Rat cahoots

I worked with Mateo today and got to hear another strange story.

You know how a rat steals an egg? Because rats like eggs, but they can’t carry it in their paws and still walk. But I’ve seen it, what they do is get another rat. And one holds onto the egg and the other pulls him by his tail.

The image of little Edgar rat (no reason why a rat shouldn’t be called Edgar in my view) with his paws wrapped around an egg, while Bertrude rat pulls his tail over her shoulder and drags him along, is just great.

Gangster Foxes: Talbot and Reynard

When adorable foxes go bad…

After I posted about the cheeky fox at my work, Darnell and Calmgrove came up with the excellent fox names Talbot and Reynard. However it turns out that Shaily guessed where the story would go. Because the foxes (I found out there are two, conveniently since I have two names) have chosen a twisted path.

I was walking back from lunch and was surprised to see one of the foxes, Talbot I would guess, walking down the main path. Normally in daytime, when there are a fair few people about, the foxes are nowhere to be seen. Certainly not out in the sun. Then I saw that he was walking towards a toddler. Not quite stalking, but Talbot would stop every few steps and stare at the kid waddling about in a white jacket, then walk closer. This did not look right to me. Foxes don’t do that. It also didn’t look right to Jess and Mateo, who I saw were walking fast towards them.

Fox Talbot saw the two gardeners heading for him and did a few steps at a half-run, then stopped and stared at them. Then a couple more steps and then stood waiting. He didn’t seem afraid at all. When he did wander off, he sat a few metres away under a bush and had a bit of a roll around in the grass.

By now I’d made it over to the group and heard the child’s guardian explain what had been happening.

‘The foxes do come up to the kids sometimes. They’re not scared. Yesterday, one of them stole William’s ball. William chased after the fox to get it back, so the fox ran off. But then he came back with another fox, like he got reinforcements.’

I refuse to believe that Reynard and Talbot are bad foxes, they’re just misguided. But it does look like they might have set up an extortion business intimidating small children in order to take their toys.

What do we do now?

Tales of Bees and Blood

Bee on a string
Image from https://richardlomax.bandcamp.com/track/bee-on-a-string

Mateo doesn’t talk much, but occasionally he just won’t stop. Today was one of those days and I got to hear some great stories of life in the Basque country.

DON’T EVER DO THIS! But

…one of my favourites was about how when he was young, Mateo would get some extra thin fishing wire, tie it around a bumble bee, and the bee would fly along beside him on the end of the wire like a balloon or an upside down dog. Occasionally the bee would get tired and sit on his shoulder, but after a while he would flick it and it would fly up on the end of the wire again.

DON’T DO THIS EITHER

He also told us a story about his dad playing as a kid.

‘When my dad was eight, he and his friend didn’t have any toys. So his friend would swing around this thing.’ Mateo mimed something swinging round. ‘And my dad would jump over it.’

‘You mean a skipping rope?’ I suggested.

‘A stick? A pole?’ said Dan.

‘No you use it to cut corn,’ said Mateo. ‘And Death has one.’

‘A scythe? They’d jump over a scythe?’ asked Dan, slightly high-pitched, as we start to realise where this might be going.

‘Yes,’ said Mateo. ‘But then it went wrong and he didn’t jump at the right time. So the scythe went into his leg. And it was deep, you know. Like muscles and tendons cut, and blood everywhere. I saw the scar and it went half way round his leg. But this was during the Spanish civil war and there were no doctors around, so my dad went back to his dad. His dad got a load of vinegar and a load of salt and filled the hole in his leg and then sewed it up with a needle and thread.’

Me and Dan were wincing quite a lot by this point.

‘It was weird too, eh?’ went on Mateo. ‘Because if you get a cut that deep, and cut the tendons, it shouldn’t ever recover. Your leg is never ok again. But he was fine, all he had was the scar .’

Answering Socrates: Part 2

Shaily answered my questions! And the answers are ace. 🙂

A quote from it:

One of my frequent dream destinations is an ancient temple on a mountain. Not sure what deity or what religion…but it calls to me. It is dark, mysterious and beyond time. I only get to see it from a distance though. Every time, I spend all my time trying to reach it–walking up the mountain road, sometimes trying to persuade my companions that it is worth it but failing, sometimes stuck in the small colorful market that falls in the way wasting precious hours, and sometimes climbing up and down a maze of overpopulated stairs.

She also writes great short stories, sometimes sad, often beautiful, and posts fascinating nature from India, so have a wander through her blog. You won’t regret it.

For anyone else who fancies answering some questions about their writing, here they are:

Do your dreams ever give you inspiration for stories? If so can you describe one that has?

Do you feel comfortable writing characters of other races/ genders or with extreme experiences you’ve never had? What are your no go areas for characters?

Have you ever written anything that you wouldn’t write now? What was it and what’s changed?

How about a genre? Do you always stick to the same one? Is there a genre you’d like to work in, but don’t know how?

If you’ve written a novel, what was your method? did you plan it all out beforehand with flow charts and lists? Or did you have a vague idea of what would happen and just start writing?

Fighting the worry habit

Ever since I had that messed up accident a thousand bloody years ago I’ve had anxiety. I think it’s as much a habit now as anything. My body just acts like something terrible is happening, no matter how untrue that is. Even taking a rest, my back tenses up as if I’m about to lift weights. If my hands aren’t active, I’ll pick and bite at my fingers until they bleed. And much as I try, I can’t stop gritting my teeth. Ever.

At one point I caused a huge lump to appear on my jaw from clenching my teeth and until recently I had pretty much constant pain in my back/shoulders except for when working (I actually avoided time off because I’d wind up in too much pain.)

However, I’m not writing this to complain, I promise, more to share two things that have helped me recently, and might also be an answer to stress for some others out there. I’m not totally fixed, but they’ve definitely helped.

Yoga

The first is yoga, which I’ve tried many times before and never liked. I think the difference this time is:

  • doing it on my own so I’m not worrying about if I’m any good, instead just concentrating on my body and how it feels.
  • even doing yoga at home, I’d do it in a foolishly small space. Now I do it in a bigger room where I can actually spread out a bit (I do still end up hitting the sofa or kicking the wall quite often, but it’s a definite improvement.)
  • using videos of someone who doesn’t irritate me and deals specifically with the problems I have with my back. The videos are by Yogini Melbourne. She is soothing, detailed in what she says, and manages to give simple options for those of us who have a tendency to fall over. She also provides plenty of time to have a little rest, especially at the beginning of a video. When I don’t feel like doing anything active, I tell myself it’ll be an excuse to have a little lie down, which is a great incentive.

Fiddlesticks

The other thing I’ve started doing is playing with worry beads and it stops me biting my fingers, which means I no longer get so tense. I started with a broken bracelet a few weeks ago, putting it back together as a string (the bottom one in the photo.) Then today I made the top two. With the middle one I went all out and added a spring and then some different sized cogs and nuts that I had, which makes it a bit like a baby’s rattle, a step up from worry beads. I figure the top and bottom beads are for general distraction, but the rattle is for more complex thought. Like Sherlock and his three-pipe problems, I sometimes have worry-rattle problems.

Now these are intense times, so I hope none of you are too stressed. But if you get anxious what are your ways of dealing with it?

Magical Death Weed Seeds: new evidence?

Photo from this great article about the plant prop from Day of the Triffids

I’ve been a bit shoddy posting recently, and I’m sure that many of you have been wondering: What about those mysterious Chinese seeds? Did they turn out to be Triffids?

Well there have been a few new revelations about the seeds, so I’m going to put an article up for any of you who’ve been wondering. There have actually been a few articles posted, mostly saying OH MY GOD, WHAT ARE THESE! WHERE HAVE THEY COME FROM? WHAT DO THEY WANT? DON’T PLANT THEM, WHATEVER YOU DO! A few countries have received them now: Canada, US, Australia, Ireland and UK – all English speaking countries, no idea if that’s significant.

https://www.breakingnews.ie/ireland/government-identifies-some-of-the-mysterious-seeds-posted-from-china-1014055.html

One detail in the article is that the seeds come from Vanuatu as well as China, which aren’t two countries I think of as being connected. The article suggests we ‘avoid planting the seeds’ which is pleasantly mild, so I won’t set fire to the pot on my windowsill yet. It seems there are a few different species in the packets. Bamboo would have been nice and I like a Petunia, but I don’t think mine are either, so they may still be Triffids. It’s still unknown as to why the seeds have been sent – although the ‘brushing’ scam is mostly likely. Apparently the US are having an investigation and China are helping.

I will post more details, should any appear.

Great review for Supernice!

supernice-cover

So the talented and delightful Shameful Narcissist wrote a review of my book Supernice  (to be found on the link to the right). With whatever she’s reviewing, she tends to be thoughtful and entertaining, and it just so happens she likes my writing. So Yay!

A funny and gripping story about a tyrannical alien invasion in a sleepy seaside town.

Chirpy YouTuber Nick and his cynical teenage daughter Natasha have their lives thrown into turmoil one afternoon when the walls start swallowing people. Over the next week, more and more are snatched away, until the announcement is made: Earth is under new management. Aliens have taken control and they’re not happy with how humans have been behaving.

The new leaders introduce a series of increasingly oppressive rules. Make a single mistake and you’ll be taken away – to be transformed into an upstanding member of the community.
An upstanding, smiling member of the community with a brain like mashed potato.

As their town, and the world, are thrown into chaos and the streets are filled with grinning automatons, Nick and Natasha each find their own way to deal with the horror. Nick becomes a YouTube celebrity, convincing the public to behave. Natasha joins a makeshift rebellion working out how to dodge the alien demands. Each wants the best for the other, but they end up on opposing sides in humanity’s most vital and bizarre battle.

Will they ever be united against the real enemy? Will the human race become the docile drones that the aliens want? Or is universal niceness an impossible and undesirable dream?

Supernice reveals the disparity between how the younger and older generations view and deal with an alien invasion, and the author showcases this early in Nick and Natasha, the father and daughter MCs whose perspectives the narrative bounces between.  This isn’t to say neither of their viewpoints change/evolve, but it is fascinating to witness how easily some people are taken in for the benefits, while others, while afforded and seemingly offered some of the same, understand the deeper implications sooner and reject them despite the cost.

This is one of those stories where the bad happening seems almost good, similar to the sentiment of “we’re the virus” in response to the current global pandemic.

People are forced to be nice, which sounds wonderful until you realize people are forced to be nice, and just like it is in our reality, it will be the children who save us, a frankly terrible burden to put on them, which we should all be embarrassed about.  However, if YA fiction has taught me anything it’s that the younger generation is more than up to the task.

Every single book I’ve read by this author is better than the last, which says a lot as Riddled With Senseswas excellent as was Peddling Doomsday.  Her take on current culture becomes more acerbic and accurate with each addition to her body of work, because what happens at the end is exactly what we’d see (and have seen) in the real world.  The mindset of frightened people who either don’t know know or who have forgotten how to critically think as well as mob mentality would inevitably lead to this conclusion.  There would also be profiteers, because nothing causes roaches to crawl out of the woodwork than a major disruption.

5 stars.

The blog itself The Shameful Narcissist

Writing questions for YOU

So I got nominated for a blogger award by the talented short story writer Gifted and Chilling – Thank you G and C! And I’m going to use this as an opportunity to ask you, dear reader, lots of questions. I’ll answer Gifted and Chillings questions below mine.

My questions are all writer based, but that can be for a blog as well as something bigger. So if anyone is inspired the following, then please write in the comments below or your own blog 🙂 :

  • Do your dreams ever give you inspiration for stories? If so can you describe one that has?
  • Do you feel comfortable writing characters of other races/ genders or with extreme experiences you’ve never had? What are your no go areas for characters?
  • Have you ever written anything that you wouldn’t write now? What was it and what’s changed?
  • Do you ever work on a style? Or do you simply write and a style happens?
  • How about a genre? Do you always stick to the same one? Is there a genre you’d like to work in, but don’t know how?
  • If you’ve written a novel, what was your method? did you plan it all out beforehand with flow charts and lists? Or did you have a vague idea of what would happen and just start writing?

And the questions for me

Gifted and Chilling writes stories, often heartbreaking and poetic, so go and check out her blog if you haven’t before. Here are her questions:

What inspired you to creating your blog and choosing your niche?

I just wanted somewhere to write. Writing was always important to me, but I did too much of it in isolation. I wanted to write stories that people read, to have it as a form of communication instead of just capturing images out of my head and trapping them on the page because I like it.

Which blogs inspire and entertain you?

This story from Getting On is just great, (and he has many other fine posts too)

I love the nature pictures from Fish-Eye Perspective

Samantha Henthorn just published a book here. But check out any chapter of Curmudgeon Avenue for a a very funny read.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve learnt so far?

From the blog? That I can write many different stories at once. And that’s good, because if I get sick of one, I can move straight onto another.

How would you like your life to be different (or the same) in a year?

At the moment my biggest fear is losing all the good things in my life. So mostly, I want my life to stay the same. At least for a little bit longer. Oh and I want some kittens.

What piece of work are you proud of the most and which are you itching to finish?

I’m weird about pride. When I’m still writing something, it is the most important writing I’ve ever done. and then when it’s finished I cease to care. So the truth is, I’m not proud of anything I’ve written – not in a bad way, I simply don’t think about it. I’m itching to finish The Catford Catastrophe Project, which is set in a dystopian future filled with killer plants and mutant insects. The characters are sociopathic twins, a spy and a super hero with PTSD. It’s fun to write in a complicated and mind-twisty way.

Supernice came true!

train sign saying wear a face covering

So I wrote this book Supernice about an alien invasion. The aliens create a dystopia of oppressive new rules and terrible consequences for breaking them. In response, the government replace advertising hoardings with posters that politely (and then not so politely) tell the public how to behave to avoid trouble. Following are some quotes from the book. (And the book can be acquired for a dollar, to your right, if you fancy)

Advert hoarding for a charity. Says Be more us. Let's talk more.
There aren’t many adverts for products left in London stations. Instead there are adverts for charities.

At first the messages seemed friendly:

Advertising hoardings stretched along the seafront. Usually they were filled with adverts for phones or cars, but now the adverts were in pastel shades of purple and pink, with butterflies and smiling faces. In large letters the messages were simple:

SHOW LOVE, NOT HATE

PSST, YOU’RE BEAUTIFUL, PASS IT ON

But even then, Natasha was suspicious and happy to see signs of rebellion:

As she headed back home, Natasha passed a hundred more pink posters in bus stops and stuck to lampposts. Some had already been defaced.

KINDNESS SPREADS was graffitied with DESTROY!

And LOVE UNITES US in purple, with FUK DA ALIENS in angular black writing over the top. Natasha had never liked graffiti – she always thought it made a place look messy – but this was righteous.

And finally as the oppression became more extreme and the pretense ended:

The main road had changed again. Instead of advertising hoardings with hippy messages, now there were screens, each showing an order.

POLITENESS IS NECESSITY and SHOW RESPECT and DON’T BECOME ONE OF THE TAKEN.

I wanted to create an atmosphere of tension and uncertainty, but one in which people needed to find a way to not only survive, but to still laugh, still connect, still keep going. And of course they wanted to dupe the aliens and escape too.

Well now I’m back at work, I’ve discovered that is exactly what London has become. Lots of instructions with cute pictures, saying Cover your face, Keep your distance, Don’t travel unless you have to. It’s all considerate messages for our own safety, but the atmosphere is still intense. With half our faces covered, people are more suspicious of each other, and anyone could be a virus carrier. But we still need to laugh, connect and keep going. Luckily we don’t need to worry about the alien bit. Yet.

Sign in London station says Please keep your distance

The world holds its breath

No relevance, just a calming photo

I haven’t written for a few days. With everything going on in the US with BLM protests and then protests in UK, it feels rude to chatter about 3-legged cats.

I’m not gone though. And I hope that any of you bloggers in the US, (I know Darnell Cureton, Boo and Shameful Narcissist are, so I hope they’re all ok) are safe. And I really hope that all this leads to change. The UK definitely has it’s problems with institutional racism in our police force, but the violence is so much less and there is usually some accountability. I’m a long way away and only get to see videos and pictures, but the shameless misuse of power by cops in the US looks terrifying.

Also, I got a call from my boss today. I’m back to work in a week and a half. I can’t pretend I’ve hated being off, laziness and isolation suit me fine, but I can’t wait to see my colleagues and to be outside with the plants all day. And it means I can stop doing proper exercises, like aerobics and all that bastardry. I’ve learned to tolerate it, but I would always rather be digging up something than leaping around to a perky presenter.

Stay safe everyone, love to all of you.

Unsinew  –  to take strength from

Ultrageous   –  violently extreme