Questions to Ponder part 3

So continuing the questions to get you thinking, as purloined from Imgur. Previous questions here and here. I wanted to be less cantankerous with these ones, but they are still a little patronising, and let’s face it I am cantankerous, so there’s only so much I can do to avoid that. I’d love to hear your answers also!

  1. Why are you, you?
  1. Have you been the kind of friend you want as a friend?
  1. Which is worse, when a good friend moves away, or losing touch with a good friend who lives right near you?
  1. What are you most grateful for?
  1. Would you rather lose all of your old memories, or never be able to make new ones?
  1. Is it possible to know the truth without challenging it first?
  1. Has your greatest fear ever come true?
  1. Do you remember that time 5 years ago when you were extremely upset
  1. Does it really matter now?
  1. What is your happiest childhood memory?
  1. What makes it so special?

 

  1. Why are you, you?

A mixture of chance, effort and fuck ups.

  1. Have you been the kind of friend you want as a friend?

I’ve done my best, although I’m often crap. I’m way better than I used to be, but then my friends are way better too. I could have done with some kind of rule book.

  1. Which is worse, when a good friend moves away, or losing touch with a good friend who lives right near you?

I guess the second because it implies a rejection rather than circumstances beyond the friend’s control.

  1. What are you most grateful for?

My best friend. The ideas that fire up my head. Regaining my life after brain injury.

  1. Would you rather lose all of your old memories, or never be able to make new ones?

Lose the old memories, it would be heart-breaking, but I could make a new life. If I lost the ability to make new memories, then I wouldn’t be able to function in my current life, only to live in the past.

  1. Is it possible to know the truth without challenging it first?

I think our brains are wired to make us believe that we are forming Truths based on careful observation, but actually what we do is assume. Knowing that, I try to over-ride it, but I frequently fail. So, I guess what I’m saying is – we tend to think the answer to the question is no, but without realising, we act as if the answer is yes.

  1. Has your greatest fear ever come true?

Yes. The brain injury and all the surrounding illness was a load of great fears bundled into one. Having my IQ halved and my ability to look after myself lost, seeing my life pass me by without being able to actually live it; I think these things were some of my greatest fears. Now that that is over, I still get a panic it will all happen again – a bad day of being too exhausted is frightening – but I’m also aware that I got through that, I was still living and doing what I could, so I try and focus on that optimism.

  1. Do you remember that time 5 years ago when you were extremely upset?

Yes, vaguely.

  1. Does it really matter now?

I appreciate there are things that I fret over that aren’t important and I should just ditch them, and that is important to remember. However, I don’t tend to get properly emotional unless something is really wrong, or my brain chemistry is out of wack, either way there isn’t much of an option.

  1. What is your happiest childhood memory?

Creating stories and magical lands with my friends.

  1. What makes it so special?

I got to create stories and magical lands with my friends.

Over to you folks…

Questions to Ponder part 2

Continuing posting up the questions I found on this Imgur post. Sometimes they have touch of smugness in the tone, but they are still good for self-reflection and taking stock. If you have any thoughts or answers of your own, then I’d love to hear about it.

11. You’re having lunch with three people you respect and admire. They all start criticizing a close friend of yours, not knowing she is your friend. The criticism is distasteful and unjustified. What do you do?

12. If you could offer a newborn child only one piece of advice, what would it be?

13. Would you break the law to save a loved one?

14. Have you ever seen insanity where you later saw creativity?

15. What’s something you know you do differently than most people?

16. How come the things that make you happy don’t make everyone happy?

17. What one thing have you not done that you really want to do? What’s holding you back?

18. Are you holding onto something you need to let go of?

19. If you had to move to a state or country besides the one you currently live in, where would you move and why?

20. Do you push the elevator button more than once? Do you really believe it makes the elevator faster?

My Answers

11. You’re having lunch with three people you respect and admire. They all start criticizing a close friend of yours, not knowing she is your friend. The criticism is distasteful and unjustified. What do you do?

Argue with them! I’m always happy to argue when I think people are being unfair. However, often I later realise they had a point and I feel stupid (although maybe not in the above case). I don’t know the real rights and wrongs of speaking up – there’s an arrogance in arguing, but if I think something is wrong then my mouth doesn’t ask my brain to intervene, it just carries on.

12. If you could offer a newborn child only one piece of advice, what would it be?

Assuming they could understand me, remember it and care about a stranger’s advice. Actually I’m not sure. People are so varied that fantastic advice for one person is terrible for another. I’d try: engage with the world; the more effort you make, the happier you will feel.

13. Would you break the law to save a loved one?

To be honest,  at times I’ve broken the law because I’m bored (I’m not talking big laws here). Without thinking I’d break the law to save any person.

14. Have you ever seen insanity where you later saw creativity?

The two seem fairly different to me, there are cross-overs, but I’m wary of insanity labelled as creativity, because that’s a dangerous romanticising of illness. It’s true insanity can give a different perspective on life, which helps with creativity; but insanity can also destroy time, energy, concentration and communication skills, so it often harms creative ability also.

15. What’s something you know you do differently than most people?

The general living my life thing, how I look, what matters to me, the job I do, how I behave, what I own. I’m not good at conforming – it’s not intentional, I’m just crap at it, so I’ve ended up with an odd life; I’m not an impressive renegade or anything, just odd. That can be scary sometimes (am I doing everything wrong?) and people often get angry about it; but my life suits me well, so I’ll stick to that wonky route.

16. How come the things that make you happy don’t make everyone happy?

Because people are varied, it helps makes the world a fascinating place.

17. What one thing have you not done that you really want to do? What’s holding you back?

Visit Madagascar/ Antarctica, have a road trip around the U.S. However, those need to wait, first I’ve got lots of other things that are more important (to me) to do.

18. Are you holding onto something you need to let go of?

I tend to obsess about the past, and it isn’t helpful at all. Unfortunately, when I’m feeling down the whiny thoughts circle my head, like an endless march of self-pity. So, yes, I am, but I am trying hard to stop that.

19. If you had to move to a state or country besides the one you currently live in, where would you move and why?

Just about anywhere would be exciting, although not helpful right now. Every culture has something I can learn, a new way of thinking, a new climate, new details to life. I get itchy feet, so I don’t keep the possibility too far from me, and sometime soonish, I hope to move away.

20. Do you push the elevator button more than once? Do you really believe it makes the elevator faster?

No, and no.

So, now over to you…

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

20161218_090307

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.

20161218_105439
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.