. And if he or she needs to know about... um... how to care for fresh water fish and snails, he or she will have to talk to his or her uncle.

The family have known about the person-to-be since Boxing Day when Rosie and Adrian presented my folks with a Christmas card addressed to Granny & Grandad. My Mum, who had somehow failed to consider this so much as a vague possibility, actually screamed before demanding, “But what are you going to do?!”

Of course, R & A have had to come to terms with the possibility that, because of Adrian’s genetic heritage, any child they have may be born with ginger hair. Despite advances in pre-natal screening for many conditions, there is no way of knowing for sure until the child is actually born. However, ginger hair needn’t be the handicap it once was. Many ginger people lead very full lives nowadays, have jobs and relationships. Adrian himself has triumphed over the stigma of being a carrot-top, copperknob or ginger nuts - something that would have turned a lesser man to drink*.

Let’s just remind ourselves of what my brother-in-law looked like as a baby. Aaah! Talking of Adrian, he has a new blog, which includes everything from a story to warm the cockles of your heart to some truly breath-taking pictures of his enormous organ.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this blog entry, you may want to look at Red and Proud, Ginger Nation or Realm of Redheads for support and information.

* I was actually really dismayed about the treatment of Charles Kennedy following his admission of alcoholism. It is an illness like any other and his denials would have been perfectly sincere because the nature of the beast is that the sufferer is very often the last to know. However, I am being generally very silly this morning as you have probably gathered.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Good things #1 - This week I have been mostly watching…

One way of getting good value out of on-line DVD rental is to hire television series, particular comedy; you usually get at least three hours for your disk and you can dip in and out of it as opposed to having to have the time and concentration for a ninety minute film.

We just worked our way through all the episodes of The Fast Show, which was nice. That show was such genius; some of the individual sketches fell short of the mark, but the whole thing moved on at such speed at it didn’t matter. And at the same time it wasn’t unintelligent; mocking an entire musical genre one minute (Jazz Club), then a parody on Krapp’s Last Tape, followed by another round of childish sexual innuendo. Paul Whitehouse is such a superb actor that some of the sketches are a pleasure to watch just for him, regardless of whether he gets a laugh out of you. Brilliant!

My favourite characters were Ted and Ralph. Nobody gets that.

We recently watched all three series of The Rise and Fall of Reginald Perrin. I had never seen any of this before and it was quite an education. I thought it was a family tradition which had us identifying the colour of the phone we are speaking from, declaring “I won’t” when someone wishes us a nice day at work and beginning sentences with “I didn’t get where I am today by…”

My nickname at school was Neil as in Neil from The Young Ones (it was because I had long hair, right?) which we have also revisited. That was... variable. Rather like Blackadder there was an almost embarassing contrast between the things I laughed at when I first saw these things on telly as a child and what I laugh at now. With Blackadder there are even more things to laugh at, with The Young Ones perhaps everso slightly less. Everso...

We have also watched a number of comedy television series which we either missed when they were on telly or that have been on since we abandoned the television signal. I can only remember Little Britain and Black Books just now, both of which had their merits.

Friday, January 27, 2006


Things are kind of good and bad at the moment. Today I have to vent the bad. Sorry.

My concentration is often clouded with rage. Rage or… something. Rage against my situation and myself for taking it all so badly. I’m getting angry about things which I haven’t thought about in ages; mostly things I can’t do, things I have missed out on, things I am going to miss out on. I am frustrated for myself for becoming preoccupied, for not being able to get on with those things I do have the capacity for. I’m being brought down by the nightmares, from which I have started waking up with hiccups – proper hiccups which jolt the entire bed. Then there's this bastard guilt thing. And I haven’t been out of the flat this year.

Adrenaline is a horrible, horrible chemical when you have nothing to do with it. The temptation to relieve oneself of this terrific burden, by whatever means, can become intense beyond expression. The consequences of the various methods which spring to mind – primarily violence against oneself, inanimate objects and even other people – are so great that one has to find means of controlling oneself.

What I’d really like to do is to go out onto the moors or somewhere where there’s nobody else about and then run. Run as fast and hard as I can. I have no idea how far I would get before I fell over or collapsed – a few yards, maybe tens of yards, maybe much further. But anyway, it wouldn’t matter because I would then be picked up from wherever I had fallen and delivered back home to bed. I can’t imagine the damage would be so very great. I don’t think the pain can get that much worse and it’s not as if I have bones out of place or anything that I could permanently fuck up.

However, there is no way I could persuade anyone to do this for me. And that’s another thing; I can’t go anywhere by myself. I spend so much time by myself, but I can’t do anything. If I was just a bit better, I could take my electric wheelchair out and go for a walk on my tod, but I’m not quite there. It’s not that I want to be alone, but I want to be autonomous. Oh shut up!

Such rages have to be addressed. I mean really; this stuff cannot be put away. More than once I have tried to drink a cup of tea in this state and managed to pull the handle clean off the mug with the tension in my fist. At the same time, there is no reasoning with it.

Okay, I will be responsible at least… The thing about these episodes is to stop oneself doing anything which one is going to regret or be ashamed of. It doesn’t matter if you have to do something silly but if you damage yourself, other things or your relationships with other people then you will have more to feel bad about next time.

Exercise would be the best release. I would advise anybody else to get out of the house and go for a brisk walk, whatever the time of the day or night – if it is raining and cold, then all the better – thunder and lightning would be an absolute boon! Alas, this option is not available to me.

Eating something can help – at the moment, a period of trembling precedes these episodes, before I feel particularly emotional, so this whole thing may be related to blood-sugar (not sure why I might think this but I do). Chocolate is naughty but has the added effect of stimulating the endorphins. Bananas are the real super fast-acting health food though.

Dough, which can be made with salt, water and flour, is good for beating up. Junk-mail comes into its own when you need something to shred; failing this, loo rolls are really most satisfying. If one feels the urge to burst the bubble by piercing its surface (there’s a euphemism), drawing on white paper or even one’s skin in red ink sounds absolutely naff but can satisfy the compulsion and the marks wash off afterwards. Subjecting oneself to extreme sensations in a completely safe way, for example holding one’s hand it ice cold water, or rubbing Deep Heat into one’s hands or eating something very hot (in the flavour sense) is all good.

Making oneself cry can be very useful because our tears carry cortisone (stress hormone) out of the body. The easiest way to make oneself cry is to stare at something shiny or hold your gaze in a direction which is just an incy bit ittle too bright for comfort and then think of something sad – nothing related to your current crisis, but I don’t know; Tiny Tim or Bambi’s mother. Then don’t blink. I know; I should have been on the stage. Once the tears come, then you can cry about the thing you needed to cry about.

Music is by far the most accessible release, but then you have to be careful; some music will wind you up further, other music will bring you down further than you want to go. Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending, apart from being the most beautiful piece of music ever written, is perfect for this. You have your musical climaxes, which are almost agonising they are so exquisite, but you also have phases to chill out to and a nice jolly bits somewhere in there. Plus frankly if you’ve sat still for sixteen minutes, you’re probably over the worst anyway.

As soon as the emergency has passed, you must put everything in place so that you feel as comfortable as possible; have something to eat and a comforting warm drink, make sure you are warm enough, have a bath or shower etc. Don’t at this stage attempt to address any of the issues which made you feel like this in the first place, but instead get some sleep or watch television, something entirely passive.

Later I suppose, you have to work out what went wrong and whether there is anything you can do to stop it happening again.

I don’t think there is anything I can do to address this long-term, but to keep dealing with it as it arises and try to be patient. Things will get better, or I will get more used to the situation, or one way or another things will change. For now; bugger.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Without a seam or fine needle work

All my clothing is falling apart. It is not that I am bulging out, it is just all failing through wear and tear, seams disintegrating, pulls becoming holes etc. I wear too many tiered or patchwork skirts. Lots of sewing and not enough colours of thread.

The underwiring escaped one side of my bra. I was busy at the time, so I pulled it all the way out to stop it digging in to my chest and… put it on my head. Well, it is the size and shape of a head-band and my hair was annoying me. All this is done largely subconsciously, which is why I didn’t think about it until I noticed myself in the mirror after I had had a conversation with the postman at the door.

But he wouldn’t have known, would he? Anyway, it was the same guy who I answered the door to in nothing but my dressing-gown, having abandoned the defoliation of my legs half way through the job. Imagine one leg from The Pirelli Calendar, one leg from The Planet of the Apes. He clearly isn’t a man easily disturbed.

In other news, Dad has offered to print out my book so I can do the editing on paper. He has access to a laser printer which prints off hundreds of pages of stuff a day so he reckons he can do my entire book without anyone noticing. It is true that when I used to write essays and short stories I would always print them off and read them on paper as part of the editing process, and I am becoming bogged down by the sheer scale of my own work.

I didn’t think I would be printing anything out until its finished and I’m quite excited at the prospect of being able to work with it on paper. At the same time, I am thinking irrational thoughts about my Dad reading some of it or else pages of it getting accidentally mislaid amid health authority protocols. Right now I would be mortified should anyone read any of it.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

A confessor to my dreams, Casting ribbons round my feet

I invented my imaginary friend when I was twelve, which is terribly late. Of course, I was very conscious that this friend did not exist, but I wanted one. His name was Ambrose. I was a big girl by then so I rarely spoke out loud to him and certainly not anywhere someone might hear me. I did write to him though; all my diary entries through my teenage years begin Dear Ambrose.

Why Ambrose? Well I was interested in etymology, would have known the origins of the word and I was also fascinated by the idea of angels and things. I perhaps liked to think he was my Guardian Angel and not just someone I made up. But I did know I had made him up.

I was obviously lonely, but in a complicated way. Teenage girls both attracted and repelled me and whatever my reaction, I was very uncomfortable about the way I felt about them. I always had to pretend a lot. Not just about those feelings, but I had to pretend to care about this and not to care about that. I had to pretend to have a favourte Gallagher brother and an interest in clothes and cosmetics and not what my purpose on Earth was. And I could never do this thing where you mould yourself to the person you are talking to; most people get the same package from me, despite my best efforts.

In fact I was probably little different everyone else. I do possess my diaries from this period and come across as an obnoxious little shit. But I did have friends and was never bullied exactly. It was just that much of the time I wanted to be alone. Yet I not really truly alone, just unchallenged. Thus Ambrose.

Why was Ambrose male? I am afraid I had a low opinion of what girls could offer me. I could share a joke with Ambrose, having come to the conclusion that humour was an entirely masculine attribute. He would say what he meant and wouldn’t need any interpretation. Plus he was as baffled about feminine behaviour as I was. He wasn’t a fantasy boyfriend or anything like that.

He wasn’t passive though, not by any means. When I saw the otherwise dreadful Lord of the Rings; Two Towers I was struck by Gollum’s conversations with himself, or at least with Smeagal; the part of him that was still good, the part of him that was still a hobbit. That was Ambrose and I; whether the question was does God want me to do this? or should I still be friends with Isobel after what she said? Ambrose was generally more cynical than I was, and tried to persuade me to do the wrong thing. I generally won these arguments, funnily enough.

I don’t know whether it would be more disturbing to have been a teenager with an entirely passive and compliant imaginary friend who agreed with my every opinion than having one who I would fall out with.

However, I have to emphasise that I was in fairly reasonable mental health. I had spells of melancholy and anxiety, but there were no problem behaviours. Teenagers are not generally happy creatures; you have pressures equivalent to those of adult life but none of the choices and none of the rewards. You work very very hard and all you get is an empty grade. You have no confidence about anything, you think you are a total pervert who would be locked up if anyone saw inside your head, your body is doing disgusting things with or without your intercession. You have no perspective on anything and imagine that your life will be over if just one little petty thing goes wrong. It is not fun.

Mind you, I am not about to admit the last time I spoke to Ambrose.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Love is real, real is love

Inexpert evolutionists believe that romantic love doesn’t exist, that it is just about sex and delusion. It is unselfish and we need to be selfish in order to survive, they claim. They are wrong.

The Anti-Science brigade (can’t say Creationists since evolution does not eliminate the possibility of a creator God) argue that if the evolutionary theory is correct, then love cannot exist. It is also an irrational state and therefore, one might think, the dominion of organised religion. They are wrong.

Love is real and belongs to us all. It happened something like this:

Once upon a time, when people paired off to make babies, all anybody could think about was physical indicators of fertility and the sort of genetic heritage that would allow potential offspring to physically survive and reproduce themselves. All we cared about were waist to hip proportions, distribution of bodily hair, indicators of youth and vitality. We were a very shallow bunch indeed and not getting very far at all. Even sex wasn’t all that good as we only had one position.

One day, an ape creature was sitting on a rock – we’ll call him Johnny. Johnny was a troubled young man who was full of ideas about the world around him but nobody to express them to. Alas, there was no language back then and all his peers were interested in was hunting wildebeest and getting laid. He was lonely even when surrounded by other ape creatures. So lonely in fact, that he sang a sad little song to himself. It went something like this;

“Ug, ug ug ug ug.

Ug, ug ug ug ug.
Ug! Ug ug, ug ug ug ug

Ug, ug ug ug ug.”

As he was singing this last melancholic line, a bright-eyed female approached his rock. We’ll call her Jane. Poor Johnny was fed up of women as back in those days, they were only ever after one thing.

“Ug ug,” Johnny said, in the nonchalant tone that he had adopted for members of his own species. But as he was about to turn away, he noticed a flicker of comprehension in her eyes.

“Ug?” Jane asked, scratching her head. For she too had had these feelings that perhaps there was more to life that sex and wildebeest – much as she enjoyed both.

“Ug ug,” he explained. “Ug ug ug ug.”

“Ug ug ug!” Jane exclaimed and the two of them fell about laughing at this joke, the hilarity of which has long since been lost amid the shifting sands of time. It was very funny. I guess you had to be there.

And so the two ape creatures sat there talking all day long. Of course they hadn’t got any sort of language, but being a tad brighter than your average bipeds, they were using tone of voice, facial expression and hand gestures to get their message across.

It was getting kind of late, so Johnny suggested that they head back to his cave for a coffee.

Jane pointed out that they were on the wrong part of the continent for coffee, even if they could work out, within the space of an evening, how to process the seeds of that plant into a stimulating hot beverage. As you can imagine, without language, this took the best part of an hour to get across.

Johnny averted his eyes and twiddled his thumbs as if to say, “I know, but I just invented the euphemism.”

...Years passed and Johnny and Jane never did run out of things to “talk” about. When their children were born, they inherited good communication skills both through the genetic legacy of brain architecture, but also through having parents who encouraged good communication. And when these children grew up, they were looking for partners who had something to say for themselves and in turn, produced good communicative children.

Language and love thus developed concurrently. Love is, in reductionist terms, sexual attraction based on a person’s ability to communicate. Call it personality or whatever else you like - that's really what it is.

In order for love to exist, we must have developed the ability to communicate well, but in order for language to exist, we must have nurtured these abilities over many generations, thus we must have been the products of predominantly loving relationships and this somehow gave us the edge over those not-so-communicative ape creatures who made sexual selection on purely physical attributes.

Why? Possibly we make better parents; standing upright gives us a relatively narrow pelvis, meaning our offspring must be born very small and vulnerable – it is literally years before they can be left alone, so at some point pair-bonding needed to become long-term. Love might have helped. Or it could have been that good communicators were better in crises which involved team-work or problem-solving. I don't know everything, I'm just making it up as I go along.

Of course, we must not over-romanticise our genetic heritage or our current nature. We didn’t abandon other types of sexual attraction – look at Keanu Reeves. Exactly. Plus our most romanticised version of love is not necessary the optimal reproductive strategy; in the most primitive of circumstances both parents need to invest in one offspring at any one time, but both men and women may optimise their chances of reproductive success through deception and betrayal.

Perhaps one of the big mistakes we make culturally is to assume that there are only two types of sexual relationship; casual, purely sexual relationships which are entirely shallow and thus illegitimate and permanent love relationships where some mystical rite or institution ensures that both parties remain happily in love for ever and ever and ever.

The whole business is far more complicated than that, but for today I just wanted to argue for love's existence.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

You are my sister and I love you

It is Rosie’s birthday today, I think, I'm very confused as to what day it is. Anyway...

Adrian, my favourite brother-in-law, has often attempted to capture the essence of the woman he loves on film. However, Rosemary Taylor is a contradiction. A single photograph cannot begin to say it all.

For example, Rosie has a music degree, is a music teacher and has performed in more countries than Mum, Dad and I have visited. Yet she has a really truly appalling taste in music. To this day she actually possesses such albums as Smurfs Go Pop, Vengaboys - Vengaboys, No Angel - Dido and that one by Timmy Mallet. Oh and everything that Mozart even wrote.

This can perhaps be explained by the fact that YMCA was number one in the charts on the day she was born and if you trace exactly nine months earlier, to the approximate date of her conception, you’re looking at Night Fever by the Beegees. Ew.

Despite this, she is a very good music teacher, helping her class to 100% A-C pass rate at GCSE last year – in a school with only a 55% A-C pass rate overall. Which is bloody good.

Rosie’s other talents include art, photography and buying clothes which co-ordinate with one another. She is very grown up, shopping at Marks & Spencers and belonging to the National Trust. But she does have one of those Tetley Bitter t-shirts that you win if you drink ten pints of Tetley in one night and her most recent compositions include a dance re-mix of The Theme from Rhubard and Custard.

Through years of driving a Mini, she has become an excellent wheelchair-pusher and all round disability advocate. She teaches a number of disabled students and finds novel ways of promoting full participation. Shopping trips with Rosie guarantee that I have full access to everywhere, even places I didn’t particularly want to go. She has also got me out of some tight scrapes by cunning use of the Disability Card.

A natural diplomat, she is the only member of our family who can make our Gran laugh, through a combination of complex psychological trickery and toilet humour. But despite her normally happy-go-lucky nature, Rosemary is still aggrieved in
her belief that it was my own embittered eight-year-old self that tore her most treasured Kylie Minogue poster in the summer of 1989, under the influence of Bonjovi when they were good.

It wasn’t. Really. I didn’t go anywhere near it.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Finding out wherever there is comfort, there is pain

I’m suffering from inbetweeniness just now. I don’t have to lie down even most of the day any more, but I can’t concentrate for very long either. Then some little thing sends my pain through the roof. I keep asking myself, am I back to the level I was before I relapsed in September?

I guess I fooled myself into thinking that if I hung on, I would feel so much better after this bad patch and of course, I don’t. I might not feel nearly so bad as I did, and I appreciate being able to do things which I was struggling with during the autumn, but ultimately I still feel physically and mentally crap. Just not mega-crap.

Still I am okay. Many reasons to be cheerful.

Seriously, my greatest problem just now is uncertainty. Uncertainty about what my health is going to do next; is it getting better, is it going to get worse again, is it as good as it gets? I can put the long term questions out of my mind, but what am I going to be able to do tomorrow or next week matters. I am sorry if it seems an obsession but everything depends on it. Almost. Then there’s uncertainty about my book. Will I finish it, when will I finish it, will it be any good?

Then there are other things which I can’t talk about here; will everything be okay? What a question!

Trouble is of course that once you have one or two major uncertainties in your life, everything becomes up for grabs. Of course nothing is ever certain, but most people seem to have a set of likely outcomes; most people could make predictions about the major events and activities of the next six months and get it more or leass spot on. I cannot and am thus developing a fairly boundless capacity for speculation, mostly about things that might go hideously wrong.

We had three great news stories this week. I hate the news usually; I am compelled to find out what's happening, but there are only about half a dozen stories a week which are anything that anybody actually needs to know about and the rest are just provocative, worrying or otherwise upsetting matters that none of us can do anything about. However, this week we had

The Whale who has gone sight-seeing in London

The Parrot who exposed a cheating girlfriend
The Rat Snake who befriended a hamster

Monday, January 16, 2006

Take me out tonight, because I want to see people and I want to see life

Have had a good few days of banging my head against the wall. Then I listened to last week’s Saturday Review on Radio Four and they reviewed a book by a guy who allegedly wrote it within a week whilst recovering from alcohol poisoning. Now okay, it’s called Sellevision and is about behind the scenes shenanigans at a cable shopping channel – not a book I would like to read or write. But it was being reviewed on Radio Four. Bastard.

Meanwhile, not a great deal to report. Really nothing is happening. I still haven’t been out of the flat this year and nobody’s come to visit. I seem to be living my life by proxy, delighting or worrying over other people’s news. Or else I am living in a world of fictional characters.

Actually, this isn't quite true. What I have done this last week? Apart from work on my novel I have…
  1. Been experimenting making suncatchers using real lead as an outline. This has led (bum bum) to a great deal of hand-washing and hygiene paranoia. I don’t really understand how dangerous the stuff is, but tend to be overcautious. I’m actually using latex gloves but my nails are long and together with the pliers and craft-knife I keep putting holes in them. Anyway, the leading does look really cool when I get it right. I have been looking at rose window designs to scale-down.
  2. Painted a piggy-bank for a small child. I am quite pleased with it; piggy-banks are often ugly things but mine is quite cute.
  3. Watched several films I hadn’t seen before; The Village (good – beautifully made, shame about the premise), Hostage (bad – it was called Hostage and starred Bruce Willis – I should have known better), The Producers (very bad) and Motorcycle Diaries (very good). Probably some others, I can’t remember.
  4. Begun reading Passage to India, one of the many novels I got for Christmas.
  5. Sampled Violet Liqueur which is the colour of methylated spirit and coincidentally tastes like meths with a load of parma violets mixed into it.
See that’s five pieces of not-quite-nothing. And I am making some progress on my book. Right now, no amount of not-quite-nothing compensates if I can't write. I can't believe how demoralised I feel about this so early into the new year.

Oh and the nightmares are back.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

I think I missed again, aha

One of the blessings and curses of my condition is that it seems to move around my brain, and give me different problems at a different times. At the moment I have such bad co-ordination. I can’t make a cup of tea without pouring a quantity of hot water and milk onto the cupboard top. I can’t throw anything at the waste paper bin a few feet away and hope to get it in. Even when I carry things around on a tray stuff starts leaping off and doorframes lurch suddenly towards my head. I could do these things last week no problem.

But last week it was the exaggerated startle reflex. People with CP think they know something about that, but it can’t be really bad with them or else they would all be nervous wrecks. My startle reflex is sometimes really bad and I am a nervous wreck. Of course it's not that I’m afraid of anything - what happpens is completely outside of my emotional experience, but it makes one feel nervous as well as physically weak, bewildered and generally humiliated.

I jump at every unexpected noise; the phone ringing, the microwave pinging, when one song has ended and another begins and almost every time [...] comes into the room – even when I walk into a room where he is and he happens to be closer to me than I expected him to be. [...] laughs and says I ought to visit planet Earth from time to time but it’s not very funny after the first three or four times your heart has leapt out of your ribcage, you’ve dropped something breakable and screamed at the postman. It wasn’t at all funny when the replica Endeavour was in the harbour and fired its cannon every two hours from ten ’til six!

Next week; who knows? My short-term memory is pretty good at the moment; I am not forgetting the washing I put in the machine, or the kettle I set boiling, or what I came into this room for. And my reading stamina is pretty good. I should not of course give the impression that only one problem arises at once; sometimes they come in groups. Co-ordination and the startle reflex thing often go together, my "temporary dyslexia" usually coincides with difficulty following spoken conversations and impaired memory likes to pair-up with tearfulness and a low mood. I could probably relate at least some of this to a map of the brain; some of it may be patterns I have imagined.

Britishness is also quite an affliction. It is bad enough thanking ATMs and saying “Pardon Me” when you burp when there’s nobody else around but yesterday I was laying in the bath and the bottle of stuff was at the other end. I couldn’t be bothered to sit up, so I picked the bottle up between my toes and passed it up to my hand. I then said “Thank You” out loud to my foot. I thanked my own foot.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Poetry Corner: My fair weather friend

This is a great tradition which is now dying out; when I first entered the blogsphere, it was saturated with really terrible angst-ridden poetry and now we only have a few stalwarts producing fantastically bad stuff. I almost named some, but thought better of it. They might not realise their own talents and find my comments offensive.

Following I just want my body to work and Ode To My TENS, this poem is another one fresh from my inner teenager. Of course my inner teenager is very much in touch with my feelings - indeed, she is totally preoccupied by them. Whereas being grown up, I try my best to hold them below the surface, struggling and gasping for air. Best place for 'em.

My Fair Weather Friend

How are you doing, my fair weather friend?
It’s been a good while since we spoke.
Seems like a month, I try to pretend,
Seems like a week, you joke.

Did you notice that I’ve had a time out of sorts?
Oh yes, I was terribly missed.
And what were you up? Was I in your thoughts?
Oh yes, every day, you insist.

So how can I help you, my fair weather friend?
Well, would I please lend you my ears?
Can you borrow my shoulders, now I’m on the mend,
Can I hold you and soak up your tears?

Did you notice that I’ve had a time out of sorts?
Did you think that I might be alone?
How was it, I wonder, I was in your thoughts
Yet your thoughts couldn’t pick up the phone?

There there, my unfortunate fair weather friend,
Things will get much better; you’ll see.
Your weight I shall carry, your wounds I shall tend,
One day you might do this for me.

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do but not as hard as putting it back together again

Editing a 100,000 word novel is a bastard of a job. It is going to take ages. Of course it is terribly satisfying when you have a section which you believe to be as good as it is going to be, but you can easily spend a whole day (at least one of my working days) on a few paragraphs without making any progress at all.

Perhaps this job is harder earlier on in the book, where I have to give the reader various bits of information without allowing them to get either bored or completely distracted by what I am telling them. At the same time, I have to be very careful that my reader does get all the information – since I am God and know everything there is to know about everything and everybody in the book, there’s a significant danger that I might have cut out an essential sentence or paragraph and not notice when I’m reading over. Later on, this may get a lot easier as by the middle of the book the reader should know as much as the main character does about their situation, if that makes sense.

One of the hardest tasks is getting everything in a reasonable order. Obviously, the story follows a chronology that at this stage is pretty much immovable, but there’s so much other information I need to get across. You would be rather annoyed if you were reading a book about a character called John Smith witnessing some crime or other and then in Chapter Three you read, “By the way, John Smith happens to be a detective.” At the same time it would be rather unsubtle to begin a novel, “John Smith is a detective, he is forty-five, married with three children and lives in Crewe. He drives a Ford Anglia and has a pet dog called Shep. One day he was walking down the street when he saw a bank robbery.”

I have to refer back to things which happened before the story began, so to speak, which is another bastard because you really don’t want to interrupt the narrative of a car-chase to tell a story about when a certain character was five and had a nice picnic with his favourite aunt. At the same time, it may be far more effective to show the reader this picnic in order to demonstrate the relationship between this character and his aunt rather than just telling them, “She was a favourite aunt, they were very close.” – all depending on how important this information is of course.

Ho hum. It is not that I am unhappy, it is just such hard work. Like I say, very satisfying when I get a bit right according to my abysmally low standards. Also quite cheering when I come across something I wrote ages ago which reads well. When I come across something I wrote really badly, or worse, a chapter where there appears to be a big gap which I am yet to write, I tend to despair. But so long as I am patient and persistent, I should get there eventually. And once this bit is done, I will have finished the book. Until someone reads through it, points out some hideous flaw in the plot and I have to start over…

Sunday, January 08, 2006

All work and no play make Jack a dull boy

All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.
All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.
All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.
All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.

All work and no play make Jack a dull boy. All work and no play make Jack a dull boy. All work and no play make Jack a dull boy. All work and no play make Jack a dull boy. All work and no play make Jack a dull boy. All work and no play make Jack a dull boy. All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.

All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.
All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.
All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.
All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.

All work and no play make Jack a dull boy. All work and no play make Jack a dull boy. All work and no play make Jack a dull boy. All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.

All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.
All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.
All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.
All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.

All work and no play make Jack a dull boy. All work and no play make Jack a dull boy. All work and no play make Jack a dull boy. All work and no play make Jack a dull boy. All work and no play make Jack a dull boy. All work and no play make Jack a dull boy. All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.

All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.
All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.
All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.
All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.

All work and no play make Jack a dull boy. All work and no play make Jack a dull boy. All work and no play make Jack a dull boy. All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.

Did I ever tell you that my flat was built over an Indian burial ground? Also, is it make or makes - make as it is both all work and no play I guessed. Oh bloody hell, I only got an A for GSCE English.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Back to Normal? Perhaps not

Really odd mood at the moment. Really odd time at the moment. I am sorry that I haven’t resumed various personal correspondences yet, as I am still trying to straighten things out and I was so desperate to get on with my book as soon as I got back. Progress is slow but significant. The first unproductive day got me down no end, but I behaved myself and it passed.

My health is generally on the mend. Despite consuming vast quantities of sweet things since Christmas, I have no mouth ulcers – a month ago I had three or four at any given time. I have also lost these gruesome bloody blistery boil things that kept appearing on my back, my ears are infection-free and my respiratory symptoms are minimal. At last my immune system is behaving as if it has got a pair!

Don’t feel massively better, but this may be because I want to feel massively better. But my pain is better and I have longer, more lucid periods of productivity during the day. I want them to be even longer and ever clearer and in all honesty I haven’t felt up to going out and about yet. Part of this is the fear of jeopardising my progress thus far.

Anything helping? I did start taking cider vinegar tablets just before Christmas. They’re supposed to cure everything from arthritis to baldness. I have neither, but they were in the Holland & Barrett sale, something I’d read put me on to them. They might have helped and anyway, they were very cheap. I also followed peaceseeker’s advice about drinking ginger beer for thirst and mouth ulcers and that may well have improved both things, thanks. I mix it will apple juice so it’s not so bubbly.

I got our joint credit card bill this morning, totalling £176.55. I hope you’re impressed. Admittedly we had been eating out of my folks' cupboards over Christmas, so spending less on food ourselves. But that is not a troublesome debt to start the New Year with at all.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

How was it for you?

I haven't really said how Christmas went yet. It was a good one. I must say that I disappointed myself at the degree of difficulty I had coping with other people about, even when those other people were my close family. I found it very stressful, following conversations and not saying the wrong thing or interrupting people. I also felt very anxious about the presents I had got everyone. I found this all very frustrating, because I had so longed to spend time with other people and this social-phobia is born entirely out of my recent isolation.

I was also kind of disappointed that on the first occasion that my Dad has had both daughters and their partners in the same room in four or five years he decided to start fannying about trying to set up Satellite Navigation on his mobile phone. He could have just asked where he was. And at the end of the day, no mobile phone or gadget in the world is going to tell him what he went upstairs for.

However, though at times a tad annoying, my Dad has calmed down loads since our last visit in August, when he was constantly compelled to fidget, turn the television or radio on at any and every break in conversation. My parents are basically well and relatively harmonious. They are a couple who need to argue often to get along and their one actual row in which my Mum loudly called my Dad an arse was rather embarrassing, especially for [...], whose parents argued very rarely.

[...] got to go Christmas shopping with Mum a couple of times while I sat in front of the fire, experimenting on the way different things burn, like teabags and banana skins. Hours of fun.

Mum got a pair of reflexology socks (digital socks with various areas of the body labelled on), but she seemed far more interested in the cardboard inserts which she kept leaving in various areas of the house like footprints saying “Look! Someone’s been here!” Dad got a trumpet, although all anybody could play on it was The Last Post.

[...] was the only person who completely declined the offer of champagne on Christmas Day, but as Dad was opening it the bottle went off like a fire-extinguisher that happened to be pointing straight at [...]. Most of the contents was absorbed by his shirt, although a fair amount went on his face and the wall.

It was great to see my Granny Kelly, who despite a terrible year seems to be very nearly back to her old wonderful self. On receiving a bottle of Baileys, she declared that she likes to use Baileys instead of milk in her morning coffee. My Other Gran wore her hearing aid, which clearly wasn’t working but instead acted as a blockage in her ear, causing her to shout all the time.

The Christmas dinners (we had one on Christmas day with the Grannies and one on Boxing Day with Rosie & Adrian was really fantastic. I usually don’t really go for that. Desperate for a plate of pasta and pesto after two weeks of my Mum’s cooking, but hey. The best bit of Christmas was however the secret exciting family news, which I shall tell you in a few weeks time.

Highlights of presents included the books The Uxbridge English Dictionary with new definitions for words including evanescent (a Welshman who glows in the dark), sanctity (a drooping bosom) and renegade (a device for blowing up anagram enthusiasts). We also got the book X-Treme Latin which includes useful Latin phrases such as

“Scisne schema gynmosophisticum per quod, capite inter femora flexo, iubentur basio valere clunes?”

Which (they reckon) translates as “Do you know the yoga position where you put your head between your legs and kiss your ass goodbye?”

My Mum hadn’t really believed that I wouldn’t be well enough to go out shopping with her so on the evening of the 22nd confessed that she hadn’t got me a thing for my birthday and what did I want? This was quite good because I could ask for what I really wanted, which was notebooks. If I had asked for notebooks weeks or months in advance, they would probably have been deemed too boring.

My notebooks, particularly an A4 “Project Book” were one of my best presents, which got used throughout Christmas as I have continued to obsess about my novel. I also got loads of other books, an absolute stack of DVDs and a great album called Bimbling by Martha Tilston. Oh and some tea. And some night-dresses. And stuff.

The snow came down on Boxing Day night, and was very beautiful, if contributing to our most delayed departure to date. There was a family snowball fight, although I couldn’t join in.

We also had some bouts of communal drumming, read some rather naff ghost stories out-loud in the evenings and learnt how to play Cribbage. Uh, think that’s about it really.