We Already Invented Pokemon Go

I expect you’ve heard of Pokemon Go. We invented it twenty years ago, with ghosts.

Growing up my twin sister and I were isolated by geography, we lived on a farm in Cornwall, in the middle of nothing and nowhere. Our dad was intent on going off-grid, becoming self-sufficient, and with his fervour, he took his new bride out to the arse end of oblivion and set up home. Piecing together his notes from the time (the ones he didn’t burn before he died) he believed that if he joined nature, it would welcome and enrich him. It didn’t; he got hayfever, he was bored (this was long before the Internet), most animals eluded him, his attempt at agriculture failed.

He gave up.

He quickly fell into a depression and it was up to our mum to take over. She turned a small corner of the farm into a vegetable plot. She had no idea what she was doing, but did a good enough job. Our vegetables were mostly edible; wonky and you had to pick out the grubs, but otherwise fine. She learned to fish, to bake bread. Smart woman our mum.

Anyway, all this meant that me and my sister looked after ourselves. We made our own entertainment and we searched for ghosts. And they were everywhere. Not the pale, flimsy wraiths that you get in horror stories, ours were all shapes and sizes. Some were fat, some had tentacles, some had many feet and others had none and slithered along the ground like snakes. There were colourful ghosts, solid ghosts, ghosts that span in circles and ghosts that could do tricks.

We’d be sitting at dinner, mum would be busy reading while she ate, dad would be staring at his dinner mournfully. We’d have to stay quiet, but we didn’t need words, we could signal with our eyes: look over there, by the sink! A lesser purple-splotched wriggling turkey ghost! And we’d point our ghost catching devices at the ghost (the devices were actually calculators, but the fancy kind with sin and cos) and press the right buttons and the ghost would be ours and we’d write it down in our notebooks.

Or we’d be out on the hill behind our house. Staring up at the clouds and then we’d hear a rustle in the bushes, we’d whisper so we wouldn’t scare it away,

“A jumping, three-eyed lumpy sprat ghost, quick!”

Me and my twin don’t talk anymore, we’ve already said everything there is to say, but still when Pokemon came out I sent her a postcard, on it I said: hey, didn’t we do Pokemon already?

I thought about adding a smiley face or putting a couple of exes, but we’re not that kind of family. She hasn’t replied.

Questions to Ponder

I found these questions on Imgur and they set me thinking. Although it may become obvious that the questions annoyed me a bit, they are useful for taking stock, working out if I am living how I want to live. I thought I’d share in case you too find them useful to think about. If you like, add your own thoughts in the comments, or even write a blog and link, depending on how the inspiration takes you. There are fifty of these questions, so I’m going to break them up a bit and post ten at a time.

The questions for today:

  1. How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?
  2. Which is worse, failing or never trying?
  3. If life is so short, why do we do so many things we don’t like and like so many things we don’t do?
  4. When it’s all said and done, will you have said more than you’ve done?
  5. What is the one thing you’d most like to change about the world?
  6. If happiness was the national currency, what kind of work would make you rich?
  7. Are you doing what you believe in, or are you settling for what you are doing?
  8. If the average human life span was 40 years, how would you live your life differently?
  9. To what degree have you actually controlled the course your life has taken?
  10. Are you more worried about doing things right, or doing the right things?

 

  1. How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?

I don’t entirely understand this, because I wouldn’t still be the age I am? If the question means How old do you feel? Then somewhere between nineteen and a thousand, I can feel like both. In most ways I’m less jaded than I was as a child, but I also feel ancient, haunted, inept and childish. The older I get, the more I don’t care about the number I am, but how well I can physically and mentally deal with situations.

  1. Which is worse, failing or never trying?

Failing is a short term horror, but something you have to go through to get to longer term wonder. Never trying is a short term comfort, but a lifetime of emptiness. I tend to go for trying and failing, because the emptiness has always scared me. However, I’ve known people for whom trying is permanently uncomfortable, they are happy in their lack of effort. I guess we each have to find what works best for us.

  1. If life is so short, why do we do so many things we don’t like and like so many things we don’t do?

Survival for the first one. Time for the second one.

  1. When it’s all said and done, will you have said more than you’ve done?

I’ll have done plenty of both. I have a rule: I only talk about something when I definitely intend to do it, and I only abandon this plan when a better plan comes along. Not saying I always follow this rule, there are plenty of good ideas I’ve abandoned due to laziness or fear, but laziness and fear have their uses also.

  1. What is the one thing you’d most like to change about the world?

I would like to shift emotion and reason so that they are in better proportion – individuals sometimes ruled by emotion to the point that they do terrible things, but most systems (ie government, corporate business, healthcare) seem to be so without empathy that they treat individuals terribly. So just a more evenly spread balance of the two.

  1. If happiness was the national currency, what kind of work would make you rich?

This is a complicated question. I believe that my job (gardener) keeps me sane, physically healthy and calm. The things that make me happy are writing, laughing with friends and eating, but if I did these things for eight hours a day, I wouldn’t be sane, physically healthy or calm. And probably not happy either. I also fear that if doing those things was a duty, I’d soon stop enjoying them. It’s probably an old-fashioned view, but I think we need difficulty, responsibility and boredom in our lives, if we got to do things we enjoyed all the time, it wouldn’t make us happy at all; we wouldn’t feel fulfilled because we wouldn’t be able to appreciate the good things we had.

  1. Are you doing what you believe in, or are you settling for what you are doing?

I think my job matters, but it has many flaws that annoy me – so in some ways I settle, while also doing what I believe in. Writing is the same, I love it (‘believe in it’ is an ambiguous phrase) but it is flawed. Life always has a few compromises.

  1. If the average human life span was 40 years, how would you live your life differently?

I would already be dead.

  1. To what degree have you actually controlled the course your life has taken?

Illness, injury, and disaster aside, I’ve made most of my choices. Often badly. I’ve never been good at doing what I’m supposed to be doing (and I’ve tried, I promise) so I’ve had to figure out my own way of doing things.

  1. Are you more worried about doing things right, or doing the right things?

I believe that both matter. My tendency is to focus on doing the ‘right thing’ while not paying attention to the details, and as a result I often fuck it all up and have to start over again, doing it properly. I know other people who get very bogged down in carrying out a task to perfection, while other tasks get neglected completely. I think this is one of those situations where you need a balance of the two ways of thinking.

Riddled with Senses – another bit

The more I shill, the less guilty I feel about shilling. Still feel dirty though.

Anyway, Riddled with Senses is my book that’s just been published. I’m posting up a few bits of it in the hope that you like it and decide you want to read more. If you do buy it and like it, then please, please write me a short review on Amazon, I have two now – partly thanks to Samantha Henthorn.

This extract is written about Jitty, an odd, but hopeful teenage hermit. Ruled by her broken digital watch and a hodge podge of magical beliefs, she breaks into the houses of her neighbours in order to interfere in their lives.

The moon was fat, dimpled like a half-sucked peppermint. Jitty stood with one foot in a puddle and one on the edge of a pavement, the night air stirring the hairs on her arms, her eyes adjusting to the darkness. The plans for the night were in her pocket, but she knew not to rush, it was important to feel the world about her, a symphony that would grow in complexity as her own rhythm merged with the infinite.

Jitty knew that everything had a pulse, from the quick vibration of a fly to the slow boom of a tree, the erratic rhythm of a human to the almost imperceptible thereness of a building. Everything had a pulse. During the day those pulses mixed and merged and clashed, but as the sun sank and rhythms of all animals grew slower they became easier to ignore and the quieter pulses could be felt. Through her feet she could feel the rushing of the sewers below, the subtle crumbling of the buildings around her and the trees growing and stretching and somewhere between them was the faint clicking sound of a story fragment wanting to be found.

That Night I Walked as a God

That night I walked as a God. I ditched the petty pesterings of a puny world. I became huge. I strode through the stars mixing constellations, and laughing as the horoscopes jumbled, as mortals fumbled to fit the new demands of their shifted personalities. I meddled and I smited. I demanded adoration from my unworthy minions. I stood on cliff tops and called on the wind to ruffle my hair, and fire to dance at my feet. I felt no fear or doubt; logic was an abomination and I crushed all who used it. I leapt from rooftop to rooftop, omnipotent and nimble. I stared into bedrooms and living rooms, observing blasphemous and unholy ways. Knowing that this was not spying, but righteous judgement, I rained fire and brimstone from the light fittings.

And then I looked in your window and saw you eating crisps and cutting your toenails. Such tiny feet. And I knew I wanted to be a God no more.

Secret Books of the Freemasons

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I’m not sure I’m supposed to post these, so if I vanish, then please send for help.

My dad is something of a hoarder of oddness and when I visited him last week he gave me these strange pamphlets that he found in a second hand bookshop in Birmingham, sixty-five years ago.

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Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia

 

They are a series of booklets from the Rosicrucian Society of Freemasons, dated 1918. They outline the rules for joining and how to carry out rituals. So far I’ve found no mention of sacrificing children to the Gods or starting the Apocalypse, although I haven’t finished reading them yet. Mostly they emphasise the need to be a good person and to acquire wisdom. They reference a few different religions (Jewish, Catholic and Christian) but there’s also numerology in there (11 is an evil number, ‘an omen of defeat or death’; 10 is the ‘most sublime as it contains the monad…and Zero a symbol of chaos’) and references to the importance of science.

 

 

 

 

A Life Caught in Rain

“Listen out for the rain, I don’t want the washing getting wet,” she says.

“Sure mum, don’t worry; just keep watching the film. Look, this is your favourite bit, isn’t it?” my mum’s eyes flick back to the TV, where Richard Gere is lifting Debra Winger into his arms and for a moment her face lights up, the old glint of joy in her eyes. While she’s distracted I get up to tidy away a few plates, pull back the curtains, check that she hasn’t unplugged the fridge.

“Listen out for rain,” she says, her face fretful again, disturbed by my movement.

“It’s alright mum, there are clear blue skies, look,” I point out the window where the sky is more of drab grey than blue, but she only glances vaguely, then sinks her thoughts back to the TV.

I turn my back to pick up a few cushions that have fallen on the floor, dust them off, plump them up so that it will feel more like home. I want her to feel safe here, that the room fits around her and she’s where she’s meant to be.

“Listen out for rain, I don’t want the washing to get wet,” she says. It’s what she’s been saying for years, latching onto the thought that makes sense, something to remember in a murky sea of confusion.

I don’t tell her there’s no washing out. I like that she has a focus, a small tie to this world, keeping my mum tethered with this thin thread of worry. I want her to feel safe in this room, but I’m scared I might lose her to it altogether.

Shameless Self-Promotion

I am a shill. I will continue my campaign of pestering, but I will keep these posts brief and just post a little from my just published novel Riddled with Senses. It’s the story of what happens when the lives of two teenage girls collide; one a drug addled cynic, the other a bizarre loner whose imagination has taken over her life.

If you are intrigued by the style and ideas in these small snippets, then you will probably like the book, so if you fancy something to read…

Nobody mentions it, but there are two types of insanity. One is the unstable mind, that’s the one they make films about, the romantic insanity, a person out of control and capable of almost anything. But the other is the madness of the stable mind, where behaviour is illogical and damaging but every day it is exactly the same. This is the life of my parents, irrational and distressing, crazy as a flock of loons trapped in a plastic bag, but never changing.

Coulda Shoulda Woulda

“They told me I wouldn’t regret if I followed their rules,” whispered my uncle; his body was shrivelled and hunched, but his eyes were burning with indignation. “They said, these are the things people regret on their death beds, and they listed them. As if you could sum up all human experience in a list. As if we’re all the same.”

“I know Uncle Andy,” I said, gingerly patting his hand, scared to break the fragile skin. But I didn’t understand, I had no idea what the problem was. Uncle Andy had had a great life. He had six kids and a loving wife. At thirty-seven he’d abandoned his lucrative accountancy business to go off-grid. He took his family to Italy to live on the beach, he had spent ten years selling his paintings to tourists. Most people would do anything to live Uncle Andy’s life, even Andy himself had liked it at the time. However, now he was nearing the end, as cancer claimed one cell after the other and chemo scrunched him up like a piece of paper, Andy was talking as if his life had been a waste.

“You know what they said? In their lists and articles? They said people regret not spending more time with their family, not pursuing creativity, people regret working too much. That’s why I did it, why I moved to the Amalfi coast, out of the rat-race, painting and playing with the kids.”

“Yes. And that was good, wasn’t it Uncle? That was a good time?”

“No! Ten years painting the same beach scene over and over again, to tourists with no imagination!” His rage was giving him strength as he stretched forward in the chair. Numb blue nails dug into the chair arms, wisps of hair clung to his forehead with sweat. “Nobody wanted my picture of the apocalyptic desert, or the dragon dressed as Biggles. And don’t let anyone tell you that growing your own vegetables is better than buying them in a supermarket, the number of hours I spent digging the ground for potatoes, if only I could have those hours back now. I’d use them right, if I could do it all again.” I knew this was one of stages of death. My mum, ever the pragmatist, had told me he might go through this, the emotional stages: anger, resentment.

“What would you do instead?” I asked. He had the twitch of smile, it affected his ears more than his mouth.

“Video games. They looked like fun. Who wants to pick caterpillars off cabbages when you can race cars through a war zone.”
“But time you spent with your family, that was good, wasn’t it? That was worth it?” Uncle Andy sighed as the fight drained from him, and he shrivelled a little more.

“I’m not saying it was bad, but there are seven billion people in the world and I spent it most of it with seven of them. I just keep thinking, what if there was someone better?”

No matter how my mum had prepared me, I left Uncle Andy with my heart dragging. I didn’t understand how someone with a life so well lived could feel such sorrow. Are we all doomed to lie on our death bed agonising about all the things we could have done, no matter what we did? I slouched out of the hospital, feeling the shrivelling of my own body, suddenly even my dreams weren’t enough. What if I did make that round the world boat trip? What if I did marry Jessica from Maths? I would still regret.

I was in the wood and half the way home before I worked it out. I was kicking my way through the leaves, at first in a moody manner, then with increasing glee. At one point a dog had abandoned his owner to join me and leapt around barking with delight. And I got it.  Because if you’re going to regret whatever you do, then there’s no point in planning for it. Uncle Andy was sad now, but when he was living his life, he had loved it. So you can’t live life for your death bed, you can’t live trying to defy the Death Bed Regret List. Screw it, you just have to live for whatever joy you can get.

My Responses to My Own Questions

There were some excellent answers to these questions in the comments and on various blogs, so thank you to everyone who took part (and to anyone who still wants to, please do!) These are my own answers…

If you are a blogger, how would you describe what you write about? Are there specific themes you stick to or a style you use? (feel free to add a link)

I write a hodge podge of daft stories and pictures, with occasional posts on things I’ve learned about mental illness and brain injury. I don’t really intend a style, but I think my stories tend towards the odd and my health stuff is very focused on sharing solutions.

Do you write driven by inspiration or do you struggle to find things to say?

I try to write three posts a week, and sometimes that involves more thoughts than I have, so I try to keep a backlog of ideas.

Which kinds of posts do you most like writing? Do other people like reading them?

The stories. I like to play with ideas. I think people tend to like them. Although often I write something I love, but nobody else really notices; or I post a story that I think is so-so, but readers love it. I am not good at predicting opinions.

What wouldn’t you ever write about? Why?

I don’t want to slag anyone off (although sometimes the temptation is there). I do write about real situations in stories, but I make sure I play with the characters enough to remove them from reality. I try to avoid complaining posts; although they can be interesting to read, they make me feel miserable when I write them.

What’s your favourite post that you’ve written? (again, add a link if you like) What did you like about it? Did other people ‘get’ it?

Lost Islands of Xogulano these are very much niche fiction and I know they leave most people cold, but they’re probably the thing I’m proudest of. I just love mixing science and imagination, but finding ways of doing so that aren’t typical sci fi. Some of the BI posts are also very important to me, like Overcoming Panic and Phobias, because they were hard won lessons. I suspect much of the stuff I learned recovering from a brain injury is alien to people – close friends didn’t understand what i was talking about most of the time – but I like to know they’re available to anyone who might relate to them and find them useful.

What’s your favourite post that someone else has written? What about it caught your attention?

There’s  there’s this short fiction by wordwitch. I like it because she mixes poetic images with pure oddness; making a funny and beautiful story, with complex ideas contained in a tiny space. And Booky Glover wrote this poem, Booky’s poems always have melancholy elegance and for that reason they stand out.

Do you keep a blog because you want it to lead somewhere? Or do you just like writing?

I do like writing, I feel lost when I don’t write. However, I also have a bit of an end game – I’ve written two books now, one published, one not yet, and I hope by blogging I can find people who like how I write, in the hope they might also like my books.

What sort of blogs do you most like to read? Personal? Stories? Factual? Pictures?

All of those. I think I like a variety. I love reading a good story, but then I get curious about the people who wrote them and I want to find out more.

What kind of posts put you off reading?

Bitchy, bitter ones. Bigoted, hateful ones. Fortunately there don’t seem to be many of either on WordPress (although I might just be missing them).

Is there anything else about a blog that puts you off (eg fonts, popups)?

Anything that makes the writing difficult to see – hefty side bars, odd fonts. And I hate popups, I think they’re rude. On my blog, I want an email sign up button linked to my Mailchimp account, and trying to achieve that without using popups has been seriously complicated.

When do you write and read blogs? From work? On the toilet? Inside a volcano?

At home, in the one chair that doesn’t wreck my back.

How do you find other blogs to read (or do you not)?

I follow many, I go looking under tags to find more. One of the best things about WordPress is how many brilliant blogs are on here.