A Blogging Award and me mumbling on

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The lovely and inspiring Lynne Fisher has nominated me for an award, thank you Lynne! Below, I’ve answered the 11 questions she set me;  and then below that I’ve set 11 of my own that I’d love you (yes YOU) to answer. I’m not going to nominate anyone specific, but it would be great if any of you you felt inspired add your four penneth in the comments.

1.What do you feel is your greatest personal accomplishment?

I guess the thing I’m proudest of, that makes me happiest right now, is just that I am living life in the way that I want: doing a job I care about, spending my free time on things that are important to me, and friends only with people I love and respect.

2. What makes you feel joyful?

Writing, painting, time with people I care about, joking or connecting with just about anyone, walking fast with music playing, driving when the road is clear, when my job goes well, sushi, ice cream, gooey cake.

3.What makes you angry?

Cruelty and bullying, when people use intimidation to win an argument or get their way. On the more trivial side: my laptop has the CD drawer open button on the side just where I hold it to pick it up, so the CD drawer keeps on opening needlessly.

4.What is one law you could change if you could?

I’d legalise all drugs, but control the most dangerous ones – which I believe to be crack, heroin, coke, cigarettes and alcohol. I appreciate this would cause some ructions.

5.Where is your favourite place in the world to be?

The rainforest! The constant chirruping and calling sounds, the bizarre bugs, fungi and plants, the rain, the stars; the urgent clash and competition of life – so much energy, determination and innovation. I lived in one for a while, miss it constantly and visit whenever I can, but I’m a wuss these days and find the heat a struggle and the isolation a bit disturbing. I work with tropical plants to calm the need to go back.

6.What is it about your ‘favourite’ coffee shop that makes it your favourite?

I’m from the past, I’m afraid, and coffee shops don’t interest me. I like coffee and I like cake, so if someone takes me to a coffee shop and gives me these things I am happy, but the actual building I forget as soon as I leave.

7.If your house was on fire (God, forbid) what five objects/items would you just have to save?

Assuming all people get out? My laptop (annoying CD drawer and all), the art/writing project I’m working on, I guess some shoes and a coat would be useful. I have a load of photos/old diaries I would be heartbroken to leave, but it would take a few trips to get them out of the flat, so probably best to leave them.

8.Who would you prefer to play you in a movie?

I think, nobody famous. A homely, unknown actress with a spark in her eye and a sarcastic tone to her voice.

9.What are your strengths?

No idea really. I always try to do the right thing, until I forget or get distracted by cake. I’m good at arguing, although I suspect some would see that as a flaw. I don’t flinch when a cockroach runs up my arm (useful in my job). I have no interest in shoes (some definitely see that as a flaw.)

10.What do you wish you were better at?

Not getting lost, swimming, singing, knowing when to stay quiet, martial arts, tying knots, baking, remembering names, parallel parking, not panicking, paying attention, remembering birthdays.

11.What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned about blogging?

That you don’t blog in a vacuum, it’s more fun to connect with people than to just splurge out your thoughts and hope someone’s reading. And people on here are just surprisingly lovely.

My 11 questions for anyone who fancies answering them:

  1. When was the last time you laughed? What at?
  2. What’s the weather like where you are? How does it affect you? (In the UK we’re having a heatwave, everyone is half dead)
  3. What thoughts keep you awake at night?
  4. What conversations do you avoid?
  5. If you were invisible for a week, what would you do?
  6. What’s the oddest thing you’ve ever seen? (Things on the internet don’t count)
  7. If you could live the life of any character in a novel, who would it be?
  8. When do you feel most alive?
  9. You can have a penfriend from any time in history, who would it be? What kind of letters would you write?
  10. Do you ever feel like you haven’t a clue what you’re doing and you’re about to be found out? What makes you feel like that?
  11. Would you like your home country to introduce basic income (everybody gets paid enough to live on whether they work or not)? How would it change your life?

 

I’ve nearly finished the first draft of rewriting my book, so hopefully I’ll start blogging properly again soon. I’ve missed being on here, and many of you out there, I hope you are all doing great and life is beautiful. Even if you don’t feel in the mood to answer my questions, I’d love to just hear how you’re doing. 🙂

 

 

I’ve not been so chatty…

I know I’ve not been very chatty recently, I don’t want anyone to think that I’m ignoring them, or not interested in blogging anymore. Like I’ve said before, I’m working on an all-consuming project at the moment and it’s difficult to drag myself out of that and focus on something else. Also, I just realised a big flaw in the book I wrote, so I’m trying to rework that too. Give it a few weeks, and it should all be back to normal.

It’s probably a bit daft to write a post like this, but while I’ve not met any of the posters whose blogs I follow, some of you I feel I know well enough to think of as friends, and I don’t want you to feel ignored or unappreciated.

Anyway, I will try and keep up reading and posting, but if I get a bit slack please be patient.

And here is a picture of a praying mantis.

 

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Praying Mantis

 

Almost More Mystery Than You Can Handle

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Siddiebowtie is running a competition way more exciting than all those ‘nominate a hundred blogs and get them all to write an essay about what they did on their holidays’ competitions.

This competition has unknown rules!

– you have to make up your own and whoever gets it right wins.

It has unknown prizes!

possible prizes include a wooden testicle, an egg and an evil book.

You may never know if you’ve actually won it or not…

Although you might win a crafty object of delight!

And the post is really funny in the kind of delightful and ridiculous way that can only brighten your day.

Now I appreciate you’re busy, you have commitments, you just remembered you have to feed the goldfish and cut your toenails and put the Roomba out for the night. However, the significance of those things pale into comparison with this competition.

So, time to play

Siddiebowtie’s Mysterious Competition

I mean seriously, when was the last time you had some proper mystery in your life? Now’s the time folks, now’s the time…

You’ll never guess what…

I’ve been keeping this quiet because I didn’t really believe it would happen, but now it looks like it is and it seems daft not to share it with you lovely people.

So, here goes: I’m getting a novel published and just received the proof copy. I mean, Fucking heck!

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My book

It’s being published by Dr Cicero Books, a publisher in New York. You see I wrote it many years ago, put it online, and lovely chap and successful writer Carey Harrison found it.

He was teaching writing at New York University and was with a student and talking about the word ‘discandy’. He Googled the word, which appears in my book, but not in many other places online. So he found the book, read it and loved it; then contacted me through the website.

We exchanged emails for a while. He’s lived an incredible life and is still having adventures across the world. At the time I was seriously ill and could barely leave my bed, so communicating with him brought some excitement into my life. Then we lost contact.

Seven years later, my life was fairly sorted. I was more or less healthy and working, but all my energy was going into the job, and I had that pointlessness malaise that I tend to get when not writing. Then an email from him pinged up, saying that he’d set up a publishing company and could he publish my book?

Since then I’ve thrown myself back into writing, and it has felt like a flood of joy like it always does. I’ve written another novel. I’ve started this blog (been going for a year now). And now my first book is going to be published.

I’m a bit staggered about it all.

The book, Riddled with Senses, is about a seventeen year old who’s an angry, drug-taking cynic, hellbent on self destruction. She meets and falls in love with a girl who’s an outcast, living by her wits and creating imaginary worlds for herself. It’s about what happens when two very different worlds collide.

Anyway, I just wanted to share that. I’ll keep you posted on what happens as it happens.

 

 

Banishing Gloom – a Monday Good Thing

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A lot of bad things have been happening in the world recently, and now it’s cold, everyone is miserable and I keep forgetting to notice all the good things that are around me.

So I’m going to make a point of, every Monday, posting something good from the week. Either a photo, an observation, a piece of news or a delightful fact.

So what about you, what has brightened up your Monday? What good things are in your life right now?

If anyone feels like joining in, that would be fantastic, I’m happy to link or feature.

This Monday’s good thing, some photos of the frost where I work…

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I Built an Engine

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An Engine!

So, I saw this model build-it-yourself engine last Christmas and figured maybe this was a way of better understanding how my car worked, plus the chance to just build a goddamn engine. It even had a starter motor so it could fire up like a proper engine. Buying it was no idle whim. As I child I wanted to be an engineer, but didn’t seem to have any real aptitiude for it – maybe I just didn’t try hard enough? This was an opportunity to find out.

It sat on the shelf until now glaring at me while the rest of the world got in the way, but now is the time.

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Many Bits

There were lots of pieces and I was worried about getting them muddled up, so I put sticky labels on them all.

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And More!
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The Turny Bit

I managed to put lots of bits together and when I’d finished they turned other bits. Just like in a car!

When it was all put together, I flicked the switch so I’d finally see the how hours of work could turn a load of plastic chunks into a fully functioning engine.

Nothing happened.

Not a spark.  I could turn the wheely thing, and that caused other gizmos to move, but the chugging and rumbling that the instruction book promised me didn’t happen. I tried wiggling some elements, removing others and putting them back, but still nothing.

I’m glad I did it though, now I know that my childhood ambition was bollocks all along and I did the right thing by becoming a gardener.

If anyone has any use for a piece of plastic shaped like an engine, let me know. It has parts that move!

 

My Ridiculous Anxiety Dream

I have variations on this dream quite often, but I think this is the daftest. I do sometimes drive a tractor for my job and occasionally I have to check on trees after a storm to make sure none have been uprooted or become unstable, so it has some basis in reality.

So I’d been driving a tractor out in a field and had stopped to check that none of the trees had toppled.  Suddenly I noticed that it had got dark so I needed to get back to base. I reached down to release the handbrake, but it wasn’t there! I felt for the gearbox, but it wasn’t there either! And there was no steering wheel! I was really panicking by this point and there were a few minutes of fumbling about, wondering why I wasn’t wearing shoes or a coat, before I finally worked out that I was in bed and not on a tractor at all. Instead of deciding that everything was fine and going back to sleep, my brain started on a new course of panic and I thought,

“But if the bed has got no gears or steering wheel, how am I going to get to work tomorrow?” Feeling frantic, I switched on the light, muttering to myself,

“I drive to work everyday, how do I normally do this on a bed with no steering wheel?”

A few more tormented seconds passed while I looked at my bed in confusion, before finally realising,

“I don’t need to drive my bed to work, I’ve got a car.”

Inside the House of Dreams: an adventure

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Yesterday I explored the House of Dreams, the museum/home/art installation of artist Stephen Wright. A tangled delight of junk, jumble, thoughts and images hiding behind a blue gate in Dulwich, London. The museum is only open a few days a year and photos can only be taken of the front garden, so what you see here is a fragment. I think that’s for the best though, photos could never give you the experience: the chance to explore, touch and be surrounded by the contents of the house.

A colourful jungle, absolutely crammed full of ephemera and words, the house contains powerful messages about love and loss, but also about acceptance of the self. Stephen has woven his thoughts and experiences into a visual adventure that others can share, telling a tale of love, grief and defiance.

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Part of what makes this house special is that the artist and his partner, Michael, both spend time talking to visitors one to one. I think I was my usual nosy, odd self and asked lots of questions, but both were patient and I learned first hand about how the house came into being and a little of what it means. I was also able to ask about why it was called the House of Dreams. For Stephen and his previous partner Donald the name was arrived at organically. It grew, like the house did, out of a random idea coming to life. For me, the name has real significance, tied into my understanding of what dreams are.

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When I had the brain injury (gone on about here) I had many dreams, and in a few ways they were like this house: vivid, crowded and stayed lodged in my thoughts throughout the day. I decided then that dreams are the brain’s way of frantically sorting through information in order to make sense of it and learn from it. From tiny irrelevant details of a TV show to complex emotions, the unconscious brain spends the quiet time at night filing and connecting at random each nugget of your life, testing one against another until each is finally slotted into place. My dreams were my brain’s way of sorting through my own experience of death and illness. This house seems like Stephen’s more external way of doing the same, it enabled him to process intense grief (he lost his partner and both parents in a very short space of time). It uses the same random juxtaposition of dreams: putting a sculpture showing his feelings about his father’s death next to a collection of brightly coloured bleach bottles; hair curlers next to diary entries. Walking through the house was a little like walking through someone else’s dreams.

One of the most powerful messages I got from the house was to be fearless with who you are. To boldly be who no one can else can be. There is  a lot of pressure to hide our oddities, and as someone who can weird people out quite easily, I tend to tuck the messy edges of my personality out of sight. That’s an easier way to interact in society, but art is not about behaving and being normal; art should be the explosion of the self, the unfeterred release of who we are. Mostly I write fiction and I’m always adamant that I don’t write about me in my stories; but it’s important also that I don’t distance myself from what I write, that I don’t sketch half-hearted thoughts, but instead throw myself into the eye of the storm. That is certainly the inspiration I’ll take from this house.

More info, videos and pictures here. If you ever have the chance to visit the house on one of the open days then you really should. We live in mass produced, largely blank and repetitive world, the chance to see something unique and as inspiring as this is well worth the effort.

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