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. 🙂

 

 

The Blue Sky Tag

I’ve been nominated for an award by delightful writer The Otherhood of One, it’s well worth checking out her blog if you’ve got some time…

I won’t do the nominating other people thing, because I know what busy bees you all are. Instead, here are the questions The Otherhood put to me, and they are gooduns, so if any of you feel like joining in, then I’d love to hear what you have to say.

  1. Name one life event that dramatically altered your life…
  2. Dreams: do you have them or chase them?
  3. What is your “favorite” feeling/emotion?
  4. Soon, we as a species may be colonizing in space.  Would you prefer to remain here on Earth, or go exploring with the pioneers?
  5. What other creative pursuits do you enjoy besides writing/blogging?
  6. Movies are expensive if you go to the theater.  What kind of movie are you most likely willing to pay for to see – drama, comedy, sci-fi/fantasy, docu-drama, etc?
  7. What animal “speaks” to you most these days?  (Can be wild or domesticated, real or imaginary.)
  8. Would you prefer to be happy, fulfilled or content in life?
  9. Are you any, or all, of the above?  Or none?
  10. If your “future” self could reveal one detail about what’s ahead for you, what would you want to know?
  11. What one thing would you like to tell those of us reading this post today

 

Name one life event that dramatically altered your life

Moving to Mexico in 2001. It was done in the most haphazard way possible. I went with someone I barely knew, we had almost no money, and no planned job or any contacts. I bought the cheapest tickets in Mexico that I could find (returns to Cancun) and then we spent the next month moving from place to place trying to find work. We finally settled in Mexico City, which is an intense, creative, polluted, brilliant, complex, hyperactive, scary explosion of a city. I think what I learnt from the whole experience was how it’s possible to do seemingly impossible things with a little cunning and a lot of blind stupidity. The person I went with that I barely knew ended up my best friend and we still live together, so that was also pretty important.

Dreams: do you have them or chase them?

Both. I’m definitely a dreamer, but I like the chase too. I have a sneaking suspicion that if I ever caught up with my dreams and they came true, I wouldn’t like it and I would then be stuck for something new to do, but the chances are that won’t happen, so I’m not worrying.

What is your “favourite” feeling/emotion?

Euphoria. I get it quite often, that feeling of Yes! This is it! This is the best idea ever! Unfortunately, while the feeling may be great, the actual ideas are often nonsense and the intensity of the feeling is no reflection on quality; there have been a few I’ve liked though.

Soon, we as a species may be colonizing in space. Would you prefer to remain here on Earth, or go exploring with the pioneers?

I’m fine here, I think. There are so, so many places on this planet that we’ve barely started on that I desperately want to see – the bottom of the sea, deep underground, further inside particles – I’d rather concentrate on them before I move off to outer space. I also have this feeling that going to outer space wouldn’t be as brilliant as it should be; I think it might be more like a cruise, where you spend ages trapped inside a big ship just waiting to get somewhere far away and when you do land you’re very restricted and can’t properly explore. If I could have a little buggy ship that I zip around the star systems in, that would be fun; but still, most other planets are likely to be less filled with bizarre life than our oceans.

What other creative pursuits do you enjoy besides writing/blogging?

 

I draw and paint, and my work partly involves putting plants together in a way that is hopefully beautiful.

Movies are expensive if you go to the theater. What kind of movie are you most likely willing to pay for to see – drama, comedy, sci-fi/fantasy, docu-drama, etc?

I don’t know what my perfect genre would be, but I thought Dr Strange was fun, if a bit nonsensical. (I loved the buildings collapsing in on themselves, but what happened to all the people inside? Wouldn’t they be crushed?) And I really enjoyed Trainspotting 2, although it was sad. I like films that give me a sense of bigness, like looking out at a horizon beneath a huge sky.

What animal “speaks” to you most these days? (Can be wild or domesticated, real or imaginary.)

Hmm, not sure. Birds chat to me quite a lot, but they’re quite repetitive. Me and various small many-legged pests often have a few words, although rarely friendly ones. It’s getting to that time of year when nature likes to invade; so birds start nesting in my plant pots, tiny frogs start appearing everywhere and we keep having to chase ducks outside.

Would you prefer to be happy, fulfilled or content in life?

And

Are you any, or all, of the above? Or none?

I’ve been thinking about this question all day, trying to work out exactly what the difference is and how I feel about them. These are my conclusions.

Happiness is more of a joyful excited feeling, while I think contentment is a peaceful acceptance in the mind. I guess fulfilled is achieving things you want to achieve (either personally or professionally) – but if there aren’t many things you actually want to achieve, then presumably you can feel permanently fulfilled.

I think contentment is a very nice idea, but my brain isn’t wired that way. The less my brain has to think about and the calmer life is, the more anxious and antsy I get. There have been very few delicious moments of total peace in my life, when I needed nothing, worried about nothing and felt blissfully peaceful; and those moments I had didn’t last for long. Given the option, I would have a contentment switch in my neck, so that I could experience a few pleasant hours once a week maybe – but then, would I ever want to switch it back?

I think I feel happy and fulfilled quite often, I love the sensation of my brain whirring away, so I tend to do creative things, learn whenever I can, have speculative rambles through my imagination or have ridiculous conversations about daft ideas. All those things make me happy. However, it’s a never-ending demand, so not exactly like filling something full, more like pouring stuff into a tube, while it pours out the bottom, so that the need is constant.

If your “future” self could reveal one detail about what’s ahead for you, what would you want to know?

I’d like to know if the book I wrote recently is going to get published, just so I know whether to keep making an effort.

What one thing would you like to tell those of us reading this post today?

Everything is going to be just fine, trust me; it may not feel like it at the moment, but it’ll all fall into place soon enough.

Tell Me All About You…

 

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Hello fellow Blogsters,

Over the past year, I’ve rattled on quite enough about me, now I want to know about you. Sometimes blogging can feel like I’m throwing posts out to the world, with no real clue what I’m doing. It makes me wonder how other people go about blogging and what it means to them. It doesn’t matter if you are a regular reader or are just in the mood to chat, I want to know about YOU. Please answer in the comments below, or if you feel particularly inspired, you can write on your own blog and put a link in the comments.

Questions, questions, questions…

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)

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

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

What wouldn’t you ever write about? Why?

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?

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

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

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

What kind of posts put you off reading? Is there anything else about a blog that puts you off (eg fonts, popups)?

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

If you  want to add any questions, that would also be great. 🙂

I’ll post with my answers on Friday…

 

Update! Update!

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I wrote this!

So I just got an email telling me that my book is now on Amazon, which is all kinds of ridiculous and exciting.

Here’s the page Amazon link

And here’s an extract, in case you’re in the mood to be persuaded (or dissuaded, whatever takes your fancy).

I try to exist only as an unreal being striding with large steps across the ocean. In the small, grey, scurrying world I live a little less each day, shrink my shadow so the pedestrians can’t step on it, breathe a little less of the stagnant air. I have a method, it has taken many years to perfect.

“Don’t become another dull fart,” my grandmother used to hiss, “the world has too many dull farts, just look at your parents! They’re like talking wallpaper. You have to be different, you have to stay shiny, not get weighed down and dusty, they’ll never find you if you’re weighed down and dusty.”

“Who?” I would squeak.

“And don’t behave. Don’t get too attached, don’t become part of the parade,” she said through blue smoke curling around brown smoke, her eyes darting to the door to check Bloater wasn’t listening in, “the routines, the rules, it’s all dust. You have to keep shaking it off or you’ll end up looking just like the rest of them. You have to stay shiny.”

 

Beautiful Creatures

Continuing my celebration of Monday good things…

I took this photo at work.  We have a tropical butterfly event on at the moment, and I saw this one just sitting on a flower with its tongue out. I think it may have got drunk on the nectar.

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And below are some pictures of the butterfly pupae after we stuck them onto canes, ready to go into the puparium to hatch. Some look like leaves in order to hide from predators. Sometimes I find the butterflies can be annoying, smelly and a bit icky; so it’s good to remember that they are also beautiful and fascinating.

 

Please tell me about a good thing on your Monday, no matter how small.

 

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.

 

 

Reasons to be Cheerful part 2

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Not a picture of me, but a beautiful lady I met in Mexico many years ago, who was growing older with style and grace (which I won’t be doing)

Continuing my looking-for-good-things on Mondays…

It’s very easy to get down about getting older, we are told to feel as if life will end when we get old and decrepit, but this week I have been compiling a list to put me in a good mood. My plan for when I’m too old to work and gad about:

Computer games – I’ve played them on occasion, they’re quite fun, but they just seem to eat time and when there are so many things I want to do while I can, I tend to avoid playing. However, once I’m old, and computer games are even more advanced than now, then I’m throwing myself into them with abandon. Fighting zombies in a bombed-out city with a machine gun? Brilliant. Going virtual diving in the sea looking for buried treasure? It’s going to be incredible.

It won’t matter that the world is going to Hell in a hand-basket – well, it probably isn’t doing that any more than it was when I was young, but I’ve spent a life time stressing over global warming and nuclear war and when I’m old that can stop. I’m not saying those things won’t matter to me anymore, but my time of being able to do something to fix them will have passed; it won’t be my world anymore so I’ll stop fretting.

Vanity – I’d say on the whole I don’t worry about how I look. The last time I got a haircut was in 2000 and I haven’t worn make up in years. However, there’s still a small part of me that panics that I’ve got something stuck on my tooth, or that my clothes look scruffy. When I’m old, I’ll look any which way I want and it will be called eccentric, people will excuse my odd appearance with fond, patronising smiles. It will be wonderful. As the poem says, I will wear purple.

Alcohol, drugs and smoking – I used to be a bit over the top with drug-taking and self destructive behaviour when I was younger, in many ways it was great. Then I grew up and became super careful, concerned I might cause myself long-term harm. When I get old enough for long-term not to matter anymore, I will make the most of this. It will be ace, I’ll be a tripping, smoking junkie granny. There may even be some exciting new drugs by then.

These are just a few of the things that no one seems to mention, and there are still all the traditional reasons to be happy – family, going on holiday (if you’re able) and even studying (my mum got her degree when she was seventy). So how about you? What’s going to make your twilight years a joy?

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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Because of I, Daniel Blake…

How our benefits system costs the tax payer more money

Last weekend I watched I, Daniel Blake (late to the party, as always). It was moving and beautiful, but I’m aware there are many people in this country who think that a film about benefits does not apply to them. So, using this film as inspiration, I wanted to point out a couple of things to those people:

Our benefit system is costing you more money by punishing claimants.

  1. The benefit system makes sick people sicker for longer, so they claim for longer.
  2. The benefit system creates benefit cheats.

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The benefit system makes sick people sicker for longer

We all know that stress is a killer, but stress also makes sick people more sick, so they can’t work, for longer. I had a brain injury, but what really prolonged my ability to get better was extreme stress. The stress was rooted in the accident, however, I didn’t show any symptoms of it until I tried to claim for benefits and that was clearly a trigger. One of the most stressful things you can experience is to have your survival in the hands of lying, incompetent people who don’t think of you as human. The film explores how this feels, how it destroys vulnerable people, breaks them down.

While claiming I found the system so relentlessly illogical and devoid of a duty of care that I became convinced that the government was trying to kill me, that was first sign of psychosis I experienced, after that it got worse. I was on benefits for six years, I think if I hadn’t been pushed to that point by the benefits system, if I could have relaxed, safe in the knowledge I was cared for and concentrated on recovery, I could have gone back to work in a year.

This may sound like a one off extreme experience (or maybe melodramatic), but it has happened to every genuinely sick person I have known who has tried to claim; because all illness, mental or physical, is made worse by stress. And everybody, no matter how ill, goes through the same system of being treated like a scrounger, lied to, tricked, dismissed.

Add to that the situations shown in the film – people being sanctioned and then not being able to eat properly or heat their home – all these things increase stress, prolong sickness and lead to the claimant needing benefits for much longer.

The benefit system works better for cheats than for the seriously ill – so the sick become cheats

The system is designed to be illogical and exhausting in order to put off benefit claimants. The problem with this is that benefit cheats have the mental and physical resources to deal with endless nonsensical and wrong instructions, they have the energy levels necessary to spend hours on the phone and they know the system so know just how to play it. People like Daniel in the film have never claimed benefits and don’t understand the system. They tell the truth (because they assume that is the right thing to do) and they are short on the strength necessary to play the game, all of which means they will not get money.

As a result, many seriously ill people give up trying, they rely on friends and family to survive or they kill themselves (see below for some  info about casualties). Dan sold his furniture and went hungry; and this is a seriously ill man who has just had a heart attack. I was lucky enough to understand computers (which Dan doesn’t) and I had a good friend to take over filling out forms and calling up advisers. Even with this help, I learnt that if I was to get money to live, I needed to change how I acted. Honesty and doing what I was asked to do, simply didn’t work. So I learnt to lie and cheat and manipulate, and that was how I got the money I needed to live.

Which is where the problem lies for the tax payer: The benefits system creates cheaters because honest people don’t get money. And being a cheater doesn’t just go away when you get better. If you have ever had someone repeatedly screw you over when you are at your most vulnerable you will perhaps understand: it changes you, it creates a cynicism and an anger that don’t vanish, and cynical, angry people, who have learned to work the system, aren’t good for society.

 

This blog was originally going to be a review, but there are plenty of excellent reviews about this important film and I had nothing helpful to add. In case you missed them…

Some facts about the system:

And finally a quote taken from the review above:

“I must emphasise one point. I, Daniel Blake is not a “poverty flick”, nor even a film about poverty. It’s about dignity, about society recognising you as a human being and not as a number. It’s about the relationships we create with one another to save us dying from state-imposed loneliness. The way we treat people on benefits becomes a metaphor for our society’s radical failure to recognise the humanity in others.”

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.”