Limitless: Yeah, Odeon Were Serious

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For the Day of Which We Do Not Speak (aka my birthday), I got a Limitless Card. Odeon introduced the scheme earlier this year and I’ve always loved movies. There was a period where I didn’t go in cinemas due to an anxiety trigger relating to a specific person and how they treated Uni (Guide Dogs do not, for some reason, include ‘how to take dogs into the cinema’ as part of advanced training). But, thanks to various friends over the years, as well as Bramble and Gismo, Uni got to the point where she just saw the place as a chance for a two hour nap.

I officially registered for the card just so I could see Doctor Strange on the day of release (28/10/16) and the rules say I can see any 2D movie, regardless of day and time, for free at any Odeon in the country (excluding the inner London ones). I can go into the Gallery as it costs extra and, frankly, most of those movies are too late for me to get home. Since signing up for the card I’ve seen

  • Doctor Strange (x2 with at least another viewing coming. Iron Man reskinned but OMG the graphics and the Inceptionness!)
  • Storks (Amazon pastiche that completely ignores sex. Also animated.)
  • Inferno (I wouldn’t have paid to see it, frankly. But I know BFF did and it wasn’t that bad.)
  • Nocturnal Animals (Freaky and weird but also compelling and will appeal to authors on a narrative bent. Should have been an 18)
  • Arrival (x2. Gorgeous.)
  • Next week I’ll be seeing Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them at least twice.

Oh and that’s not even going into the long list of films which are coming out in December: Moana. Rogue One. Passengers. Next year has Assassin’s Creed, Rings, Ghost in the Shell, at least three Marvel movies and some DC ones … you get the point.

I paid upfront and, assuming I pay £9.75 for a movie this means I need to see 22 movies to cover the cost. Assuming the cost is higher, for newer films (£12.95): it’s 15 movies. Assuming I go with someone else and use my CEA card to get them in, well I’ve basically justified the card now. In less than two weeks.

The weird part is I find it calming. I can book for myself via the app, on the way to the cinema. I can book for me plus someone else on the website. I can sit in the Costa AT the cinema and book tickets. It’s remarkably freeing, especially when you add in my obvious autistic traits of liking dark large spaces that are quiet and my love of repetition. If I’m with another friend, we’ll use Audio Description and sit up the back at the cinema but, usually on a second screening, I like to sit in the disabled seats right at the front (with bonus bag and dog room). I like to feel like I’m in the movie and being so close, it means I can compensate for my crap vision. I can actually see what’s going on.

The best part is, being chronically ill and disabled actually plays in my favour, I can see movies when I want to. In cinemas with perhaps five other people. I can see what I want when I want, especially on Saturdays when it’s possible to get in early and watch several movies. I miss doing that and it wasn’t something I could afford. Also I’m seeing movies that, if I was paying, I’d never normally consider which is introducing me to some really interesting movies.

There is a line through and that is Trolls. And the Smurfs.

In this case though, it’s not about the money (though the monthly DD option was a nice addition). It’s about the freedom and frankly the timing was perfect: what else am I going to do during a long, cold winter without a dog? I don’t have to worry about anyone but me and I need to be selfish in some ways, it’s part of the interim phrase before New Dog coms along, especially with the name change and whatnot. Plus it’s a gift I can share as I have a bunch of friends who love movies as much as I do and, while I do prefer the watch at home with a pause button option, nothing beats the big screen.

The best thing it’s nice to have gift I can use and (hell) abuse. Most people work, I don’t and the cinema is an hour away with a bus which deposits me a few minutes away. Bonus points go to Morrisions being just around the corner for on the way home shopping and a choice of places to eat. Riverside is also the ‘quieter’ part of Norwich, at least on every day when Norwich isn’t playing at home.

Yes, I think, I chose wisely.

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So I Had Surgery … (Don’t Panic!)

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Things are slowly getting better but I had a minor surgical procedure (local, not general) on Thursday. It’s kinda been the last in the long list of ‘shit I’d rather not do’ over the last three months. However I feel all the better for it, or I will once the wound heals and the bruising goes down. The pain is minimal, more discomfort (my tolerence is high) and sitting still actually helps. This is something I’ve been waiting on for the better part of a year and involved the removal of a benign cyst, a fibroma. This isn’t the first time I’ve had this kind of op but it was the first time I’d had it done consious.

Actually it was pretty fast. I’d planned the day specifically with this procedure in mind which meant using the morning to finish a new secondary world story (inspired by the election), have a proper lunch (ramen) and then, calmly, get the bus from Norwich to the N&N.

I was at the hospital for 1:30, half an hour before my official admission (there’s an unspoken rule about being early so nurses can do their stuff). I was in a gown by 3, devoid of my watch and phone, in the operating theatre by 4 and discharged just after 5. The only downside is I left my MedicAlert bracelet behind … oh the irony. I should have it back in a few days though and have a necklace, it’s just the principle of well … I wear it because I have conditions.

I must admit to feeling fine except for fatigue. There was a lot of local involved and I’d managed to intriegue the surgeon enough that she was the one who did the op. That’s like an honour, normally you get some consultant doing it. I’d also expected the removal of several fibromas where as, in fact, it was just one big one. I got to see the little monster before it went off to be tested and … wow. I’ve never actually seen a whole one before. Medical stuff doesn’t gross me out but even I was stunned that I’ve basically been harbouring this thing for three decades with change.

Frankly I found the whole experience very calm (mainly because of the personal pre-med of 20mg of diazepam) and the fact that I know how hospitals work. Plus they confirmed my identity at least six times which just ended up being funny (in truth it’s a serious thing: gotta make sure there’s consent and you’re operating on the right person). My pulse never went above 80 the entire time. It’s very A, B, C, D, though I was a tad surprised to get a team of ten, a massive OR and to pass through the same kids OR where they tried to get a line in last time just as I was telling the ‘time they tried to put a cannula in my right foot because I have the veins of a heroin addict’ story to the nurse who was escorting me.

There’s something really bad about yelling ‘fuck, that hurts’ in a kids OR.

Also, I’ve never done heroin. I just have no decent veins. At all. And cannula’s in feet really hurt, even for me.

That big, scary exclaimation mark on the band is basically a ‘hey this person has conditions/allergies you need to look up’. In my case it was to do with a medication which is no longer made and every dressing known to medicine (except the weird spray dressing they eventually elected to try. Not that).

Weirdest of all, I’m lying on a table in a gown and my shoes and socks …

I did specifically ask for audio description purely because I’m curious. I didn’t feel a thing bar the initial injections and a lot of tugging. The surgeon compared this to a root canal, something I’ve not experienced and have no desire to do. But it has to have been the least painful procedure of my life, even if I had to endure the pointless ride in a wheelchair afterwards.

So how did I recover from this?

I went to breakfast in the city, on two consecutive days with my two closest friends, and then saw Arrival. Again on two consecutive days. The movie is amazing, BTW, a beautiful adaption of an amazing story, it’s basically up there with Shawshank. I admit to spending Friday night on the sofa with pillows and a duvet but that actually made things more painful, plus D kept sitting on my shoulder which makes working difficult.

Coffee, my nook and food is helping. No Zumba for two weeks and the wound is healing nicely, I can basically keep an eye on it as it seems nigh impossible to get the mandatory wound inspection in seven days at my GP (despite being there that morning to have some bloods drawn). I’m pretty sure it won’t get infected, it’s nice and clean and I’m very good at post-injury maintenence. In fact this is precisely why I bought and crafted my first aid kits to be a little more advanced after the Great Swan-dive of Eaton.

The nicest thing for me has being able to sit and write, in relative comfort with the knowledge that I can’t actually do Zumba for like two weeks. I’ll go back when I’ve healed up. I can be in bed by six if I want, watching movies on my iPad or Let’s Plays as Dishonored 2 is out. I’m not sleeping but then I don’t and I’m too busy this week to take my last ditch medication because that comes with two days of brain for. I have various adulting things to do, including official paperwork, meeting my GDMI to formally get back on the list and seeing Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them at least twice.

Oh and I’ll probably do Arrival again. Just because wow. Even the soundtrack is gorgeous.

I’m keeping my regular schedule and that in itself is calming. Coffee, Westworld, words and quiet. The baristas at Nero are learning my particular order and BFFs are gently steering me away from those tiny urges where I’d quite like a drink but it’s probably not a good idea, especially not given the whole surgery thing. It’s a tiny craving which will go away if I stay in my chair, do my things, watch movies and drink fizzy apple juice instead. Frankly all I’m craving is decaffa mochas, meals someone else cooked and croissants for breakfast.

The good thing is all the stuff I need to do involves a minimum amount of time, walking and effort. Each is on it’s own day and I have the option of going to see movies afterwards or taking a trip to Waitrose for some cheese. It seems busy but it’s actually nicely spaced out, culminating with my first trip to the cinema with Beloved Niece which has quite excited me. Seeing a film is always fun but when you’re doing it with a Harry Potter loving kid … it’s awesome.

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Treason

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A couple of months ago Caffé Nero finally opened their second branch (third if you count the concession in House of Fraser) in Norwich on the outside of Chapelfield, our big Intu shopping mall. I went in a couple of times because it was quiet and I was with other people, we sat in their comfy sofa and lounged/made phone calls. I found the place small and a bit intimidating because it’s so nice and new.

Fast forward to November and I’m moving in. I’ve promised Rachel (my favourite Starbucks partner) I will be coming back once a week and once I have New Dog. It’s just that my anxiety’s been awful recently, purely because of the number of ‘Where’s your dog?’ conversations I’ve had to have with people who recognise me as a regular. At the same time the business of the place is making it hard for me to actually work … I spent five hours one day sitting watching Netflix rather than actually writing plus I find the exposure … well, it’s too much.

I could have moved upstairs but the WiFi is shit (and there are steps steeper than my house stairs) and with my BFFs having dogs/boots on their foots, stairs seem unfair. Especially as my former seat was right by the bar and thus close to the disabled loo and the baristas who’d always watch my stuff for me.

As a kid I liked enclosed spaces where I was on my own and when I realised Nero had a nook (right by the bar which means it’s lovely and warm), I decided to move. Ironically, I’ve been a regular visitor for the last two weeks anyway as I wanted breakfast (buying some croissants and taking them next door as Starbucks food … well it’s not the chain’s strongest point). This is mainly as there’s been delivery issues and they’re going to start playing Christmas music on a loop.

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Nero’s is quieter, people leave me be and the baristas seem nice. I get the feeling they’ve been seening a lot of defectees recently. The only downside is they don’t quite have the speed of Starbucks partners, which actually, works in their favour. You get a few minutes to wait and savour the experience rather than waiting in a huddle with other caffine-deprived souls. It feels more impersonal but also a little more personal, which is a contraction to say the least.

The booth itself is larger, the bunkette bigger, as are the tables which means I can set up my full rig. There’s a powerpoint right by my ankle and loads of room for my coat, bag and cane. I can even set up my iPhone as a second screen for Westworld rewatching. The disabled loo is within my eye-line, the only downside are the pesky cushions and having to guess which of the seventeen WiFi networks is Nero’s/capable of connecting with Dropbox.

But I feel like a traitor.

Part of the problem, I think is the ease of Starbucks. You walk in, pay with your phone and walk out or sit down seconds later. I’ve frequently put £20 on my card while on the bus, only to frown at the transaction a day later when it hits my credit card. At Nero I pay with cash (I choose to) and have a stamp card which is good for my attempts at weaning myself off credit cards and onto a cash system. Living on cash is the secret to my getting out of debt plan (as is not checking TeeFury) or Kickstarter. It’s hard and there are always emergencies, some weeks are easiler than others but I’m transitioning.

Cash is also limiting but there’s plenty of water on offer which is just what I need as mochas make me thirsty. I also know croissants aren’t the best breakfast but considering I’m not usually a breakfast person, it’s a step up for me.

I know the novelty will probably wear off, especially once I get a dog as the place is very small (and I’d need to buy another dog bowl; I do it as a service for all guide dogs when I start living in a particular coffee shop, including my own). But for now it’s helping me; I’m not writing much, most of this morning was spent outlining The Broken World and praying my battery wouldn’t die. The point is I can focus in there, the nook has good sound-muffling and no one can see me (it’s impossible for me to write if people are sitting behind me, a weird psychological quirk).

I like it and I’m in early enough that it’s mine. MINE.

Until I get new dog, I think I’m going to keep it. I might actually get some working done.

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Hard Reboot Required

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Though it’s not quite my pantheon, I always associate Samhain with the New Year (especially as it comes so close to my own birthday). This always makes me think of this being the perfect time to reflect and regroup as necessary.

Psychologically some of it is down to my mental health, my lack of a dog, the fading of the year and stuff I can’t control. Mhairi told me the other day I should have been born as a dormouse because they shut down during Winter.

Mentally I’m okay, I’ve quit alcohol, I’m lowering my meds, I’m less anxious. I’m sleeping, I’m able to concentrate a little more (though not to a writing novel level; hence I plan to simplify my Patreon as soon as I get a second). I have a couple of anthology calls I want to get done but that’s my sole goal until the end of the year. I have a story due to my crit group in a fortnight which gives me some time to actually write something for one of the three calls.

Yay, motivation.

I’m tired though even if I’m finally able to sleep. I’ve been through a lot. I need to take some time out from everything and just chill out. This will be helped by basically living in the Odeon for the next few months watching as many movies as I can stomach (I even have a pen and notebook so I can ‘work’ on the third/fourth viewing). I’ve found a potential writing nook with a power and USB socket in the little Costa, somewhere quite where I can work undisturbed with decent WiFi and nice baristas.

I have no news on Uni and this is almost a good thing. She’s no longer a part of my life anymore and we both need to adjust to that. Someone randomly asked how I was feeling yesterday, no one outside of my closest chosen family do this. Thus has Asha begun to coalesce as a real being and not just the bag of bones holding a dog harness.

I’ve started really thinking about New Dog (the news was broken to Beloved Niece yesterday and she seems to be taking it well). In a few months, I’m going to have a new best friend and, hopefully, all the skills I missed out on last time. I think I’ve grown as a person too and that will make me a better GDO.

I made mistakes with Uni, every first timer does. I bought a charm for my bag as a present to myself because I saw it and immediately started crying. I got some birthday credit and decided to go back and buy it. There’s a silver bone, dog bowl and a ball, all things which had meaning to me and Uni. It was just one of those things which will keep me on the straight and narrow when it comes to her replacement without diminishing my relationship with Uni (which will always be special).

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For now, I’m taking it easy and quiet. I feel okay but at the same time, I’m obviously not. This isn’t mania, it’s not depression but it’s not the ‘normal’ bit in the middle either. I’m grieving and that takes time, especially as it has repercussions. I knew this was coming, it just happened six months too early and caught me off guard.

I’m hoping I’ll start writing again soon. I feel so lost when I look at Scrivener, like the words are there I’ve just forgotten how to type. This is partly why I’m putting as little pressure on myself as possible; it’s okay to sit in Starbucks blogging, it’s fine to rewatch Westworld, it’s okay to lurk in subreddits. Even if all I do is sketch out ideas for stories, it’s still something.

As long as I keep moving, even if it’s at snail’s pace, everything will be okay. I just need the time and permission to put myself back together.

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Asha’s Adventures in Getting a Guide Dog: The Basics

This is how much a Guide Dog will cost me. Personally.
This is how much a Guide Dog will cost me. Personally.

Part of dealing with losing Uni is trying to focus on the future. Because if I don’t I’ll just cry again and that’ll get none of us anywhere. Plus the future sustains me.

Also, right now, I have one of these and Ceri is shit at guiding me anywhere:

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The point is somewhere, out there, is Replacement Guide Dog and I’m going to meet her one day soon. That instantly makes it real; she’ll be going through her final training, waiting for me. I have a 50p piece I’ll carry with me almost as a talisman until the day we qualify, at which point the money is handed over to constitute a legal contract between myself and Guide Dogs (I liken it to a ten-year hire purchase agreement).

This time around things are a little different and faster. I’ve already had one dog which means several things:

  • The wait should be shorter. I spent nearly two years waiting for Uni, having to fight for her. I’m hoping to be matched with her replacement in under six months.
  • I have a much better idea of what kind of dog I need, as well as the one I want. The differences between those two things are a key factor.
  • I actually have some idea of what I’m getting myself into.

This blog series isn’t just about charting the process, it’s about education. As a result, if you see bolded text it means a term I’m going to use frequently, we have jargon just like anyone else. Most people have no clue how this works, much less what goes into the period between training and qualification. At the same time, personally, I’m in a much better position than I was when I got Uni. First off I know a lot more Guide Dog Owners (GDO’s) than I did when I first got Uni.

This is important because it means I have a safety network of people I can go to if I’m worried or need advice (it’s easier to get ahold of a close GDO friend, for example, when you need a quick query answering). There’s also the social aspect of other dogs; freerunning (letting the dog run off lead and be normal for half an hour) is an important part of their social lives but also us as owners and nothing is more fun than going up to somewhere like Eaton Park with another GDO and watching your hounds do what amounts of ballet while running.

The other thing is, for me, certain dogs (primarily Bramble) help my mental state. Bramble has this thing where she looks at you with Unconditional Love, it can’t be recorded or photographed, it can only be felt. This is because she’s not my dog and is actually quite important. Guide Dogs love their owners but it’s a private kind of adoration, other dogs are required for the oxytocin hit I need to keep functioning. I actually, unexpectedly ran into Bramble yesterday and it really did lift my spirit.

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Right now, officially. I’m not on the Guide Dog list. I’m not even an entity. I’m just a blind person with a Sightsaber and lots of friends with dogs. There are assessments scheduled and paperwork to be filled in. Then I get officially placed on the list, the important thing is to now think about what I want and need in a dog so that, when asked, I can give a succinct answer. The unofficial theory is that every extra you add on to the sentence: ‘I’d like a guide dog please’ means an extra month to wait so I’m trying to keep it brief.

So what do I need?

  • A short-haired, white/gold bitch, Labrador/mix who is good with cats and escalator trained (aka able to work the Tube legally).

This is important as I never liked how much hair Uni had and neither did she; she was phobic about being brushed and so I had to personally fork out extra money to get her turned into a labrador three times a year. She was happier, I was happier. I’ve also realised, though I knew this when I applied for Uni that black doesn’t work for me. I simply can’t see dark colours well so I basically want a blonde version of Bramble, that means I’ll actually be able to see her on free runs.

I want a bitch mainly because they’re easier to control and generally calmer, more submissive (and therefore should be happier around the cats). I’m resolute on the gender and refuse to move. At all.

Escalator trained is the complicated one. I travel a lot (compared to most GDOs) and while I’m no longer working I do go to London a lot. I like to visit shops, exhibitions and do stuff, especially as London is also a terminus if you want to travel elsewhere (like Bath, for example). Taking a guide dog on the Tube is a pain in the arse. It’s been easier this last six months with TfL’s journey planner and the buses (which Shannon knows in her sleep) but there are still times and places when I need to use the Tube. With Uni I was limited to stations that had stairs/lifts where as most have some form of escalator.

And Uni hated escalators. Like HATED them. She’d do that thing where a cat affixes its paws to the floor and cannot be moved by any force known to nature … then she’d shit herself in terror.

So yeah.

The one thing I want is a dog with a multi-syllable name. My autism means I’m bad with tones (much of the communication between GDO and dog is tone via voice and I suck at it). I’ve improved thanks to Mhairi’s instruction over the last year but having a dog with a name that can be shortened makes my life easier. Uni and I also had our shorthand, oh and the blackmail involved in ‘do this thing for me and I will give you a milk bone’.

I don’t get to name the dog, though there is apparently a rarely invoked option to changed it for something which sounds the same (So ‘Sandy’ instead of ‘Andy’). Initially I hated Unis because it was weird and no one knew how to spell it. She was Uni most of the time, Un when I was in a good mood and Un-lamb when I really needed a hug). She was only ever Unis when she was in the shit big time.

The good thing is my Guide Dog Mobility Instructor (aka a GDMI) is super supportive and knows my quirks, how my depression/bipolar and autism affect me, as well as my well documented hatred of navigating London. It’s one of the rare instances when I can do it far more easily with my cane than a dog. But I do actually prefer a dog. Now, officially, Guide Dogs only escalator train dogs who will work/live within London (which I and others call so many kinds of stupid you can hear it ringing across the nation). I know some GDOs who’ve taught their dogs but it’s still technically Not the Done Thing. I mean, I checked and my local shopping mall has like three escalators … it’s not as is London is the only place which has them. However there are escalators and then there are the Bastard 92ft Tube Escalators.

I’m too old to climb them anymore so a fully-trained dog is essential. The plan is, I’m going to do my training (called Class) in London and I’m going to take my time on it (last time I qualified in twelve days; the ‘norm’ is three weeks). Class was, for me, horrible and stressful, plus I never got to do the advanced stuff. I also did it from home so had to worry about extra stuff like keeping the house afloat, washing and feeding myself. I might have legally qualified but I missed out on a lot of stuff from how to work a dog at night to certain kinds of transport. London offers a dozen different ways to get around and I had to teach myself how to do a lot of them (the riverboat was fun; the London Eye was not).

I might have legally qualified but I missed out on a lot of stuff from how to work a dog at night to certain kinds of transport. London offers a dozen different ways to get around and I had to teach myself how to do a lot of them (the riverboat was fun; the London Eye was not). It’s got plenty of places for me to learn new skills and should also force me to get my head around the buses.

Doing Class somewhere else will relieve a lot of the burdens (as well as allowing me to stay in a hotel in a city with coffee shops on every corner and takeout on speed dial). I’m pretty sure, with a minder, the cats can survive the three weeks without me. Class is also the one time I can legitimately call in favours with friends and ask them to feed/water the Menagerie. All three can, technically, survive feral but I’d prefer they’re reminded where their bread is buttered. Especially if I come home with a new member of the family at the end of it. I’m mildly worried about it but worse-case, there are people in my life who will help me out on this one thing, especially as it’s not a daily thing.

But that can sort itself out later.

For now, it’s the initial stuff and paperwork. In my head, I’m looking at Winter solo and hoping due to the lists/priority status, to be qualified by May at the latest. It’s a ballpark but I’d rather have it, a goal, in mind than sit here panicking because I’m about to go through my most hated part of the year without a dog and just my own wits to sustain me.

So, here we go again.

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Unis’ Retirement (Working: January 2010-October 2016) and the Future

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Uni was officially retired on medical grounds at my request—and Guide Dogs’ agreement—on Monday morning. She’s currently in holding at their Redbridge facility in Woodford Green being medically assessed. She’s still ill (and blood was found in her faeces). After six very long weeks of continued gastroenterological problems, it was decided that, for her wellbeing, it would simply be the kinder thing to retire her, treat her illness (assuming it can be identified) and then see her rehomed with people who will love her until she passes.

As a courtesy Guide Dogs are keeping me in the loop about her condition, medical issues and her emotional wellbeing (she’s happy and settled in) but I need to say that retiring her, it’s not a decision I’ve made lightly and, oh fuck, it hurts.

Imagine having your heart ripped out and shown to you, it doesn’t even come close. Neither does putting down a beloved pet (at least you have closure and can reassure them as they go peacefully). Uni’s been my constant companion for nearly six years and not having her is … well, weird. This is grief; I know it is. I know it will go away but it takes time.

Uni was a character best described as ‘Einstein with a dash of Moriarty and a bit of Houdini’, she was smart and sassy, she took the piss. She knew things a dog shouldn’t know. Worse she loved people and that was a part of the problem, she wanted her cake and fully intended to eat it. It’s why becoming Asha was so easy, because she was the more recognisable and lovable of the two of us.

Basically here’s what happened:

  • She relapsed on October 7th. We were in Starbucks when she started giving me the paw and whining (Uni code for ‘something’s up) and she started shitting liquid as soon as I got her outside. I immediately took her to my local vet who took her in for observation and put her on fluids. At this point I was physically unable to look after her due to the stress so two days respite helped but didn’t solve the problem, even though the vet kept an eye on her over the weekend her, releasing her back to me on the Sunday. She was officially signed off work for at least ten days and the vet arranged for special food for her.
  • We’d previously had an appointment booked for the 17th to go down to Redbridge to discuss her case going forward. That was unable to be moved so I had to find compromise.
  • Because I’m autistic I need routine; it hurts when I can’t do things in their usual order or be at certain times. So I left Uni at home as much as possible for the maximum of four-five hours. She slept through most of it. I went out to run errands, grab a coffee, chat to new friends and old and do the minimum in a set amount of time to keep myself sane. I do not apologise for this.
  • After consulting with other GDOs, knowing it was a quiet week with a single event I wanted to go to (purely for selfish reasons of my personal sanity and needing interaction with friends in a dog-safe space), Paul suggested ‘half harness’ where you put on the neon bra bit of the harness but leave the handle (which is the bit which tells the dog they’re supposed to do stuff) at home. I then used my cane to get around and would therefore be able to take Uni out to archery, knowing she would be happy on a blanket with plenty of access to water.
  • On Thursday, she ate cat shit while I let her out to pee. She’d been avoiding the pen due to the associations with bowel movements and pain so I let her go where she wanted to, only realising later that she was actually after stuff in the garden. She was fine but on Friday morning I noticed her straining and knew the jig was up.
  • On Friday, after acknowledging she was still unwell, still exhausted, and on advice from trusted sources within Guide Dogs/my circle of GDO friends, I emailed my contact, making it clear I was unable due to my own mental illness and Uni’s continued suffering to give her the care she needed. She required a safe area, better eyes than mine and so I told Guide Dogs I would bring her down to Redbridge expecting them to either:
    • a) Retire her on the spot due to her age and the fact rest/food were making no difference in her condition. (My personal option).
    • b) Board her for an extended period while tests were carried out (which would still most likely end in option a).
  • I followed this up with an email requesting her formal retirement. Because formality. Also I wanted to make sure there was actual room for her at Redbridge. I also may have compared her to my Sightsaber and what I do when it breaks.
  • Friday/Saturday were mostly spent crying. Also packing Uni’s things.
  • Sunday: I decided it was only fair to take Uni on a short Victory Tour (again in half-harness) so people who cared about her could say goodbye. She got so many hugs and though it may seem cruel to take her out, we both needed to pretend it was just a normal day. We met a trusted friend who agreed with my plan and my motivations, as well as understanding the mental pressure this was all putting on me (remember: my bipolar is triggered by stress). We returned home and I had to reiterate (somewhat angrily) in an unexpected phone call that even though the vet cancelled, we were still coming down to Redbridge and this was in no way related to her pre-existing skin condition.
  • Monday: We got down to Redbridge, Uni slept most of the way. There was no coffee. She was however pleased that the vet wasn’t there, they normally poke at her and she, understandably, doesn’t like that. The forms were, thankfully, waiting for me and after I reiterated I felt it was unfair to continue in the current fashion (Uni is a guide dog which means she needs human interaction 24/7), both for her health but also for my mobility and state of mind. The papers were signed; I let them keep the 50p. Then we left, stopped for a drink in her honour and returned home.

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This is my last picture of Uni. Frank, that’s the nice chap who I’ve been dealing with, let me have some time to cry and hug her. She looks sick but also like the weight of the world has been lifted off her shoulders. I like to think she’s happy because being a guide dog is stressful. On the way back I spoke to my handler (a Guide Dog Mobility Instructor) and confirmed I wanted to be put back on the list for a new dog. We briefly discussed the details of what I need (a short haired lab or crossed bitch, must be white/gold, must be calm, good with cats and able to work with escalators and the Tube). He affirmed, though we’ve been quietly discussing retirement for a while now, that I’d done the right thing. Had Uni been a dog working in London, she would have retired by now anyway.

Validation helps.

I’m meeting him formally next month to fill in paperwork, because Guide Dogs love paperwork, and the plan is to pass me onto the London Mobility Team (because escalator-trained dogs are usually only for inner city blind people). I do go to London a lot, more if it wasn’t so stressful, and so it’ll be a simpler thing to just have them to class and find a suitable dog they feel will be compatible to me. Also, given the clusterfuck that was my previous class I don’t want to train at home or in somewhere I’m vaguely familiar. Norwich simply has too many bad memories.

So, that, friends, is what happens when your beloved guide dog retires. I miss her, I love her to bits, but I don’t regret a thing. This was always about her health, her well-being, but as her owner mine also had to factor in. We’ve always bounced off each other, it’s why we worked so well together. For now I’m trying to explain in as few words as possible to people why Uni’s not with me (someone actually asked me if she was dead!).

Short version: She’s ill and has retired. She’s being rehomed as soon as she’s well enough. I’m waiting for a new dog.

From a personality perspective though, it’s also going to allow me time to figure out who I am. Changing my name was easy because no one really noticed I was there, I was plus 1 to a gorgeous guide dog. Next Dog is going to be different, I’m going to be different and I have a six month wait (ish) to find myself and start my next relationship on the right foot.

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Uni is the World’s Best Guide Dog

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Note: I was going to post this last week but never got around to it. I’m posting it now so you can see how hard a decision it was to make to retire her on medical grounds. This next post will explain what happened and deal with the aftermath.

I need to say that because I don’t say it enough. The thing is, Uni isn’t exactly the dog in promotional material; she’s over-friendly, she scavenges, she needs love like the rest of us need air. She’s basically me in canine form which, as much as I hate the person who matched me with her, they did get it right. I bitch about her constantly but then it’s my right and I do love her, lots.

This is her post-run at Eaton Park; this is her truly content and happy, also knackered. Tongue lolling and sated from a pint of fresh water. There was even a ball. Uni loves balls, they’re like her favourite thing ever, especially when she doesn’t give it to you. Unfortunately her version, her personal definition, of Retriever is ‘I’m gonna bring the ball but only to show you, not because it’s yours or anything’. But then that’s part of her charm. Uni isn’t Bramble, she’s not perfect and calm, she’s excitable and loves any deviation to the daily routine.

Last night I had to get my medication so we got off several stops earlier and her tail started wagging, she started—though exhausted and thirsty—being her old self. It doesn’t last long but then she’s not been well. A couple of weeks ago, she got ill from eating something. While she perked up, she hasn’t really been her usual chirpy self. Then, last Friday, she started having problems from the other end to the point where it looked like she was trying to give birth to her own intestines (news flash: this is not an approved dog shitting position).

She was okay, except for the violence of her need to go to the loo every hour, and asking for food (Uni is truly, deathly ill, when you put a bowl in front of her and she turns her nose up at it). But my gut said vet so I took her, asking if this could be connected or a resurgence of whatever she’d had previously. A couple of days of fecal samples (don’t ask) later and we now know what it is.

Technically I can say the word, I just don’t like to. I did to one person and it totally freaked them out. It appears far too often in newspapers with panic attached. The point is, she’s been on seriously hard-core antibiotics all week, I’ve not gotten sick and neither have my nearest/dearest/their dogs (and if this was transmissible, we’d all be down with it and that includes my three cats). There’s a lot to be said for common sense and washing your hands (though I still got the Hygiene 101 lecture from Guide Dogs).

Yeah, six years and one very bout of illness taught me all I need to know about catching nasties from your guide dog. Ta.

Uni’s still ill but this is probably more down to how shit antibiotics feel. When I’m on them, and I avoid them like the plague, I’m very vocal. Uni can’t bitch in quite the same way but she’s drinking water and doing lots of sleeping. She’s still working though her ability to deal with trips home is almost none-existant. I’m hoping this is simple fatigue. We’re waiting on some medication which will help return her stomach to it’s ‘normal’ state (think actimel for dogs) rather than the swirling cesspool. I’m trying to feed her good things (with a little fruit on the side as it turns out she likes melon. Weird dog.) I’m also temporarily revoking petting rights to everyone, bar my closest friends (most of whom have dogs of their own), just in case. Because you really can never be too careful.

I need to say I have the best guide dog ever because I think it’s Time. This has been on my mind for a while; Uni’s nearly 8 which while still young for a dog is the second part of her working life. She’s not as young as she was and I work her hard. We’re out six days out of seven, usually, we go places and do things. She loves being out, being around people (especially if they’re her group of puppies, the humans she’s adopted like Shannon and Marie, as part of our pack; I get no say in this, apparently, so it’s a good job I like the people she picks).

The problem for me is Uni acts, unofficially, as my emotional support. She picks up on my anxiety and by seeing hers, I realise I have to be the stronger one and control my own. Plus dog hugs solve everything. She also loves me, but unlike other dogs, it’s a very private thing. I confess I’m jealous of my friends’ relationships with their dogs, Gismo is very demonstrative (and 45kg to boot) and soppy, Bramble looks at you like you’re the only other person in the world, full on Unconditional LOVE, for everyone. I want to cry every time she puts her head on my knee before she just adores you on this total, absolute level.

Uni doesn’t do that. Uni’s idea of love is to grin (which is terrifying the first time you see a dog doing it) first thing in the morning, to wait for me at the top of the stairs if I nip out without her. She’ll want to play and bring me her ball. Actually, she spends so much of her time, when we’re home, literally on my feet. As close as she can be. Any dog who sits on your feet loves you.

There are many kinds of love.

Plus she’s never gotten me killed, she remembers what her job is. That’s a massive plus.

This illness of hers, while she will recover, it’s kind of hit home that our relationship is coming to an end. Something’s shifted inside of her and she’s Tired with a capital T. She puts on a mask when we go out, a happy face, but when we get home she looks at me like she’s run a marathon.

We have an appointment in two weeks to see her specialist vet but I’ve already expressed my belief that it’s coming up to the point where we call time. The problem for me is multi-faceted; I self-harm in a very unique and twisted way: I try to get rid of Uni because I don’t feel I deserve her.

Yep, totally fucked up. I know.

My bipolar makes this worse, especially during my periods of intense depression.

Except this is different. I don’t want to get rid of her, I’m concerned for her quality of life and that’s the most important thing.

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Writing Queer and #NationalComingOutDay

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First off, go and read this amazing piece on #NationalComingOutDay by Seanan McGuire. It’s awesome.

Back? Great!

I have two things I want to talk about today. The first is my story, the second why I write queer characters. Both are interconnected.

First off, I call myself ‘queer’. I’m bisexual but I’m more into women than men. I find both attractive (accents are a big turn on for me, on the account of being blind, as is intelligence though neither relies on gender). Due to unpleasantness in my childhood and my autisticness, I’m drawn more to women simply because I sort of understand them. Men are weird, complicated and alien. I’ve had a boyfriend in the past but it was short and far too orientated on sex, I need to take things slowly, not rush, and because my sex drive is tied into my bipolar, I don’t have a switch I can just push at five in the morning.

At school I was the ugly duckling, this was in the eighties and nineties where queer and bi, it existed but it wasn’t a thing. Girls were expected to fancy boys, at my secondary school all I saw were opposite sex couples snogging in public and that was it. There were no books and the prevailing trends said male + female = normal.

Yeah I’ve never been that.

By uni, I started meeting openly gay people. People who liked themselves, who were comfortable with their sexuality. I also started reading manga and anime. Just the other week, I got talking to a nice server at a restaurant I frequent who was open about their sexuality. He noticed the Sailor Moon buttons on my jacket and we started talking about Haruka and Michiru as well as the Usagi/Haruka kiss and the gender issue Crystal resolved about whether Haruka was male, female or whether it even matters (it doesn’t). I always identified more with Michiru, frankly, realising I like girls who are graceful and kind, feminine and smart. But this was the first time I’d ever seen a proper queer couple (even though the first time was a manga which decided they were definitely not lesbians because that would be Bad). I realised, mid-conversation, why I liked this fellow was because he was comfortable in his own skin. He was happy.

I realised I wanted to be happy, even though I’ve been ‘out’ for nearly a decade. I finally realised what I was, who I was, when I was living in Exeter and met a fellow gamer girl who was in a relationship. She kinda made me realise that I wasn’t her, nor was I attracted to her but I was definitely not straight. She, of course, realised I was queer before I did.

I’m the oldest child with two cousins and a sibling. My grandmother basically raised me, loving me unconditionally. I’m not close to my family, I can’t be. I made a choice between what was expected of me and my own sanity; I chose my sanity and am much happier for it. Anyway, one day my grandmother asked me when I was going to settle down and have kids (as the eldest and female, it was kinda on me, I think to produce the next generation at least in her head). Now I’ve never wanted children. I get broody but it’s not practical or something I’m going to do this time around.

So I explained I was queer, specifically that I liked women more than men and was happy single and focusing on my new career as a journalist.

The shit hit the fan. Like literally.

My sibling was dating the woman who is now his wife and the mother of his kids. My grandmother, for some reason, decided to ring him and I ended up having a surreal phone conversation. I’m pretty sure he will deny having this and frankly I don’t care: gaslighting is a family hobby. Hell, even my recall of it is so ‘WTF???’ it feels more dream than reality, though I’m certain it happened. My brother was suddenly terrified I wanted to take his girlfriend away, that I was attracted to her.

Newsflash: I have morals, I don’t flirt with people in relationships, they’re off limits unless I know they’re poly/open, and is then-g/f isn’t my type.

But, of course, bisexual people are basically greedy. They want all the sex with all the people, especially the already taken.

*headdesk*

I think it took me at least half an hour to convince him I wasn’t interested. I knew his girlfriend, of course, but we weren’t close or even had that many conversations. I only registered she was even still dating him at my father’s funeral. My life had diverged with university, living in Exeter, with going to Harlow to study journalism, that I rarely ever saw my brother, let alone took notice of his relationships.

Eventually it died down and everyone did what they normally do: they chalked it up to a phrase. I am, after all, known for being single. The Parental Unit actually brought it up once, just once, in a pub while I was the other side of a pint, and told me she though my ‘bisexuality was a phase’. Her insinuation being was because she didn’t think I’d slept with any girls that somehow I was just unsure.

Now, of course, you posit that question to a straight person and they answer: “Well, I always knew I was straight.”

Queer people, of course, have to justify their queerness because while it’s becoming so much more acceptable, it’s still seen, vestigially, as being something you choose. I know I’m female and not just because that’s the gender I was assigned at birth. I also know I’m not straight. I’m also happy knowing that I like women and men.

That’s part of why there are so many queer characters in my novels and stories; because they’re a reflection of the world that should be, where gender isn’t important. Love is, trust is. I actually had someone tell me they didn’t like that I wrote so many gay characters; needless to say, that person is no longer in my life and that one, off-handed comment, was what really finished it. Queer characters need to exist, trans characters need to exist, minority characters need to exist, poly ones, disabled ones need to exist because books always mirror the world and the writer who summons them into existence.

So happy #NationalComingOutDay! If you’re already out, celebrate like it’s Pride. If you’re not, be brave and embrace who you are, be yourself and you’ll be all the happier for it. Welcome to the first day of your real life, the one where you’re happy in your skin, content in knowing you’re a good person, that love is amazing, no matter who it is you find along the way.

Be proud of who you are, be happy.

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The Creatives’ Guide to Living With Bipolar Disorder: Holding Patterns and the State of Me

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I need to talk about me for a second. And Uni.

As a lot of you know, Uni’s spent the last six weeks being ill on and off and it’s worn both of us down. I know stress is THE trigger for my bipolar, especially personal stress relating to animals or people I care about. Uni is the big one because she is, ultimately, reliant on me. This is a dog who takes me everywhere but needs me to take her to the loo. I love animals, especially mine, but I’m a crazy cat lady for a reason (aka: you can leave a cat with food, water and an open cat flat knowing they will survive without you). I got the cats when I was still working because I knew, if I had to go on a trip to London or disappear for a few days, they’d still be okay when I returned.

Dogs aren’t like that.

Uni and I we have this partnership, it’s worked beautifully for six years. She has pre-existing medical conditions but we managed them nicely and it was fine. Now, though, it’s become much more complicated.

Worse, I can feel my carefully constructed barriers being worn away by the littlest things: not sleeping well, not getting enough exercise, obsessing over certain foods, the scary, inebriated woman who managed to trigger me (like full on shut down) when she started drunk-raging at a poor cyclist. I live alone, I have people but most of them are blind, in Norwich or have families and their own lives. Uni being sick is the final nail in the coffin, especially as I’m unable to work her for another week, minimum, and she’s going as far as the pen to pee. Tomorrow is the exception (I have a reason to be in Norwich, selfish as it is, and don’t feel comfy leaving Uni that long) as is Monday (when we’re going to see Guide Dogs at Redbridge, just outside London—and talk about Uni and her future/how we can deal with what seems to be a continued issue).

Worse, I feel like I’m the one under house arrest. I’m not, of course, and can go anywhere I wish, right this second, if I wanted to. As long as I’m back within four-five hours (which when it takes a round trip of nearly two of those to do Norwich, doesn’t leave me much time). I can have a coffee, run essential errands but that’s about it. It feels like a chain around my neck and I’m so sensitive to constriction, it’s bad enough that half the time I’m the one who imposes rules on myself.

There’s Dereham, of course. Everything I need is in close proximity, from coffee to Morrisons, but it’s not the same. All the people I know/want to talk to are in Norwich. The baristas who make my coffee are in Norwich, Wagamamas is is Norwich. The safe places in which I find comfort and sanctuary are all in Norwich.

The other issue is my continued singular status. The vast majority of GDOs have families or partners. This means they can continue their lives, knowing their sick dog is, at least, being watched over. I can’t do that. Worse I’m having to play the visual impairment card which I hate to do: Lovely Vet ordered Uni some specialist food and I had to ask if she could have one of her staff deliver it as there was no way I could get to the vet/or carry 15kg of dog food. She was more than happy to do so and I was so glad because it felt like taking the piss, asking far too much, even though Uni was literally down to her last can of food. It, and more tins, arrived this morning so at least she can eat for the next week.

That, in itself, was reassurring enough to allow me out to grab a coffee. Anxiety remains a bitch.

Lovely Vet’s nurse even gave me a life home on Friday because Uni’d just been admitted and I didn’t have my cane. We’d been in Starbucks when she started being unwell, so I called the vets and hopped on the next bus back to Dereham. I hadn’t planned on her being ill so hadn’t thought to bring my Sightsaber with me (most blind people don’t use dog/cane at the same time). I could have gotten home but the circumstances weren’t the safest, even though I’m competent. White canes aren’t just about helping me divine what’s in front of me, they’re also a marker to other people I’m blind, affording me a tiny amount of leeway. Dogs, BTW, afford more.

Dogs, BTW, afford more. It’s like watching Moses part the Red Sea, truly a beautiful thing.

But I’m entitled to a life (I’m saying this more to remind myself). Uni is a mobility aid, not a pet (which sounds harsh but it’s also true; her existence revolves around helping me get around as well as the sideline in emotional support which is an added bonus but not her official function). I like the freedom my Sightsaber affords but me I prefer a dog; the company, the reliability, even with the added stresses. Yesterday I found myself at my usual bus stop, used the ten minutes I knew I had to get in touch with Guide Dogs, and suddenly found myself worrying if I’d missed my bus. Uni is a big visibility factor plus she pays attention allowing me not to. I can do other things but this call took up all of my attention meaning I saw a similarly coloured bus go by and wasn’t sure if it was mine (the added pressure of needing to get back home to her didn’t help). I had a bus driver waiting for his own ride help me out and it turns out the 8 was simply running rather late.

But it scared me because I like to be self-reliant and, at the same time, have had it hammered into me over decades that asking for help is somehow weakness, despite the number of times I’ve been asked if I need help whilst ‘waiting while blind’. There’s a general rule of thumb amongst the sighted that any obviously blind person waiting in the street and looking calm or bored must need assistance. Especially when walking purposefully somewhere and not looking in the least bit lost or confused.

But back to the bipolar/mental health issues. My conditions, collective, don’t instantly mean I can’t have a dog or get another one. It just means I have to avoid the things I know which trigger me. In this case it’s things like certain people, stress, unfamiliar situations, broken things and the associated adulting, violence and shouting, crowds. I find being around friends helps, as do familiar places and my stash of Valium. I know lots of GDOs with mental health problems, including the ones I have which is reassuring; it reminds me that no one is going to punish me for being ill. They just need to treat me with a little more care because I fracture so easily, especially at the moment, because I’m so worn down.

The weirdest thing has been how angry everything’s made me. Rage is, apparently, as much of a side-effect of anxiety as the stereotypical hyperventilation or my shut down response. At the same time there’s also the autistic meltdown aspect. I’ve spent the last month having to be so careful with people and Uni, either because morons feed her without asking me, or just because I don’t want them touching her in case of transmission. On Friday a woman started petting Uni, post shitting, while I was trying to emergency dial the vet and I had to reign it in, cautioning the woman to leave her alone and go and wash her hands immediately as Uni was sick.

No one would touch and obvious sick human but apparently animals are okay because they’re cute.

Sigh.

My worry right now is that this whole mess is going to push me somewhere I cannot afford (mentally, physically, financially, psychologically) to go. I can already sense the signs: the restlessness, inability to concentrate, my self-worth/esteem plummeting. I feel like I’m a horrible, selfish person, for not staying home with Uni but, at the same time, I’m not safe left alone for long, especially not when I feel forced to do so. The worst part of it is trying to find the line between my psychological self-harming (in which I try to get rid of Uni because I feel I don’t deserve her; honestly some kind of physical self harm would be so much easier to deal with) and the fact that she’s genuinely ill. Right now, she’s unable to work and something inside of her has broken, something tied to her love of her job.

My instructor and guide dog friends know the signs, so do I, when I can’t cope but this isn’t about me, it’s about Uni. It’s been about her since she first started throwing up nearly two months ago. But my hatred of myself, my low self-esteem, keeps questioning if this is just me over-reacting even though it really isn’t. Six weeks of illness means something really is wrong and, unfortunately, if Uni was a white cane that broke, well I would have replaced her by now (and I actually said that to Guide Dogs). At the same time I also know not having Uni, it’s basically going to push me into a very nasty place. Even while she was under observation, exactly where she needed to be and perfectly safe, I couldn’t focus, couldn’t write. I was just waiting for phone calls or making them, trying to wade through the red tape always involved with the trinity of GDO, personal vets and Guide Dogs as an organisation.

I felt naked. I felt even worse for using Saturday, knowing she wouldn’t be back, and spending the day out, on my own. Because guilt is a bastard. I knew waiting at home, though, would be even worse and at least I could do the errands I needed to, get my flu shot and eat a decent meal.

The other problem is still a mental one but it’s bothering me more and more; it seems like my memory problems are permanent. This realisation isn’t a new one (and is probably tied to long-term use of either the Quetiapine or the Ambien I’m trying to, slowly, stop taking) but it’s really affecting my ability to write and live day-to-day. I described it to someone this week as having a week-to-view double page spread in a diary with random cigarette holes burned all over the page, obscuring details, conversations, events.

I know who I am and my rigid schedule (currently in tatters) helps me keep some semblance of normality, as does my digital diary telling me where I need to be and my physical one which tells me where I was. Most of the time I don’t know what day of the week it is, let alone the date. It’s why I have a FitBit which shows me the time/date as a default. I can still force things into my memory, into my long term storage, like passwords and people’s names but it takes a shitload of repetition for that to happen.

This is partly why my longer-form work has stalled; I’ve fallen back into short stories again because that’s all I have the memory/energy for. Short stories are walking to the shops, writing novellas are climbing hills and anything longer, well that’s ascending Everest. Added to that I’ve noticed my balance is getting worse, as is my ability to follow people visually (my Zumba instructor, for example, vanishes like the Flash until she stops moving) and I can’t make my body move how I always want it too. I’m wondering if some of this might have been made worse by the Great Swan-dive Incident and that two day concussion. My brain is already damaged (I have periventricular leukomalacia) so I don’t know how much of this is related to my fall, my medication or age. The point is, it’s not getting better.

But at least I know who I am and how I like my coffee.

I’m not sure, right now, how this will affect my writing. I have a feeling, at some point, I might need to get a co-author in to help. I can world build but I can’t retain information long enough to sustain a novel (plus there’s the stress of editing, the issues of proofing while blind and all the stuff between writing and actual publication). At the same time my ability to actually get sentences down on paper is problematic; words are getting lost and misspelled more than is usual, even for me. Frankly I’m ashamed of this than I am my ability to not write longer things. This is why, for now, I’m not publishing (the financial/psychological toll is the other issue). I’m just trying to write with as little pressure as possible. I have ideas, I have short stories that I’m submitting to calls but I’m tired and need to take it easy for a little while. It’s not burnout but it’s so easy to slip and fall back into the darkness. I don’t want to do that.

And Uni remains my main priority until we either get her health under control or look at other options. So yeah, hopefully I should know more next week but for now, this is the state of us. Thanks for reading.

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Writing by Autumn’s Glow

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The last few weeks I’ve been trying to take time to focus on me. I’ve been binging my queue, finally watching all of those shows that have been awaiting completion. Mainly The Strain and Hannibal. Oh and pottery shows, because those are calming.

Uni’s been ill again (the vet is running tests). It seems to be triggered when she scavenges something she shouldn’t. She’s fine now, sleeping at my feet, but the episodes are stressful for both of us and I’m convinced her insides hadn’t quite recovered from the last bout three weeks ago. Three faecal samples later and hopefully the vet will get to the bottom of it.

I’m writing though, which is good. Mostly I’ve been trying to get stories in for calls but I’m dabbling with a new alien contact story in which a nomadic alien race called the Orseeth chooses humans they want to talk to. It’s a brief meeting, an exchange of memories, that will end at a specific time when the visitors will return to their travels. 68 humans are chosen to participate, making those in power on our side very uncomfortable because they know, via extensive vetting, none are who we would send if humanity had a choice. The benevolent aliens chose normal people, all of whom have seen darkness, and that’s not going to reflect well on us, as a species.

Which is the entire point, of course.

It’s a character driven story currently titled “The Reason Why” and is in the outlining/first rambling draft phrase. The title is probably going to change (I hate calling stories “Untitled”) but it was inspired by a question I asked myself, for which I’ll never know the answer. My protagonist has questions of her own and, through her conversations with the Orseeth she’s been paired with, she hopes to find an answer. Whether she does or not remains to be seen.

 The one thing I am noticing is the weather is changing, the sunrises are glorious and the air is colder. You can still smell the manure on the fields if the wind blows in the wrong direction but it’s getting colder at night, more misty in the mornings. I’m wearing gloves already as my finger joints hurt in the cold. The nights are drawing in, Isis is coming in for longer and I’m trying to eat as many vegetables/cook as much as I can.

I bought myself a new set of pans and cookware last week which is making me want to bake cakes and cook one-pot dinners (pre-prepped veg and chicken thighs are my favourite) in the oven. It’s cheap and wholesome but also lasts two days; there’s enough in my fridge that I can reheat the leftovers. I even brought breakfast (a couple of scones) which is helping my productivity and allowed me to drink a little real coffee for a change, rather than decaff.

I’ve even been playing WoW, gently advancing towards level one hundred. I don’t have the current expansion and only paid for a month of time but it’s nice to just quest. It’s been so long since I played (and it was more for work than fun). It’s relaxing, especially with some snacks and a TV show playing in the background. I can lose myself in a way I’ve not been able to in a long time. Even better, it doesn’t feel addictive, it just feels fun. I stop playing after 45 mins or so and I’m good.

Now if I could just learn to do this with alcohol …

Well, one thing at once eh?

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