The State of Me: June 2018

This is my new friend Henry.

Another quick one because: a) the election and b) medication.

So bullet points:

  • Latest New Dog update suggests that IF they find one for me, next class starts in September so I should hear something next month. I’m not banking on anything. 2018 is much more likely.
  • It’s bipolar redux month: I’ve just gone back on quetiapine. My mood’s been plummeting and my anxiety’s sky-rocketed. Some of it was personal but getting a rent notice three months early and paperwork from the DWP a year early (to add insult, on a Saturday) did not help.
  • I’m taking enough that I feel stoned until around 2:30pm each day. Coffee helps but only a little. Oh and I slept for 14 hours last night, right through until mid-afternoon.
  • And I missed most of the election, which turns out to be a good thing. Urgh.
  • I’ve moved into Nero’s permanently now and am accruing a lot of free coffees by being savvy (you get a bonus stamp for bringing your own mug which allows me to spend a lot less on coffee, as well as making sure it doesn’t cool).
  • When not in Nero’s, I seem to be in the Lamb. It’s a little pub with a courtyard in spitting distance of my bus stop and they even have their own cat: Henry, Lover of Dreamies. We’ve bonded and it’s not in the least bit creepy that I now carry Dreamies in my bag.
  • Yesterday was the first anniversary of the Great Name Change. I bought myself a throw in celebration.
  • Speaking of the Great Name Change, I’m still encountering issues. Like the DWP deciding to ignore the loss of a middle name in my paperwork. It’s taken me a year to notice as they seldom any middle name unless it’s renewal paperwork and they don’t usually send me large print. I’m hoping this has now been fixed. The Deed Poll was pretty clear about my old name and my new one.
  • Wonder Woman was amazing, BTW. I’ve seen it twice and, oh, the arse-kickery.
  • American Gods is, similarly, one of the few TV shows to really get my attention.
  • People have started calling me Ash in earnest now. I like it. I’ve never had a contraction of a name I’ve loved before.
  • The cats love me; D is still a bitey little shit.
  • I’m still writing but my process has slowed. I broke my Amazon account so don’t really want to go anywhere near KDP for a while, even though I spent a week dealing with Amazon and the angelic CSR who eventually helped me fix everything. Triggers are a bitch.
  • I’m writing a proof of concept story called “Proof of Concept”. I’m hoping it’ll be ready for crit next week. That aside, anything more complicated is on hold. Though I do have an idea for a fantasy series connected to this particular short.
  • It’s sorta, kinda summer. Yay!
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The Liner Notes: “Bindings, Seen and Not”

First off, a note on my year out (as we’re into May and well into the mid-year), this doesn’t mean I’m not writing. Far from it. It just means I’m not publishing, mainly because I just can’t financially or psychologically do it right now. I also have nothing I’m ready to let go yet, much less get professionally edited. I’ve not even sent out a short story yet, despite writing quite a few. This is basically just me being a little fragile at the moment so I’m focusing my sights on what I feel like writing, as opposed to a schedule which will just put pressure and stress on me.

Remember: stress + pressure = mania.

Oh and I’m horrible to myself as well, in terms of the pressure I put on myself, the limits I aim for. So I need the time.

So far, so good.

You’re probably wondering: Asha, why is there a pic of Moleskines on your post header? I found the shop in Covent Garden and was very good but stationary is my thing, my one joy. But, they’re actually here to segue nicely into the Liner Notes for my current WiP which is all about a bookbinder living in a segregated and very technologically focused society.

Currently called “Bindings, Seen and Not” it refers both to the bindings in books, artfully hidden by endpapers, skill and straight lines, but also the state of things in Taborin, the city where this story is set. Ironically, due to the fact Maxov is biologically an intersex/third gender Ubani, a progenitor, he’s effectively a member of an enslaved minority. Society uses ‘it’, the Ubani use ‘they but some, like Maxov, actually identify as one gender or another, hence his pronouns. Anyway, as he notes in the text, he can see his bindings the Directorate has placed on his people which gives him infinitely more power than most would think:

Technology could change words on the page, you could with print as well, it was just a lot more obvious and harder to ignore. Even the Ubani pretended to be blind, sometimes, to keep themselves and their culture’s existence, safe.

They were all bound in knots, except the Ubani—chattel to sterile families, passed like pieces in a game—who saw and felt theirs every day. Rough against their skin, too tight. He pitted the others, the remnants of old Atridia, because their bindings were ribbons so fine, so soft, they didn’t notice the hangman’s noose around their throats.

I do actually know how to book bind, I learnt the basics a few years ago and, thanks to YouTube, have been learning more advanced techniques. This is mainly due to my stationary fetish and my on-going love of Midori (most notebooks are staddle-stitched and easy enough to make). The story itself is triggered when Maxov’s days running a ramshackle emporium of old and mostly illegal books is interrupted.

 The story itself is triggered when Maxov’s (who’s in his late seventies at this point and very gruff expect for those he likes) ‘adopted’ daughter, Usaki, comes in and asks him to spirit away some incriminating letters and journals left to her son by his mother (Juran and Reshi Elaspe of The Fractured Era) by sending them on the Ghost Road, the progenitor-only escape route off-world and seeing them placed within the Ubani Archives. He accepts because the letters, from Juran’s biological male and female grandparents, are pre-Singularity, but also because Usaki asks and offers to pay the toll herself: by writing down her life story for preservation in the Archives. Eventually, someone else will add in the rest, how she lived, how she died, who will remember her.

So he makes her a book in which to record her story and, as he does, finds himself remembering his own past as well. He was born before the Singularity and given male gender after the pogroms and the nationalisation of Ubani and the introduction of a licensed lottery that saw the Ubani become surrogates to fertile, well-adjusted and connected, families. Good genes were welcomed, undesirables denied children and so weeded out. The Ubani themselves, referred to as ‘progenitors’ by the state, are forced into rotation, have their first child (always a progenitor) stolen from them as a life lesson and are moved from family to family, birthing sons and daughters before being dragged to another posting. Eventually, they just end up on the societal scrap heap. Just as Maxov found himself and decided to look opportunity in the face and rely on his community and himself.

Right now the story is a combination of a historical worldbuilding info dump and bookbinding porn (as in writing very descriptively about how to make a book, not literal porn). From endpapers, bone folders and signatures to binding and materials. I’m trying to evoke the emotion of a different kind of creation and it’s refreshing, actually, to focus on the enduring quality of a well made book, not just the words inside it.

As a bonus, this is the video which inspired the story:

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Time For a May Update!

So it’s time for an update, it’s been a couple of weeks and I currently have a D on my foot, which means I’m stuck.

Send help and chocolate!

But, seriously, spring is … erm … springing. We have blossom and my windows are open/the Sonos are on half-pelt. Life’s okay.

My foot is going to sleep. Crap.

But, yeah, I survived London and Easter. S’all good. My mood has been relatively stable which is nice, though my anxiety remains through the roof. Not so good but it’s a work in progress. Shall we do this through the medium of bullet points, just for brevity?

 Okay then:

  • London was awesome. I really enjoyed it. I’m still paying it off but it was worth it.
  • Hidden Figures is even more awesome in the cinema. Bonus for having an actual American with me who can explain the whole political mess around it and the Space Race. Also, it makes me want to go back to my Space Race on an alien planet novella.
  • I am writing. My current focus is still on the Atridia books, specifically on a short story I’m calling “Bindings, Seen and Not” about a neutral gender bookbinder living in a city under state-sanctioned non-binary gender oppression.
  • The Handmaid’s Tale was amazing … and severely triggering. I want to watch the rest of it (I think there are like ten episodes). I’m not sure I’ll be able to though, it’s horrifically foretelling but incredibly relevant. I know a lot of people are noping out purely because of anxiety issues with the content.
  • In election news, I’m noping out. Due to a bureaucratic cock-up relating to the Great Name Change, I’ve been kicked off the electoral roll and won’t be back on it time for the local election. I’m very angry about this but also glad I caught it as I do want to vote in the general election next month. I just don’t want to have to listen to the election kerfuffle until then. Aside: I know it’s a cock-up because they have ZERO records of me under Old Name either and I’ve lived here for a decade and voted, both in person and postal. They also have no problems sending me Council Tax bills in my new name. It’s a work in progress but I don’t expect it to be resolved in time to vote locally (I have re-registered to vote and intend to give someone at Electoral a serious talking to about the legalities of this, I’m registered as a head of household and am not dependent of anyone else so there’s no reason for me to have been removed).
  • There’s no ETA on the guide dog front either. Sigh. The cats are picking up the slack though. Bramble and Gismo hugs are also helping.
  • I got an update on Uni’s progress and she’s doing so well. She’s happy and has a beach. That’s all I can ask for.
  • My mood has been yoyoing but nothing too hard-core though I managed to really trigger myself last weekend. It was unpleasant. Oh and I’ve been obsessing again, mainly on buying things, Field Notes and food. Oh and Midori, of course. But I’m starting to argue out reasons why I should wait (example: my phone is due an upgrade but, instead, I’m going to go sim-only for a few months/til the end of the year as it’s cheaper).
  • Money-wise, I sat down and worked out my income and did a spreadsheet. I’ve worked out a rough, date by date, payment plan and should be debt free just after my birthday. I even budgeted in a new Limitless card and my rent. 2018 should start out with a nice, clean, slate. If I can restrain myself and focus on the Big Picture.
  • At some point, I’m going to write that book on bipolar or, at least, how to manage things like money while dealing with the mood swings.
  • I’ve decided to teach myself bookbinding (I started learning it a couple of years ago), thanks to the help of YouTube. Actually, I’ve been a lot more crafty of late; mostly laminating stuff and experimenting with little things like making postcard-sized pictures for my fridge (mostly of upcoming movie posters and inspirational quotes) or laminating stuff for friends. I am now the proud owner of an awl, a craft knife, cutting map, guillotine and haven’t yet done myself any serious damage. Go me. My task for this week is to learn to saddle stitch and learn how to bind my own notebooks for my wallet (there’s more variety in terms of paper and cover colour). Plus it keeps my brain quiet which is the biggest thing.

  • I cancelled my gym membership. The pressure of attendance (I’m not an evening person, especially not when I ‘have’ to do something I don’t want to do) and my continuing plantar fasciitis had been driving me nuts. Said PF was getting better, then I went to London. Sigh. On the upside, I’m not missing the place and much prefer walking around Eaton Park with my guide dog owner friends and their hounds.
  • I’m eating better food. Simple meals which are easy to cook and fast (or involve the minimum amount of prep). This week it’s garlic and bacon pasta with chorizo and lots of herbs. Healthy and tasty.
  • My faux Midori wallet is working beautifully, as is the free diary I got from JP Books (though it runs out in September and I kinda want a dated one. Dates are hard.). I’ve been playing with the inserts and now have a zipper pouch, a kraft folder and a notebook inside each other on the first string and my diary and expenses ledger held together with a band on the second. It works perfectly. Oh, I added a Neo Queen Serenity tiara charm onto the string and it sits beautifully on my yen coin.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 is freaking awesome. End of. I didn’t look at my watch once AND I’m going back tomorrow.
  • I’m looking forward to so much TV and so many movies. I have tickets to Alien: Covenant and Wonder Woman already. I’m actually going to the cinema physically and ordering in bulb because the Odeon site only lets me book two performances ahead online (in person I can book loads). It’s annoying and cramping my social life.
  • Doctor Who is actually kinda good this season.
  • American Gods starts tomorrow. YAY!!!!
  • I’m managed to keep on top of household stuff, though I’m yet to put my washing away. Small steps, Asha, small steps.
  • I’m back in therapy and it’s helping. Reddit is helping more in terms of a support group which is just odd but so welcome. Ditto my very closest chosen family.
  • Ramen is still awesome.
  • I finally got my hands on a Lindt 1kg Gold Bunny in the post-Easter sales and I don’t regret it. Not for one second. 😀
  • We are Groot, people!
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Progress and Short Stories

I’m still sick; this lurgy is going to be the week long suffering plus three week recovery kind. I hate those because even doing simple things leaves me lying on the sofa feeling like a piece of soggy cabbage.

I hate being ill but I had drawn out recovery even more. I’m able to do things like go out but I spend the rest of the day lying on the sofa and feeling really dizzy. I’ve basically been watching Breaking Bad for three days straight though I did manage to revise “Constructed Mind, Reforged Soul”. I even had a market in mind … and then discovered the anthology was cancelled this morning.

Sigh.

I’m trying to look on the upside: I have a story nearly ready to go with my crit group in a few weeks which is nice. Also, it’s my first nearly-done story for 2017 which is awesome given my three month funk (aka the Winter of Discontent). Shannon has reminded me that this is a big thing, actually revising a story and polishing it so it starts to shine. I have a couple of replacement markets in mind (it was originally written for a specific antho call last year so has only been sent out once).

S’all good, man.

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Retelling Old Tales: “Hearts of Stone and Age”

A while ago, I did Rachel Swirsky’s class on retelling old stories. This weekend I did Cat’s class on building characters (elementary, you might think, but still incredibly useful and well worth taking. Thanks to my Patrons who covered the cost as well!). The morning before, I started on a new story, which I’m calling “Hearts of Stone and Age” was very much a re-telling of The Little Mermaid but set in a secondary world I’m developing. Meren, the merfolk of this world (the Wasting World and the same one featured in “Pearls and Memories, Spilled and Scattered”), are wild and dangerous and very inhuman which makes it all the odder for a statue of one to sit in the harbour of a prosperous little port town.

It’s a nesting story and focuses not on the mermaid (who isn’t a princess), but on the sorceress (who in this story was the creature’s lover, not her enemy) and on her mentor who cursed the sorceress with unending youth. It’s still a story of two worlds meeting and things going wrong but

Cat asked us to do two exercises as part of the class, both of which really helped. The first was to write about the protagonist from their own perspective, who they are:

My name is Talin and I am old, I was a sorceress when the world was young and I lived in a small harbour town watching as it grew, offering my services to whomever needed it. I was cursed with immortality and, worse, unending youthfulness. It forced me to move around lest my secret be uncovered as everyone, in their heart of hearts, never wants to know death. I don’t know if my state can be stolen or another infected with it. But I also know that only when I find someone who accepts what I am and offers to take my burden from me without my asking them to do so, knowing what it means to live until the end of days immortal, can I pass from this world. And, until I fell in love, I never wanted to. The problem is my beloved is a creature of the sea; mortals and Meren, they can’t live in each other’s worlds and I don’t know if we go to the same place after we die. Meren turn to sea-foam, humans to bone and ash. So I turned my beloved into a statue, at her request, and continued to wander, seeking out the person who would release me but who would also keep the secret of what I was, only then can I return, free my beloved and we can face death together.

The second was to write about the protagonist for the point of somone who hates them, which is where the evil mentor comes in:

She was beautiful, thought that was more birth and breeding than any glamour or other woven magics. Her pretty heart reflecting in kind eyes and a desire to help, not hinder, those who came to her. She was my pupil once and I thought, perhaps, her goodness was just a front and I could seduce her into darkness. No, she was good to her sweet core and the dark deities, they cannot stomach purity. So I invoked them and blessed her with the long life of my kind but wove a curse. But, when she realised how dark my heart was and who I served, she ran, refuted me, and renounced all connection to our kind and the covenants. She went rogue and wandered and, you know what? She never stopped seeing that beauty in the world, even after civilisations had burned to ash and love, well it only made things worse.

The final one was to write about a possession that the protagonist carries with them and their relationship with it:

In the first days after the statue of the Meren holding her heart appeared in the harbour, everyone was very confused and no one knew where it came from. A week after, I took a piece of sea-smoothed glass found as we watched that last sunrise together to a local mason, asking him to please carve me a replica of the statue’s heart. By the time I returned three decades later, his main business was selling tiny stone and sea-glass statues of her. Mine, however, remained unique, no one wanted her heart, no they wanted the idiolised beauty of a carved sea-maiden. Her heart, in miniature, it has traveled years and miles in a tiny cloth pouch, kept safe deep in my pack. I take it out at night when I can’t be with her, when I’m lying in a tavern bed or camping in the wilderness. It anchors me to her even when I’m a life and a million miles from the ocean. One day I will return, let the heart return to the sea and speak the words which will free her from the stone.

The thing is, though these pieces will never make their way into the story, they did help me figure out the mechanics of the story. Oh and there’s going to be a showdown on the beach between the evil witch and the good sorceress, witnessed by an innocent bard seeking the truth to the legend of the Meren holding her heart in her hands. This is my first new story of the year and a nice take chance to try my hand at retelling one of my favourite stories.

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My Plan for 2017: Be Like D

No seriously. Look at him, this is the most chilled out, ‘I don’t give a fuck’ cat on the planet. He’s the world’s best feline role model, even if he’s bitey.

For my health, I need to chill out. I’ve spent 2016 taking on too much, pushing myself too far. It’s not that bad; I got off with a micro, stress-induced manic phase and one hard-core suicidal one, coupled with time of the month crashing (thanks, body). That’s light considering the Five Manic Episodes of 2015.

But it doesn’t mean I can do that shit again.

2017 is going to be about self-care, about being a little selfish. I need to get my triggers and IBS under control, as well as focusing on snowballing my way out of debt. Plus 2016 was a shit year (bar like two things) and needs to burn and the earth salted. I don’t know if next year is going to be better but I need to take it out.

Writing-wise, my aim is to quietly potter on whatever calls my attention. I will still try and submit short stories (I have enough for a collection at this point and sending them out is easy enough that I can do it in my sleep thanks to the Grinder). I’m also aiming to get some work done on longer projects before doing a full rebrand once I have the money in 2018, republishing all my books under the Asha Bardon byline.

But as for publishing and, especially, editing. No. I haven’t got the energy to go through the process, much less the crowdfunding side of things. I’ve got to learn that saying I’ll do something doesn’t bind me into actually doing it and things will get in the way which will always call issues.

I need space to breathe, space to write without expectation. That’s what 2017 is about.

On a personal front, I’m coping pretty well. I’m adulting, though I hate it, and surviving without bipolar medication. The trick is staying calm, monitoring my moods and using the 30-day waiting period before purchases, big or small. It’s still a fine line and I don’t know when the next obsession or manic phase will strike. That scares me.

I’m still worried about Class and New Dog but it’s on the backburner. I don’t need to worry about that right this second. New Dog will come when she’s ready and I’m very used to waiting. For now, all I can do is enjoy the end of year peace, the chance to reflect. Gods know I have a heap of things to look forward to in the coming months.

It’s hard, though. My brain is stuck in ‘what awful thing is next’ mode. It’s a bit like flight mode except it’s more about anxiety than instinct. I have an amazing therapist whose helping and I’m finding that if I can avoid things which trigger me then I’m much more able to cope. I spent the rest of my time reading up on living with various conditions, coping with narcissistic people (avoidance/NC works for me).

Some things are unavoidable but Habitica gives me bonus points for those.

I’m lucky in that I have people around me who are amazing, a core group who are my chosen family. Ironically, it’s taken the last year for me to realise who that actually involves. Some of my oldest friends are no longer friends because their worldviews differed so much with mine, and my needs, that it turned nasty. I don’t need people who spew poison or try to control me in my life, especially not when I’m trying to dig myself out of a hole I’ve created.

The important people, they’ve been at my side all the long and I can’t thank them enough for it.

So yeah, the next twelve months are about me. I’m actually looking forward to it as my main focus has been ‘I need to be x in case y or z calls’. The trick is shifting my focus to ‘I’m going to x because I want to, meeting up with an alphabet of people is a bonus’. I need to teach myself that it’s okay if I want dinner or see a movie, I don’t need other people unless we make a date. I need to live my life for me, not for anyone else, even though all the people in my life are awesome enough to get that I’m stupidly altruistic and don’t abuse that.

At the same time I like my routine, it keeps me from descending into slobbery and I’m proud of that. I don’t want to be the stereotypical ‘on benefits’ person who sleeps into midday and, besides, productivity is my friend. Early mornings mean peace and quiet and I value that a lot, just as I do the odd quiet day at home with a queue of movies lined up.

So wish me luck as we finally see the back of 2016 and begin a new, fresh, year. I’m looking forward to it already.

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Bath, Winter 2016: The Christmas Market Mini-break

I don’t ‘do’ Christmas, too many bad memories and I’m not a fan of the encroaching darkness or the cold weather. However I’m also really keen to change my perspective on the season and rewrite the crap memories with better ones. This includes going places with my friend, Shannon, who appreciates the chance to explore other places while living in London.

Bath has a massive three week Christmas Market and the entire city takes it very seriously. I’ve wanted to see it for years but bus trips down are expensive. Also because of Uni things were difficult (coaches and dogs don’t mix, there’s simply not enough room). I saw a three day trip advertised for over £200 and the accomedation wasn’t even in Bath! Fortunately, between us, Shannon and I are savvy travellers and knew we could do a similar trip of our own devising for half that so I sorted the train and she did the accomedation. Our normal choice of the White Hart Inn was booked up so we managed to get a room at the YMCA on the northern side of the town. It was cheaper than the inn but also a bit more of a walk.

Shannon had to work so she ended up coming in on Monday night, giving me the entire day to travel down (I was down by 2pm) from Dereham, check in and do whatever my little heart desired until she got in just before 9pm. I ended up having dinner and a pint of Somerset cider at my favourite pub, wandering the market as it got dark and going to the Thermae Spa (disabled people get in for 1/2 price or with a free companion which is a bonus). I ended up curling up in a Caffé Nero by the bus station which was, to my surprise and delight, open super late till 10pm with The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.

Glorious! Oh and there were even a few, magical, flakes of snow as I wandered, sipping mulled apple juice.

Tuesday was our only actual day in Bath so we decided on our own walking tour, dipping in and out of shops, having Japanese food at a kaiten sushi place for lunch. We walked around the market (I got to explain that if you say ‘let’s get a mulled cider’ in Britain before half past eleven, people will think you’re an alcoholic; Americans and Canadians think ‘cider’ is non-alcoholic. It’s not and never should be. Especially not in Somerset). But that amused me no end; for just a second I though Shannon was serious.

I got to sit in a lovely little coffee shop that could only seat fifteen or so people, right on the bridge by the weir. This has memories for us as we passed it while walking into Bath for the first time, with Uni, along the tow-path. Shannon wanted to visit a maze so I sat and had a drink while she nipped across the bridge. I spent the time percolating an idea I’d had for a short story based on a city with a visible but hidden second one beneath it; Bath has an entire network of streets and passages under the paths that you can see if you look at the houses, most of which have basement floors. It’s in full view but no one notices it, it takes a tour guide to show you (ditto the Masonic iconography). It was just screaming to be used in a fantasy story involving magic and arcane things.

After lunch and a pit stop, we headed our again, this time to look properly at the market. It was starting to get busier and had plenty of free samples when it came to food and alcohol. I’d discovered rhubarb vodka and adored it; I’m not a vodka person ever but I do love rhubarb and this was delicious (and available, cheaper, on Amazon *grins*). I also got to introduce Shannon to good, proper, honey mead; it’s sweet as fuck but delicious in small doses. Oh and cheese! So much cheese! I came home from Bath with a wheel, quietly maturing in my spare room, and some of the best cheese straws I’ve ever tasted.

Then we went to the spa and spent two glorious hours in the healing waters (seriously, my feet didn’t ache when we left though the chlorine/walking has really agrevated my still-healing, post-op scar). One of my few happy memories of childhood/adolescence is going to Center Parcs at Elvedon and spending the dark evenings outside in the rapids, watching as steam billowed off the hot water. By the time we got in, it was black as night and dead quiet too. The pool inside, downstairs, has a beautiful light display but the pool on the roof was breathtaking, stream rolling off it and a blue, almost bioluminescence to the water thanks to some well placed lights. Actually Monday night was more impressive; it was fucking freezing and the hot water/cold night combo was really impressive. I got to watch the sunset too. We floated, we swam, we enjoyed the jacuzzi bubbles and the steam rooms. It was chilled out (bar near-obsessive clock watching).

We left at nine and were in the Odeon down the road shortly after with ice cream and everything. Shannon hadn’t seen Fantastic Beasts yet so it seemed the perfect (and free) way to end the day. Actually, on the finance front I was expecting to spend a lot more than I did. I was amazed how reserved I was when it came to the stalls but much of the stuff I had no need or use for. Though it was a lot of fun to visit.

Wednesday was going home day but we were going to enjoy the morning first. Shannon was hunting Pokémon (you can tell people who do that because of how their hands move on their phones/carrying powerpacks), resulting in some interesting pictures. Bath has some weird Christmas displays from the baubles in a telephone box to a giant deck chair and several igloo-bauble things. The cool thing is wandering the Southgate area, the modern shopping complex near the station, and just stumbling on things you don’t expect to be there.

The journey home wasn’t too bad. We got coffee and I read, then we caught the train in a nice, calm manner back to Paddington. We didn’t get lost which just proves I need a dog because I can’t concentrate on walking and trying to navigate. Uni was awesome at exits and I, sadly, am not. That said, it was nice not to have to go out in the rain or the dark so she could pee and we were able to reallty maximise our time. I still want New Dog though and this just confirmed it.

Shannon and I parted at Paddington. We went into the wrong part of the station and took the Circle line so I had to change at Edgware Road (I miss the old Circle where you could go either way) which wasn’t too bad as I had my GoBag which made steps and escalators a breeze. Despite the echoes of the called-off Tube strike, it was easy to get back to Liverpool Street so I took myself off for ramen. I’d actually specifically scheduled a food break and I ended up with time to sit in Starbucks with a cold drink as well. Oh, my train home wasn’t cancelled and I managed to catch my bus perfectly.

The cats missed me (despite not starving) which was nice. They’re all being super-friendly and affectionate in acknowledgement that, sometimes, I vanish for a few days. I admit, I really should have bought that wooden plaque which said ‘dogs have owners but cat have staff’. It’s true and I’m glad they appreciate me.

I’m looking forward to going back to Bath for a writing retreat in the spring, it’s a nice place to go for a few days and it was great to be able to go to the movies for a late showing without having to worry about getting home. Bath is a tiny town compared to Norwich but it has a lot more in it, oh and all the designer stores you could want. I don’t but it’s nice to have the constrast between the modern shops and the little indie stores selling random stuff as well as the Roman and Georgian sections of town. Next time I do want to visit the Temple of Minerva though.

Overall an awesome trip. Definately some good memories to put into the bank.

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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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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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