Saturday 31 October 2015

30-day Writing Challenge - Day 9

Your feelings on ageism

When I was pre-teen I used to have nightmares about dying - not the actual act itself but what comes afterwards.  I just couldn't comprehend nothing and trying to quantify it just made it worse.  My mum used to work in an old people's home and I loitered there before and after school sometimes.  They are not very cheerful places, usually someone is yelling 'Help!' and the smell of warm toast, old people and that sweet bouquet of decay is enough to make you want to shut the door behind you and never go back.

A couple of years later I volunteered at an old people's home, just making the tea and talking to the residents while episodes of Airhawk played in the background.  That's really all the semi-lucid ones wanted, someone to natter to about the state of things today and what it was like in their life time.  I often think the elderly are kept at arms length in an effort to forget about them when in fact they still have a great deal to offer.

Different cultures look after their ageing relatives differently.  It is quite normal for Mediterranean families to have several generations living under one roof all enjoying Grandma's secret meatball recipe whilst here in the UK often the elderly are left alone, bereft of family and a reason to celebrate life.  Of course I am generalising - you may visit your grandma every week.  I know I don't.  I also know that I have witnessed lonely people sitting in that chair by the window wishing for a visitor and never, ever getting one.

Ageism strikes in different places for different reasons.  Women in the media spotlight like those reading the news or giving the weather report were, until recently, kept looking fresh and youthful, replaced regularly while their male counterparts carried on regardless.  Things have changed a little but age is still seen as a negative attribute.  It is still seen as unusual to change your career track later in life and those who risk it all to go back to school are deemed mid-life crisis material.

With the soaring cost of living many are having to work for longer or indeed when they are retired from their previous work you'll find your grandparents scanning your shopping for you at your local supermarket. Is there anything wrong with that you might ask - well, they take longer and often try to engage in conversation which is unheard of these days.  Grandparents are also being encouraged to become the primary carers for their own and other grandchildren as both parents struggle to go back to work.  A good idea in theory but who is implementing the fitness and competence tests?

As we ourselves get older the threshold for what is seen as old moves higher and higher.  I feel the same now as I did when I was in my twenties but I feel quite sure that my step-daughter and her teenager friends see me as an out of touch fossil.  The ever quickening pace of technology plays a large role in leaving an entire generation behind but I think it's important to know where you came from, to give that generation the respect they deserve and to give your Nan a ring once in a while. Before you know it, they'll be gone and you'll never forgive yourself.

Age is just a number - what really matters are those little acts of kindness and those opportunities to just sit and have a cuppa and chat about how fast the world is changing.  It won't be long before you sit in that chair.

Image result for growing old gracefully

Friday 30 October 2015

30-day Writing Challenge - Day 8

A book you love and one you didn't

I don't think you realise how difficult this one is for me.  Yes, I realise it is meant to be a writing challenge but I think I would rather discuss who I'd kill and why then answer this question.  I love books.  No no no no - you don't understand.  I love them.  I like to have them around me doing their bookishness and I like to smell them when no-one is looking.  As a teenager I'd spend my weekend afternoons loitering within the stacks obsessively reading spines and deciding who I would liberate that particular day.  I used to borrow the full 12 at a time - usually great big thick fantasy novels that weighed a ton and were often a nightmare to carry home but that didn't matter because I'd start reading one of them and get drawn into another world.

I have only read 39 books so far this year.  I have just had no spare time.  Thirteen of those were a re-read of the excellent Wheel of Time series (and yes I know there are 14 in total, I hadn't read the last one before) and I have just begun to re-read the Discworld novels from the beginning because quite frankly - why wouldn't you?  So is a book I love one that I constantly go back to and re-read?  I think I have read The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan at least ten times if not more.  It feels like pulling on that comfy old sweater and just snuggling down.  If I pluck books off the top of my head right now this instance that I loved reading then I have enjoyed Ben Aaronovitch's Peter Grant novels immensely and The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss was superb.  Anything by Robin Hobb is always excellent, naturally I am a Sir TP devotee and for heaven's sake I am reading The Hobbit with my 2 year old at bedtime.

You might be thinking, hang on a minute - how can you love books if all you read is one particular genre but it's not as bad as you might think.  I belong to a mainstream book club who doesn't solely read sci fi and fantasy and this is good for expanding my literary horizons as it forces me to try something new.   Admittedly I sometimes don't like what we read but The Magic of Tidying changed my life, The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson scared me witless and I Am The Messenger was excellent.  To give you a little perspective -  on my Goodreads Account I have read 641 books and that is only the ones I remember as this website didn't exist when I was a wee young thing.  My want-to-read list is over 1600 and that is only the books I know about - who knows what other wonders are out there waiting to be devoured.  And before you leap upon your high horse no I am not neglecting the classics.  I had read Shakespeare, Dickens and Austen before I started secondary school as well as having already run through the Sherlock Holmes novels, Thackeray and others of that ilk.

My reading experience is one of sheer wonder and joy.  I am not aware of the words upon the page. Reading for me is not a case of moving my gaze across sentences, completing and turning paper. There is no conscious effort in the reading part.  It simple becomes the story in my mind.  It's a completely visual experience with sound, smell and sometimes even taste.  It is also something I can switch on and off quickly so I can walk along the street and read, cook dinner and read, sit amongst others watching TV and read.  I do not forget my place and I am once more with the characters as soon as I pick the book up.  For that reason I tend not to read horror.  The imagination overdrive is just too strong and then I can't sleep for days and we all know what happens to Mummies with toddlers who get no sleep!

And so to a book I didn't love with my profound apologies to all those that I do and haven't yet mentioned.  I don't want to kiss and tell.  Yes of course there have been books that I haven't enjoyed but then who I am to say what all books should be like?  There will always be something that isn't to my taste and that is a good thing.  Variety broadens the mind.  The best book club meetings are those when some of us loved it, some of us hated it and some of us haven't read it yet but did you see that documentary last night about a completely unrelated topic?  There are many different standards of writing which change as you chop about your genres.  There are those authors that are held up to others as beacons of brilliance but (and I can't believe I am about to say this) if Tolkien tried to get published today he probably wouldn't have a hope in hell because oh my goodness his sentences are exceedingly long winded and tangential aren't they just?

I think reading is all about how it makes you feel.  If a book elicits a response from you then the author has done their job.   It doesn't matter if that response is negative or positive.  But if you are really going to push me on a book that I didn't love - that I read recently - then I shall have to say Mr Grey.  I apologise.  In my defence I have since read six books of exceedingly better standard, word count and literary content so forgive me but allow me to continue to read in wild abandon.

Image result for love books

Thursday 29 October 2015

30-day Writing Challenge - Day 7

What tattoos you have and if they have any meaning

My first tattoo is my star sign - Leo - on my wrist.  I'd always wanted a tattoo but my long term partner at the time had been vehemently against them so when we eventually parted ways it was one of the first things I changed about myself, along with a haircut and a nose stud.  If you take an interest in your star sign then it can become something extremely important to you, a way of defining who you are.  I have the classic temper and bossiness of the fire sign, a smidge of the creativity and a lot of the desperation to be loved.  This is probably my favourite tattoo because it's obvious enough to see it everyday yet discrete enough that most people don't even notice it.  It has become even more special to me since the birth of my little boy, whom we called Leo.  

My second tattoo is George the gecko.  I love George.  I'm not sure why I love geckos so much, perhaps because they are somewhat salamander like and salamander's are fire-related animals and I am a Leo but maybe that is stretching it a bit thin.  I spent hours and hours and hours searching online for the exact right shape of tail, body position and feet.  He perches on my shoulder and keeps the vampires away.  I can't see him and often forget he's there but that doesn't mean I don't love him to bits.  He was the gentlest of all my tattoos, I barely felt him at all.  He was a quick successor to my star sign and the addiction to being inked began.

I apologise for the expanse of back but this is the best picture I have of my third and final tattoo.  This is my dragon.  It took two sessions to complete - one was the outline, the other was the colour and the filling in.  It runs up my vertebrae and when the needle was over the bone I can honestly say that it was so painful i could barely breathe and liquid leaked out of my eyes uncontrollably.  I didn't cry.  I sat still and tried to ride it out but my face just leaked.  I almost didn't have it filled in.  One - it was a while before I could afford to do so and two - because there was quite a long break between sessions, I really had to psych myself up to get it finished.  I am not sure about my dragon.  I like it, I'm glad I have it but I wish I didn't.  It was a continuation of a fight for freedom, the thrill of being inked - the sound and smells of the tattoo shop are very intoxicating and yet I think I rushed from Leo to George to dragon.  I wasn't ready for such a (relatively) large tattoo.  It is also my last thus far.  I think it will be a long time before I have another.

I knew the tattoo artist who did all three of my tattoos in a previous life.  We used to work together when we were both fresh faced and rosy cheeked.  I came with a friend to the tattoo shop - he was getting a new one and I was interested to see the process.  That's when Keith piped up 'Hello'.  Suddenly the whole experience became a lot more personal and involved.  I was fascinated to watch how Keith brought the artwork to life and I think he let me sit and watch a bit closer than the average punter.  I was enthralled and just had to have one of my very own.  Even though my three tattoos aren't really the type of artwork Keith does, he still did them all for me - I am very grateful.  I am not sure I would trust anyone else and should the time come for me to have another, unless it's Ami James wielding the needle then it's Keith or no-one.  

Wednesday 28 October 2015

30-day Writing Challenge - Day 6

Someone who fascinates you and why

I am not particularly interested in anyone.  This might be because I am too wrapped up on my own little bubble of existence or that I just don't know enough about the different types of people out there.  It's like that awful dinner party question - if you could have anyone to dinner, which six people would you pick.  I have no idea.  I'm still panicking about the fact that I only have four dinner plates let alone what on earth would I cook before I even start considering who I'd invite.

Who do I want to know all about???  Don't get me wrong, I am quite nosey.  I've read gossip magazines and clicked on Facebook articles about this or that celebrity's latest scandal but I 've fallen behind in who's who.  When they announce the celebrities for shows like Strictly Come Dancing or I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here, nine times out of ten I only know who 1 or 2 of them are.  And to be honest I have no real desire to find out.  I do know who won the Great British Bake Off this year though.  In fact I'd quite like to sit down, have a cuppa and a slice of cake with Nadiya but I wouldn't want to know everything about her.

Perhaps that's the problem.  I'm just to polite to ask.  I quite like gossipping to myself about the might haves and could bes, I enjoy slipping into my imagination and seeing what gets created.  I think that is a more enjoyable experience, perhaps that is the writer in me.  I'd rather make up something fascinating then find out the reality which is often never as interesting.  The challenge continues . . .

Image result for fascinating

Tuesday 27 October 2015

30-day Writing Challenge - Day 5

A place you would live but have never visited

This merits some serious consideration.  Do I have to be specific in geographic positioning?  Am I meant to know the latitude and longitude of this fantastical place or is it enough to have an idea in my head of what would be my ideal?

My dream would be seaside village.  A little cottage with some land for pottering around, growing herbs and maybe keeping a goat or two.  A walk to the coastline for the dogs and running through the surf in the early morning.  Hubby is the local bobby, I'm the writer spending time in idyllic nooks spinning the imagination wheel and creating magical stories to share and pass on to others.

Our children would run barefoot through the grass and have intimate knowledge of the beach fossils and inhabitants of the rock pools.  Every year I'd enter a cake into the village fete and never win due to harsh WI judging but every slice is always sold.  I have hundreds of half finished projects - in the garden a mini fruit orchard grows unchecked with travelling brambles creeping and sneaking where they shouldn't be, patches of rhubarb and random strawberry plants dotted here and there amidst the carrots and potatoes.  Wildflowers are sprinkled liberally all round the cottage and there's a rickety old gate that always hangs open.  Bikes, buckets and spades litter the front lawn liberally with a teddy bear picnic happening beneath the giant oak tree where the tree house lives.

Inside the walls are covered with memory lane photos, children artwork and movie related memorabilia.  The furniture doesn't match.  The cat sleeps on the hearth in front of the open fire.  There's a huge wooden table in the kitchen marred from years and years of working, eating and preparing.  The crockery is piled haphazardly on the rickety shelves of a giant welsh dresser and the ancient Aga purrs in the corner.  There's a library.  Oh the library.  It has squishy squashy chairs big enough to curl your whole body in with lamps and shrugs to keep you warm in the winter.  The books are all the old favourites, some are in piles on the floor, others cram shelves but each one is loved and re-read often.

It's a happy place, full of laughter, love and sunshine.  I haven't visited it yet because it's the dream I aspire to but the seeds are growing.

Monday 26 October 2015

30-day Writing Challenge - Day 4

10 Interesting Things About Me

This begs the question of what qualifies as interesting so maybe one of these is a tall tale but which?

One - I have 32 qualifications to my name and worked in 5 different roles thus far in my job life.  That doesn't include the four jobs I had prior to my first proper real job or the most amazing role I fulfil now as a Mummy.  One that requires no qualifications at all, something that really beggars belief.

Two - I have been made Sunday manager, redundant, asked to train others, managed a member of staff, been accused of drug taking, had my department closed, retrained on the job, worked for two separate departments at the same time, experienced sexual harassment and been mentally bullied in the workplace, retrained again, had my Best Sister mug broken, shouted at across the office by a colleague and fired during my work life.

Three - At age 15 I flew, by myself, to Australia to stay with a friend of the family I didn't know.  I experienced the most intense and trippy hallucinations as I suffered with chronic jetlag.  I suffered again when I flew to Brunei on a school trip, missing out on a day at a theme park and instead dying on a mattress in a random house watching geckos run on the walls.

Four - I have been a member of an athletics team, played Basketball and Football for a team, achieved my green belt in Karate (two down from Black) and earnt 4 trophies and 57 medals for running.

Five - I have climbed the highest mountain in the Southern hemisphere, Mt. Kinabalu 4,095m.

Six - Despite being the clumsiest person I know and having had some stellar falls as well as a motorbike accident, I have never broken a bone.  I am now touching everything wooden in the flat.

Seven - I used to be in a pop group with my sisters called Three Star.

Eight - I have my Grade 2 Roller Skating qualification.  Quads not Inlines.

Nine - I am the worst bowler you have ever met in your life.  Honestly.  If you ever want to feel better about yourself, take me bowling.  Personal high-score of 28.  Is that interesting?  Possibly because of the epic fail nature of the fact.

Ten - I have brushed shoulders with Jimmy Saville (maybe I shouldn't own up to that), been at baggage claim with Ian Botham, walked past Richard E Grant on Piccadilly (he's so short), actually spoken to Sir David Attenborough, heard Brian Blessed sing opera live, listened with joy to George Takei speak at a sci-fi convention, met Sir Terry Pratchett and Ben Aaronovitch, hi-fived Sir Chris Hoy, walked past motorbike ace Carl Fogarty (also teeny tiny) and attended the Natural History Museum Sexual Nature launch party with Charlie Borman and Matthew Home.

Sunday 25 October 2015

30-day Writing Challenge - Day 3

First love and first kiss.

When I dated my first boyfriend at the tender age of 16 I asked a co-worker 'What is love?'.  She told me that if I had to ask then it wasn't love.  I've kept hold of that piece of advice and sadly for the boyfriend said goodbye.

Love is such a difficult thing to quantify, it means different things to different people at different times of their lives.  It changes and grows, sometimes it seems to just want to make you miserable and other times it makes your tummy tickle with joy.

Let's move on - first kiss.  So much easier.  Or it would be if I could remember it.  I promise I'm not emotionally barren.  I think, based on dodgy memories, that my first kiss was with Ryan at a primary school disco.  We danced to Blue Moon.  It was my first boy-girl dance.  I remember he used to wear a cap and have tufty hair and whenever he knocked for me I wasn't allowed out.  It didn't last long.

First love.   I honestly feel like I'm airing my dirty laundry here!!  I think my first love was with a boy called James at my secondary school.  He was several years ahead of me and I whenever I saw him I would feel weak at the knees, blush like mad and stammer like an idiot.  I think we travelled on the same bus or went to the same athletics club so there was an outside of school setting for additional embarrassment on my part.  I'm not convinced he even knew I was alive.

So there we have it, vaguely remembered first kiss - definitely no tongue - and unrequited teenage crush involving our initials in hearts on exercise books.

Saturday 24 October 2015

30-day Writing Challenge - Day 2

Earliest Memory

Now this is tough for me.  I barely remember what happened yesterday let alone last week.  Last month is a blur and a year ago may well have been a hundred years ago as far as my memory is concerned.  I used to worry about my poor memory and then I decided my brain was either making space for other important things OR I have very little space OR I'm secretly a psychopath and attach no meaning of any kind to emotional events that happened to me.  But enough dwelling - to task!

I do have issues with memories.  Are they actually mine or are they the remembered version of someone else who has told me and I have remembered the telling.  For instance as a small child I ate the cat food - no memory of that.  As a little girl I allegedly got in the way of a cow's backside - no memory of that.  My Nana and Grandad used to own a farm and I know we spent a lot of time there during school holidays.  I learnt how to milk a goat, gathered eggs from ducks and picked all manner of berries but I don't remember these things.  There is a snatch of my Grandad singing to his goats as he milks them.  There is a sliver of fear from looking into the supply train carriage in the pitch black and not knowing what else is in there.  I remember shivering like mad after getting out of the green bath in the enormous bathroom whose windows froze in the wintertime.  Hey - look at that, a real memory.  I also recall my step sister stealing all the covers when we shared the bed once, I woke up chilled to the bone and unable to wake her went to sit in the dining room and cried as young children do.  My Nana came to the rescue and, after a cup of tea, cuddle and a biscuit, space was made for me and all was right with the world again.

Anything further back from the halcyon days of Pantglas Farm are non-existent.  I can tell you facts but no associated memories.  My baby brothers sadly died before I got to know them.  My parents separated then divorced.  Both parents found love again and new families were built.  I spent time in a welsh-speaking primary school learning to speak and sing in Welsh.  The only things I take from my early years are a fierce bond with my Mum, huge protective feelings towards my family and the importance of celebrating family events with delicious homemade foods.  It speaks to me of a foundation of love, protection and cake.  No bad thing.

(I'm the one feeding the goat)

Friday 23 October 2015

30-day Writing Challenge - Day 1

Day 1: Five problems with social media - or in my case with Facebook

Problem number one - there are too many different types and they're all focused on fabulousness
I don't even know how many there are, all I've managed is the book of face for the last seven years.  My facebook life is full of sci-fi nerdom, books and the amazingly wonderful creative things I've made and the amazingly wonderful delicious things I've baked not forgetting the amazingly wonderful things I've done, places I've seen and people I've met. However I don't speak to the younger generation of my family anymore as they've moved on to other platforms and now my parents are active bookers.  I do twit from time to time yet Twitter scares me - how do random people I don't know find me and like my tweets when I can barely find anyone famous I've actually heard of.  Clearly there's a knack I don't have.

Problem number two - bad spelling and grammar
If I see a post riddled with bad grammar and multiple spelling mistakes my eyes start to bleed.  I have to physically sit on my hands and stop myself correcting the posts as apparently this is seen as offensive.  But what about my eyes?  I also find it hard to believe that individuals are content with representing themselves so shoddily.  Don't they have any pride?  Don't they want to sound like they have a measure of education?  I feel that we should be slightly concerned that 'social media' allows illiteracy to run rampant - I'm not saying that spell check is infallible but I feel sure that the tech-heads at Facebook could write a little piece of code that forces you to check your words before they allow them to be posted.  Or a fine.  A fine would work.  I'll even police it, with glee.

Problem number three - it didn't happen it if wasn't on Facebook
I actually heard someone say that their engagement wasn't official because they hadn't put it on Facebook yet.  Excuse me?  I won't deny that I am quick to post when good things happen but I certainly don't need the validation of over a dozen likes before something begins to have meaning.  *whistles innocently*

Problem number four - big brother is watching
Or little sister or any number of other relatives, friends, friends of friends, workmates, bosses, ex-boyfriends, hell people I don't even know.  I'm finding more and more that I can't post what I really think or feel about things because I don't want the aggro that goes with trying to explain myself to my mum.  Or when tragedy strikes and you just want to cry and share and vent but you can't because there are young, delicate ears listening.  It makes me feel like I'm wearing a muzzle.  I know someone will pipe up and say 'well maybe you shouldn't be saying it anyway' but that's not the point.  I would never be needless cruel, it's not in my nature but I would like the opportunity to freely express myself.

Problem number five - seeing what I don't want to see over and over and over
Yesterday I had the 'ahem' pleasure of seeing a video of a young man with a moustache stripping off and jigging about with the smallest penis I've ever seen.  Suffice to say I quickly turned it off - I mean 1) totally inappropriate   2) it was the middle of the day and all my family were present  
3) eeeeeeeeeeeeeeewwwwwwwwwwwww.  Sadly that wasn't the only unwanted image or video I came across.  And considering how much rubbish fills our news feed it feels lately like I wade through detritus for longer and longer each day.  I want to use social media to keep in touch with my friends and family.  I am excited to see how they are doing, what they are doing and what they are planning to do and I hope they enjoy seeing what we've been up to but I don't want to waste my limited precious time.

Image result for facebook addiction

There's no getting away from the invasiveness of social media and the massive amounts of time it takes to check all your notifications plus the dead time you spend trawling through miles and miles of updates.  But I don't think social media is going anywhere, in fact I think it will become more and more ingrained in our daily lives.  I'm sure I've missed other problems and I definitely haven't looked at the positives - of which there are many - but one last thing I will share.  Have a day off.  We have no technology Thursday evenings - usually - it is hard to put down that laptop/phone/ipad but we do try.  It's refreshing.  There are books and music and *gasp* conversation.  It's a whole new old world.

Thursday 22 October 2015

Have a break

.... but put down the KitKat, we don't need that kind of diet breaking influence.  I'm happy to say that a year's hiatus means it's time for my yearly blog post.  However, now that I didn't win my local writing competition I am focussed like a laser beam on having my book published because you know - published baby!  So with that in mind the blog has to be revived.  And I think I'm finally over being fired for writing a blog post so even though my bank account will never recover I can revert to my original blog name with pride.

And there has never been nor will there ever be any salad.

The real question is how hard will it be to blog regularly with a toddler.  There may be occasional posts that look a bit like this:  wwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwfufjd   ufurdffes   r,ir8ttj.  My toddler seems to have an above average grasp of technology and has developed excellent selfie taking skills and the ability to text his Dad.  Nothing is safe.  Especially as he is at least 4 foot tall and growing so all the high places are no longer so high.

Image result for toddler reaching

I'm going to make a statement.  I hate making statements.  People read them back to you and hold you accountable if you fail to achieve them.  I'm excellent at failing to achieve.  Bit of a personal triumph to be honest but here goes.  I wrote a book and now I'm going to strive to have it published . There's no need to watch this space because if it gets published, believe me you'll know.

If you want to write books you must stretch those writing muscles everyday and you must read, read, read.  And so the blog goes on.