Life

living under lockdown

Shopping trips now are gloved, masked affairs where avoiding other shoppers a major priority. It’s bizarre and surreal. And yet food needs to be bought, these trips have to be made.

No more is there a 45 minute-1 hour commute to work. My desk is at the end of my bed and there’s no need to wake up at 5:15 am. No need, but I still try to get up at six because a routine is important damn it. Meetings are held over Microsoft Teams and instead of the radio, my own music plays.

Every day we are told the amount of people who have died – what caused alarm when we heard Italy’s, Spain’s and France’s death tolls, now seems part of the every day.

(Seven hundred today, I would call across the hall to my dad.)

(These are people – PEOPLE! With lives, and families and loved ones and hopes and dreams – all snuffed out and gone, leaving unfillable holes behind. A damn tragedy that can’t be communicated by numbers.)

(It seems that the Sword of Damocles hangs over everyone’s heads.)

It feels as though we are in a tonally off novel – I and my family are spending so much time together, enjoying nights around the fire in the garden, playing on the x-box, sharing meals, staring at the stars – and yet the world outside is one in which the illusion of immortally is thinner than ever and death seems even more present.

Reality intrudes in the form of crossing the road to avoid other pedestrians, a firm two metres between those queuing, the news online, tales from colleagues and friends on the front line, and delivery men who no longer wait for signatures but deposit their parcels on the doorstep.

And then the door closes, hands are washed and we are quiet again.

Keep going, friends – one foot in front of the other! Be kind – to yourself and others. Take comfort in beauty where you can find – a soft breeze, a blackbird’s song, a good conversation with a friend over Zoom or Messenger, or diving into a really good book.

I’ve found myself reading more than ever: Georgette Heyer, Elizabeth Peters, and C.S Lewis are keeping me company these days. I will keep blogging, I’m sure, but I often pull up a draft and stare at the blank whiteness of it and think but why?

And that’s okay. I’ll post again, soon – rambles about books and things I find interesting and all that sort of thing – but for now, this will do.

Stay safe!

Ness


God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

 Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;

Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.

psalm 46 v 1-3
Characters, I think I just rambled, On Writing

writing wrestling – failure, me, and my characters

Of all the scenes I’ve ever written, there’s one that stands particularly vivid in my memory. It’s part of a trilogy that I wrote and the character – Nefna – is just having an awful time. Not an ‘arghhh I forgot that my tea was cold and also this isn’t my tea this is old mouthwash and WHAT HAVE I DONE’ day. But a ‘I HAVE BEEN MISTAKEN FOR THE WRONG PERSON AND I AM GOING TO DIE but on the plus side the snow’s dope’ day.

She’s kneeling on some flagstones and her blood is staining the snow and it’s just SO dramatic and terrible. I think I may have had tears in my eyes; it felt very real and vivid. One of those magic moments that happens when you truly connect to the story you’re weaving.

But despite that, that’s something that happens to Nefna. It’s not her fault. It’s just a huge misunderstanding that she’s going along with because of VERY VALID REASONS. It’s not a personal failure. (THE JUSTICE SYSTEM AND SOMEONE’S EYESIGHT – THOSE HAS FAILED HER.) but she hasn’t.

And I think, that I don’t let my characters fail as much as I should. As someone who hates failure – I mean, who doesn’t? and takes it to a dramatic level …

PAUSE FOR EXPLANATION:

There was this one time that I was doing this work and I did it WRONG and basically it was awful and no good. Did I react maturely?

NO. You bet your sainted peanut I DID NOT.

I ran up the garden and climbed a tree. And considered a life of nomadic Tarzan-ing but with more clothes and FAR LESS MUSCLE. And so much shame and guilt.

That’s me. And yes, that was young me. But my gosh, I still do that inside.

If anyone else fails – you bet I’ll be there, thrusting both hands out to help them up. I can’t bear to see people fail. I can’t bear it because when they do it, I feel it. And it sucks. Because it does.

I think I have this issue with my characters – I can’t bear to let them fail. I can’t let them because it’s painful and killmenow to write. I haven’t noticed properly until quite recently, but I can see how it has seeped into my subconscious and oozed out of my fingertips.

(Also. That analogy was icky. I beg your pardon.)

But I think I’m going to let them fail a little more. And perhaps – be kinder to myself when I fail as well. After all, it’s pretty prideful to expect constant perfection of myself. Or, like, any perfection.

We’re flawed and we fail but we’ve got God and so it’s okay.

And my characters … they’re going to fail, and it will hurt and I won’t enjoy writing it. But perhaps it will help me a little as well. I wouldn’t say writing is therapy, but I would say that I look back and see myself reflected. Glinting at me through the sentences. A little piece here and there.

I’ve always thought that I was disassociated – even divorced – from my stories. That they and I were different things entirely. Ha! But I WAS WRONG.

I look back and see – hopes, dreams, bad spelling – all of it.

And maybe I’ll look back and see failure and won’t be horrified. Won’t want to bury myself in a pit of dark duvets. Or travel to the tip-top of a high mountain and be a monk, looking serene and untroubled and having my meals delivered by an elaborate system of pulleys that I’ve already have-planned.

So, here’s to failure.

To forgiving and learning and dusting yourself off and continuing on regardless.

I think I just rambled

i wish i knew how to fence

How the heck do people pick up hobbies and stick to them? In the past three months, I’ve taken up archery and violin lessons. I have since given up the lessons (half an hour on a Friday seemed half an hour too far) and alas, next week holds the fateful day in which I return my bow to the club.

(It’s not the fact that I’m bad – though I am. It’s not the fact that I feel as one with Robin Hood when I draw back my longbow – though I do. It’s the time. It’s the money. It’s the fact that there are other things.)

Writing and reading have been my longest lasting passions. (And will be always be so, I am quite sure. I am attached to them. In the way you are attached to limbs. Your limbs.) Crocheting vies for a third place – I gave it up because the great majority of my family and friends now have blankets made for them. (Also, I’ve lost my crochet hook.)

Perhaps it is my curse – to always be trying new things and never sticking to them permanently. (There’s just so many other things.)

OTHER THINGS I’D LIKE TO TRY:

  • learning to fix a car (I STILL HAVEN’T DONE THIS MY WORD WHAT THE HECK)
  • tap dancing
  • carpentry
  • some sort of engineering for a day
  • wind surfing. properly
  • some sort of martial arts
  • learning Chinese
  • painting with watercolours. properly. not DABBLING but full on Miss Potter at the beginning of the old Peter Rabbit VHS tapes
  • living in Mongolia
  • fencing

NAVEL GAZING

Sometimes I have this horrible feeling that I’m terrible human being and shouldn’t spend a moment of time on myself. It tells me that life is about others and never about me, therefore hobbies are worthless. Also, I should go to India and volunteer at an End of Life House that I once saw on a documentary about happiness.

No doubt it would be a sobering trip and very worthwhile, but as I don’t foresee myself doing this in the future (I can taste the absolute GUILT in my mouth. It’s like a stomach ache. If you had a stomach ache in your mouth. And you could taste it.) I will have to turn my focus to other things, closer to home. (Like helping an old lady across the street. I did this once.)

Life is about loving others, it’s about the giving. But I also believe it’s about savouring what we’ve been given – beautiful, wonderful things to admire, a sense of adventure, and a thirst for knowledge.

Solution? Don’t be self-centred. Don’t admire your navel too much. But love and get on with life and also, probably, maybe definitely – in the winter, take up fencing.

WAYS FENCING BENEFITS HUMANITY

  • if someone near me is attacked and there is a blade/longsword/fencing sword/pokey stick thing nearby … well, I can launch into action
  • if I time-travel with someone into a time where swords are plentiful and not just prospective wall ornaments … well, I can launch into action
  • if there is a MAN EATING MOSQUITO near an ENTIRE SCHOOL BUS OF HELPLESS BABIES and the only weapon available is a sword … I mean, I could launch into action. Or I’d scream in a dignified way. And offer my blood as bait and lead it away. I’d die. It would be a sacrifice. I’m sure I’d look spiffing and graceful doing it. Delicate and lady-like.
  • … also why is there a bus full of babies and where is the adult supervision?!
  • if I am required to yank a grown man from the edge of a cliff he has accidentally nearly stumbled over due to taking a selfie (#closeshave #foiledagain) … I would have gained some speedy nifty footwork and core strength due to fencing.

Thank you. It’s logic. It’s superb. Call it destiny, fate, or the desire to dance nimbly whilst wearing a trimmed beekeeping veil as a visor and wafting a sword like a sparkler, I see it looming in my future.

I can’t wait.

Life

how to have adventures

I am an adamant supporter of the having of adventures. They are crucial to life. Cr-u-cial. Just because there is a dearth of dragons, quests, and hobbits doesn’t mean it’s impossible to go on one. Let me expound …

BE PROACTIVE SEIZE THE DAY. OR HOUR. OR MINUTE

Adventures don’t always hand themselves to you on a platter. You have to snatch at them as they whiz by, or spin them out of thin air. It’s all down to you. Do you have an afternoon free? Plan an outting. It doesn’t have to be expensive: buy some snacks, grab a book or a friend (with their permission. Of course) and go.

An hour? Go for a walk. Explore your neighbourhood. Travelling home from an appointment/work/saving the world from killer penguins? Choose a different way home. Branch out into a different genre of book. Go to the cinema and watch a film you wouldn’t normally watch.

BE READY TRY TO BE SLIGHTLY ORGANISED

I know – a little ironic, huh? Adventures are often spontaneous things … only. If you have an organised life, a marginally organised life, it means your brain is free from distractions. You don’t have to waste time cleaning/booking appointments/sending emails/folding laundry if you’re on top of things.

This might be just me, but I do better when my personal life is organised. My brain is like a terrible phone with limited data – I’ve got to keep some memory space free for important stuff. So uncluttering is a must.

Do I sometimes jam stuff out of sight? Shove it under the bed or in the wardrobe? Yes.

I am but human after all.

BE BRAVE ONE STEP AT A TIME

When I was teaching in Eastern Europe, day to day life didn’t always feel like the easiest thing. Go down to the shops? Where they don’t understand a word I say and I can’t understand anything they say either? I do words – I write them, I read them, and I taught about them. To not understand anything? That felt terrifying.

One memorable occasion, after a long day of teaching … I couldn’t quite face it. I had to do the shopping (you’ve got to eat) but I withdraw into myself, wrapping myself with a bit of numbness and a lot of ‘put your head down, don’t draw attention to yourself.’ That kind of sucked and I felt like I was a complete failure of an adventurer …

But here’s a secret: being brave doesn’t always mean doing big huge things. It can be little things too. No one but you knows just how much effort it takes to smile at that stranger, to step onto the bus, to attempt something in a different language.

Bravery – like adventures – comes in all shapes and sizes and every little bit should be celebrated. Being brave doesn’t mean you don’t feel afraid or a little bit cowardly – being brave means you do things in spite of those feelings.

Keep going.

You got this.

BE BRIGHT-EYED IT’S ALL IN THE MIND

Adventures come in many forms. Big. Small. Medium. Tiny. Ginormous. And it’s all down to your mindset. You could view doing the weekly shopping as a chore OR you could view it as an opportunity to slip a pun in when speaking to a cashier, decide who among your fellow shoppers is a secret agent or a shapeshifter or is secretly addicted to growing peppers, make multiple words out of advertising, or buy an item of food you’d never ordinarily touch.

Perspective – it’s powerful. Choose to see the bright side of things. Choose to find the extraordinary in the ordinary. Choose adventures – in whatever way they come.

Life itself is an adventure and it’s a big one.

Choose to see the beauty. Choose to see the fun. Choose, and find joy in it.

Life

how to survive without a laptop

Well. So much for posting twice a week. I do have a reason for my absence; my laptop (or rather, the laptop belonging to my brother) decided to retreat behind an eternally black screen. I was not overwhelmingly happy with this decision.

PANIC LIKE THERE’S NO TOMORROW

You know, like ‘party like there’s no-‘ fine. my blogging skills are rusty.

It is a second of extreme crisis – that moment when you realize that technology has Failed You. History fans out before your very eyes. (Interestingly, history is mostly represented by Mongols). How on earth did they survive without a laptop, you demand of Wikipedia.

(Oh. Wait. You can’t look up anything on Wikipedia. Your laptop is as responsive as a stone.)

crying.gif

ACCEPT YOUR FATE

After brief moments of panic in which the future is hopeless and your life void of joy, you realize that … you can survive this. The Mongols did. The Vikings did. Robin Hood didn’t need twitter or, or a blog to have his valiant adventures.

(Actually. He didn’t exist. Probably. Except in your head. Diverted, a moment of quiet, sad reflection is spent on this thought.)

You can survive this absence of technology.

You can use your iPad, kindle, and phone.

You can cope.

EXIST. LIVE- NAY. THRIVE!!

Suddenly you find that you aren’t wasting time, whiling away the hours surfing the web. (You are versatile – you find other ways to waste time.)

Instead of being distracted by your blog, you write Greenwood unintelligibly by hand, your letters formed with grace and skill that a drunken chicken would be proud of.

You write twelve pages.

And then, you snap. You’ve had enough. Why?

  1. You have to edit a project
  2. It just … is a different experience, writing without a laptop (You like it. to an extent. but not to a very large extent. And certainly not for an entire six months)
  3. You are never – in a million years – going to be able to reread your handwriting

TO HECK WITH IT. BUY ANOTHER LAPTOP

It doesn’t have to be flashy. It just has to have Word, a (working) screen, and a keyboard. (Definitely a keyboard.)

Yes. It will cost money, and yes, Dickens and Austen authored books without the aid of computers (and yes, that makes you feel like a second-rate writer, but … pfft. Time travel. They could have time traveled.Hypothetically speaking.) but you know what’ll it save you?

Squinting at your own handwriting.

horror.gif

So, I have a new laptop. His name is Ivanhoe. He is fast in the way of glaciers, with more memory than a gnat. But he has Word, a screen, and a keyboard. And so life is good. Nay. Life is beautiful.