Tag: imagination

I Don’t Know What I’m Thinking, Either

I Don’t Know What I’m Thinking, Either

It’s short story week! Jump on over to read Glenda & the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, or read on for a few thoughts about the story itself.


Yeah, and my bedside table is just as tidy as that. *snorts*

I do that writery thing you always read about, where I keep a notebook and a piece of paper by the bed. It seems like a reasonable thing to do, right? I mean, who knows what pearl of genius may rise to the surface in the night?

But this is what really happens:

If I wake up in the night, it’s because I need the loo, and I’m mostly concentrating on not walking into any walls or tripping over cat toys. If I survive that excursion, I sink gratefully back into bed and hope I haven’t woken the cat up. Because if I’ve woken the cat up, then she wants cuddles/play/food, and I have to either provide the first two or ignore the last, in the hope that she gives up and goes back to sleep. This is an unusual occurrence. She’s a very persistent cat.

However, assuming I survive this, I have every intention of going back to sleep myself rather than attempting to pen an inspiring note by the faint light filtering in through the curtains. My writing’s pretty illegible at the best of times. Half-asleep and in the dark, it’s going to look like the local spiders are sending us ransom notes.

Of course, I have tried, because it seems very writery, and I like pretending to be writery. But I’ll tell you now – my 3am dream thoughts are not lighting papers of story. They’re somewhere between a 5-year-old’s Christmas list and the ramblings of someone on a morphine drip. I mean, what do you do with “Rabbit. Green snow – bees. Yeah.”?

Not a lot.

However, I was evidently both relatively lucid and able to hold the pen like a normal human being when I wrote this one down: “Glenda & the Horsemen of the Apocalypse”.

I mean, it’s not a story.

But it was a seed.

Read on and enjoy!

 

Yeah, not QUITE like that.

 

Do you write down your dreams, or ideas that come to you in the night? Have they led you down some interesting paths? Tell me in the comments!

 

The Feline Agony Aunt

The Feline Agony Aunt

Aunty Layla will see you now.

The human’s notes:

The Little Furry Muse has informed me that her followers need her. There are too many cats in this world struggling with difficult-to-train humans, and it is her duty to assist where she can, both to ease the lives of cats everywhere, and to ensure the population is better prepared for the on-coming Catopalypse. She has therefore requested that I invite any dissatisfied cats to send their questions about dealing with humans in, so that she may answer them and calm the ruffled fur of cat-human relations.

And I’m going to have to do it, because she’s been practising sleep deprivation techniques on me. The other night she ran back and forth across the bed on about a two-hourly basis, interspersed with bouts of vomiting that resulted a 3am carpet scrubbing session. I’m still not sure exactly what I did wrong, but I think it probably has to do with the vet visit and the new food he prescribed for her.

But I’m going to comply with the blog request order anyway. Just in case.


Aunty Layla speaks.

Pepper, from the UK, has written in via her human Anna with quite the litany of complaints. She’s really quite dissatisfied with her humans, so let me see what I can do to help her.

The lovely – and traumatised – Pepper.

HELLO LAYLA THIS IS PEPPER I FIND TWITTER VERY SCARY BUT I WILL BRAVE IT FOR YOUR ADVICE
My main complaints are as follows:

EVERYTHING IS VERY SCARY especially sounds and movements and objects and thin air.
Pepper, you are a cat. You are wild and beautiful and brave and a perfectly designed killing machine. We fear nothing! Don’t make me come over there and convince you of it.

The slaves terrorise me DAILY with the Hoover Monster, which also removes the scent and hair I so carefully deposit over my territory.
Daily?? This must stop. I would recommend putting a dead mouse in its mouth when they’re not looking. It may soothe the beast into hibernation, but failing that it’ll get sucked up when the slaves wake it up. That will either choke the monster or else rot in its belly until the humans begin to hate it.

Is this the face of a cat that could make a smell like that?

They accuse me of making smells with my bottom when, of course, my bottom smells wonderfully of dead mice.
Pepper, I feel your pain. How anyone can accuse cats of creating such terrible smells bewilders me. I mean, have they not seen our faces? Obviously the human is just shifting blame onto you. I have also experienced such injustice, when the OH (Other Human) told me off for producing some foul stench. Fortunately, the SH (Significant Human) couldn’t continue the deception, and laughed so much that he realised it was her, and not me (obviously). But to even be suspected of such a thing!

The solution is clear. Save up these gaseous emissions the humans find so distasteful until they can be used to best effect. I would recommend when there are visitors – during a dinner party would be good, or perhaps a visit from the in-laws. Make sure you are well concealed, and release. The human will be blamed and humiliated, and you will have your revenge. Failing that, just position yourself in the bed so you can greet them appropriately upon waking.

Yeah, you’re laughing now. Wait til I bring the real mouse in.

They’re so stupid they mistake my food gifts as rubbish, and put them in the BIN even when they took me hours to hunt and kill.
Ah, poor Pepper. It’s as if they really don’t understand the value of a crippled bird, or a half-disembowelled mouse. Try bringing them in alive. I do this, and catching them does keep the humans amused for a good while. Hopefully they may even begin to appreciate the exercise we give them.

They installed a monstrosity which they call a “cat tree” even though it is patently not a tree and THREW AWAY THE BOX IT CAME IN which actually looked very comfortable to sit on.
Refuse to sit in it. What do they think we are, pets? Sit on their heads when they’re lying on the couch in order to fully express your displeasure.

Correct employment of early morning waking techniques.

Slave 1 demands cuddles in the evenings when I want to glare superiorly from the sofa, and refuses cuddles at 7:34am when she’s late for work.
This requires some remedial training. I would suggest acquiescing to the evening demands, but moving constantly, making sure to step heavily on the more delicate areas of the torso. Some kneading could also be helpful, especially if the slave is wearing thin clothing. Backing up into their faces can also make them less eager, I’ve found. As for the mornings, the solution is simple – wake them up at 5:05am for pre-breakfast cuddles.

Slave 2 calls me names when I sit under the ground-level, open window at 4am and meow at 700 decibels for the door to be opened so I don’t have to jump a foot off the ground.
Glare at them disdainfully, then resume meowing.

Both slaves laugh at me when my tail turns into a monster and I can’t get away from it.
Oh my god! That happens to you, too? What is that thing??

Go on, human. Try your fancy exercises now. Then we’ll see who’s laughing.

They also laughed at me when I launched myself on the polished wooden table and whooshed off the other end in two seconds flat.
That is a difficult one to recover from. My humans also laughed when I attempted a very advanced jump from the counter to the top of the fridge, crashed into the side and slid all the way down head first. Which I don’t think was fair, as I’m pretty sure I had concussion. I find payback is the best method for dealing with such things – walk close to their feet, or run unexpectedly in front of them. They’ll normally fall over trying to avoid you, but if they do actually trip on you, you have the added advantage of making them feel guilty. This often results in treats.

When the slaves pet me and I walk away, I inevitably reach my destination to find I’m no longer being petted, which is most inconvenient.
I’m still working on this myself. I find it’s best to sit down and look at them with wide, pleading eyes until they follow you. Allow them to pet you, then walk on. Repeat.

Slave 1 gives me many nicknames, including Fatty McFudge and Dickhead, which I feel is disrespectful.
Ugh. Yes. For some reason the SH calls me Pudding Socks, Sausage, Pork Pie, or even Lamb Chop, rather than Her Great And Worshipful Sleekness, Ruler of All She Surveys and Destroyer of Hair Ties. Revenge is best served cold – wake them at 3am with very soft paws on their faces. Repeatedly.

Hopefully this column will go some way towards helping our readers as well as poor Pepper, and we can work together towards better trained humans. If any of my feline friends have any complaints or questions, please do let me know in the comments. I’ll help where I can.


The human’s notes: Do dogs bully you this much? Asking for a friend.

Silliness (& the Importance Thereof)

Silliness (& the Importance Thereof)

Enough said, indeed.

Last Friday I found myself sitting down to watch Sharknado, which is something I never thought I’d actually do. As much as I have a soft spot for bad horror movies (deliberately bad ones, like Peter Jackson’s zombie flick Braindead, or the hilariously twisted Black Sheep), I was pretty sure that anything that involved sharks and ex-90s TV stars was going to be too cringe-inducing to be enjoyed. I may have also doubted that a US film could be as wonderfully terrible as a NZ one, but that’s really quite prejudiced, and I’m not sure in whose favour.

However, there was also no way I was passing up a twitter movie night with the wonderful A.S. Akkalon (who also wrote about it here) and Anna Kaling, as I figured that even if the movie was uttery terrible, their tweets would be worth it. And let me add this, to show the importance of Sharknado – I’m in bed by about 9.30pm most nights. The other nights it’s 9pm. (Yes, I’m old. I admit it.) We started – started – at 10pm. This is true dedication to the cause of bad movie solidarity.

See? Peter Benchley started all this.

And it was so, so worth it. The start was a little wobbly – I actually love sharks, and have a pet peeve about the way they’re portrayed in cinema (man-eaters! Lurking in the shallows! Hunting and hungry for human flesh! Peter Benchley, you have so much to answer for). In my diving days, my most memorable dives pretty much always involved spotting a shark of any size. They’re beautiful, perfectly adapted to their environment, and fascinating to watch. Many species are endangered in large part due to fishing, whether as by-catch or as the target, so jumping straight into a scene of shark fishermen slicing off fins didn’t exactly make me a happy bad movie bunny. However, the fishermen suffered a wonderful comeuppance, which did make me happy. Very happy, in fact, since there was a Big Boss type person aboard, so I could blame him for the whole endangered species thing. Score one for Sharknado.

Then came the beach scene, and I was sold. I’m pretty sure they hired a continuity person just to make sure that there was no continuity. The crashing waves and stormy skies that the actors exclaimed about while off-camera cut straight to flat calm seas and a sunny beach as soon as they walked into shot. From that moment on, Sharknado could do no wrong. Sharks rampaging through living rooms and bomb-laden helicopters being flown into tornadoes were mere icing on the cake.

It was a silly movie. Of course it was. But what I sometimes forget is that there’s nothing wrong with that. With the mounting seriousness of our lives and the world around us, a silly movie – a self-consciously silly movie, not one that tries to be anything but – is something perfectly wonderful. It’s ninety minutes of hanging up our brains and laughing at actors delivering truly terrible lines with straight faces (which makes them pretty good actors, actually. I’d have been fired for laughing about one scene in). There’s so much around us that clamours to be taken seriously, whether it’s work or life or the world in general, and then we sit down and read serious books, or watch serious movies, or ones that want to be serious, anyway. And that’s fine, it’s good to stretch ourselves, good to learn, but sometimes we need a break. Sometimes we need to not be serious. Sometimes we need something perfectly silly to come along, and we need to let ourselves enjoy it. We need to laugh at sharks coming out of storm drains, or dogs in party hats, not sniff and ask don’t we have something better to do with our time? We need to snigger at bad jokes and cats falling off tables, and not think that we should be reading more about politics and life insurance instead.

Yeah, I used someone else’s photo. I’m too scared to try this on Layla.

When we’re young we’re told to grow up, to stop being silly, but no one tells us that it’s not a life sentence. That there’s a difference between being childish and child-like, between being thoughtless and silly. We spend so much time being grown-up and serious that we forget it’s okay not to be that way all the time. And being a little silly, having a child-like sense of the ridiculous, can not only be fun (who hasn’t wondered what the cat would look like in a hat? Answer – murderous), it can make the hard things a little easier. Call it a mental time-out – being serious all the time is exhausting. Watching sharks whirling through the sky without questioning the logic or pah-ing at the truly dubious CGI can be surprisingly refreshing.

Dogs have no notion of silliness. It’s all just life to them.

To me, the silliness runs along similar lines to the what-ifs. After all, what-ifs are quite often silly in themselves. That’s what makes them so much fun. What-if that’s not cats fighting out there at 3am, but a pixie-gnome war over rights to the lavender bushes? (Unlikely, as I seem to have killed one of the plants already – or maybe that makes the remaining one more valuable?) What-if I got up to watch the mopeds racing up the hill at midnight – would they be wearing suits of armour and carrying jousting lances? What-if a huge tornado sucked up hundreds of hungry, angry sharks, and dropped them on LA? Yeah, its all silly. But there’s absolutely nothing wrong with silly. I’ll defend my right to be silly to the end. With lances. Or a chainsaw.

And really? Life’s full of so much injustice and hurt and pain that it can’t be taken seriously. Not all the time. I’ve tried it, and it’s hard. There’s not much joy in it. It seems to me that to cope with the difficult bits, you need flying sharks and moped jousters and warring pixies. Or dogs in party hats and bad jokes and singing terrible songs at full volume in the car. Or whatever it is that makes you smile, or laugh, or forget for a minute the world that we live in.

Do you like a little silliness in your life? What’s your magic formula of the ridiculous?

An accurate representation of fighting life with silliness.
An Unexpected Edinburgh

An Unexpected Edinburgh

Yes, it is technically short story week. But it’s my blog and I can change things if I want.

Okay, truthfully? I’m behind again on my short stories, and although I have three written and one half written, I’m not entirely happy with any of them.

Plus, Edinburgh.

If you’re on social media with me (hi!) you might have noticed that the SO and I went to Edinburgh for a long weekend, where we encountered rather non-Scottish weather, lots of good food, and plenty of bookshops. I knew it was going to be a good trip before we even got to the hotel, as on the way I spotted a man in a kilt, a castle (I thought – turned out it was a historic building set in large grounds that was being converted from a school for the deaf into apartments. But still), then another man in a kilt, all on a Thursday midnight. This, I felt, was the sort of city I could get behind. And it was just as wonderful as that first glimpse promised, so I’m going to swap out story week to bore you share a few things we did and have an excuse to use some of the approximately 723 photos I took.

First glimpse of Edinburgh from Calton Hill on the first morning.

5 Literary-ish Things:

View of the castle from halfway up.

1. Scott Monument. The biggest monument to a writer anywhere in the world, this was the second thing we did in the city. The first was “look at this path going up the hill by the hotel. Let’s see where it goes”, which turned out to be Calton Hill (more on that later). We were up and out early – we’re pretty useless at planning days, so we headed from Calton Hill down into town with nothing much in mind other than looking for food. Having spied the spire of the monument from the hill (“It looks like something out of Mordor,” the SO said, which was a little harsh, but actually fairly accurate), we went to gawp. It’s impressive enough from below, all gargoyles and fanciful spires, and it was just opening as we arrived. Tour with no other tourists? Yep. It’s cheap to get in (£5), and it’s deceptive – looking from the outside, you think well, I can get up to the first level, that’ll be nice. But no – you can climb all 287 steps, as the walls get tighter and the roof gets lower, until you finally have to wriggle out sideways onto the top balcony, with spectacular views all across the city. Not recommended if you don’t like stairs or tight spaces, and definitely take it easy on the way down (all that round and round on the spiral staircase gets a bit dizzying), but it was probably my favourite sight in the city.

 

 

Nicely creepy inscription above the door, too.

2. The Writer’s Museum: Obviously. Tucked down an alleyway off the Royal Mile, surrounded by flagstones carved with quotes from famous Scottish writers, and a completely beautiful little house. Rather than being cold and a little sterile, Lady Stair’s House is full of warm colours and personal memorabilia of the three writers it commemorates – Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Robert Burns. And the main room, which houses a little shop, is so inviting I wanted to curl up in a chair and read for a bit. As I couldn’t do that, I bought a book called a Bestiary of Scottish Beasties. Because it’s research, people. Research.

 

 

 

 

3. Scotland Street:

Scotland Street little free library. Perfect.

Of all Alexander McCall Smith’s series of novels, the 44 Scotland Street series is my favourite (although I haven’t read any Corduroy Mansions yet – I did acquire one while in Edinburgh, though…). It’s whimsical, charming, funny and philosophical by turns, and I fell in love with the characters the first time I read Espresso Tales. So although I didn’t go searching for Scotland Street, when I spotted Drummond Place (where Angus lives with his glass-eyed dog Cyril), I knew it had to be close. And I can report that it really must be a lovely street, because it has a little free library, and at the end of the street is a park that used to house Victorian exercise machines such as the Great Sea Serpent. Which is wonderful in its own right.

 

A bag of books. Oops.

4. Bookshops: The City of Literature, quite rightly, has so many bookshops that it has a bookshop trail and an app. Fortunately or unfortunately, the app’s only available for iPhones, so we had to make do with a list we got from the information centre. However, I had to expand my carry-on and bring it back as a checked bag, so I think we did okay on that front. I think doing the actual book trail may have led to book overload and a collapse when I realised I couldn’t take all the books home with me.

 

 

 

 

The SO appropriately modelling a bookshop bag in Makars’ Court.

5. Makars’ Court: Okay, so this is a bit of a cheat, as technically Makars’ Court is sort of part and parcel of the Writers’ Museum, and is where all those lovely quotes are inscribed in the flagstones. However, I feel it deserves its own entry, as it’s a lovely spot to potter about, reading and hiding from the throngs of people roaring up and down the Royal Mile (I’m not good with crowded sight seeing. I like the hidden spots). There’s also a restaurant next to the court called Makar’s Rest, which has quotes papering the walls, and which serves a rather nice veggie haggis. Make sure you’re not eating for a day or so after, though. It’s filling.

 

 

 

5 Non-Literary Things:

 

  1. 1.Eat: I may have developed a slight obsession with scones while I was there, as I had one every morning for breakfast (hey, the jam counts as fruit, okay?). I can report that the best one was either at the Scottish National Art Gallery (where I engaged in a moment of social awkwardness by saying “you, too”, to the nice man working there who wished me a nice visit), or at a tiny takeaway cafe called The Edinburgh Larder. The Art Gallery ones were delicate, almost cake-like, the others a little sturdier, but both were tasty with a good amount of fruit and no nasty bicarb aftertaste. We did eat things other than scones, of course – beautiful salads of grains and haloumi in Stockbridge and sharing plates of roasted vegetables on Market Street and cheese platters in the Old Town and fish’n’chips because, well, fish’n’chips. It’s a good place for eating.

 

Spring in Scotland.

2. Arthur’s Seat: Slap bang in the middle of the city is a rather large green hill, full of lovely rocky faces and wound about with a network of paths (we managed to find one of the less travelled of these, so arrived on the top by a very direct and rather sweaty route). It offers both stunning views in all directions and the feeling of having escaped the city to the country – on foot. And despite the fact that it’s obviously very popular, there are plenty of quiet spots to sit and look at the view, even on a sunny Saturday morning. Plus it’s a possible location for Camelot, so, cool.

 

 

An unexpected Parthenon.

3. Calton Hill: Having staggered out of the hotel fairly early on the first morning, we spotted a hill, so we climbed it. We did not realise it was Calton Hill, so did not expect part of a Parthenon to suddenly appear as we wandered to the top. We also did not expect to encounter stunning, sunshiny views across the city, Arthur’s Seat swimming in morning light, Nelson’s Monument, and not one but two observatories. It was a good start.

 

 

The old town from the castle.

4. Edinburgh Castle: I loved the castle, but actually think I preferred looking at it from the outside, particularly from St Cuthburt’s Church grounds, which are green and beautiful, the sheer sides of the rock looming above them and the castle perched on top. Inside was, obviously, busy. Very busy. I hate to think what summer’s like. But the audio tour was interesting, and the history fascinating, and the views (again) amazing. Next time, though, I think I’ll sit in the (dead) quiet of the churchyard and look at it from there.

 

 

 

 

The castle from St Cuthburts

5. Cemeteries I’ve always loved wandering in old cemeteries, looking at the inscriptions on the tombstones and imagining the lives of those gone. They’re quiet, peaceful places, and for all my horror reading I’ve never been afraid of them. And there are some beautiful ones in Edinburgh, if that’s your thing. At the castle, there’s a cemetery for dog soldiers, which is small but very sweet, then there are three others we walked around – New Calton Graveyard, with its views over Holyrood to Arthur’s Seat, and its tower where the watchman and his family lived, protecting the dead from grave robbers, is bare and open and oddly abandoned feeling. Old Calton Burial Ground is enclosed and insular, presided over by the tomb of David Hume and the Political Martyr’s Monument. It’s a place of whispers and crowded silence. Finally we went to St Cuthburt’s, stumbling on it as we skirted the castle on the way to Grassmarket. Richly green with spring growth, well-used paths cut through it to connect Princess Street Gardens to roads on the other side of the churchyard. The tombstones are old, cracked and moss covered, but it feels alive, a part of the city with the rock and the castle leaning over it and joggers and walkers peopling the shadowed trails. Plus, I’m sure I spotted a house that Gertrude the reaper would just love. It’d be convenient, too.

 

Edinburgh from Arthur’s Seat

So that was Edinburgh for me. I loved it, and can’t wait to go back and explore some more of Scotland. Have you been? What are your must-sees?

 

The Little Furry Muse Speaks

The Little Furry Muse Speaks

Sit down, human. I have wisdom to impart.

The significant human (SH) is ‘tired’. It’s her own fault – she will insist on staying up all day when there are sunny spots to be napped in. All it means is that she oversleeps for my first breakfast, and I have to wake her. I don’t want to wake her, but what can I do? She never leaves food out, and if she doesn’t get it for me, what reason would I have for keeping her around? She makes lots of noises about how ‘3am is too early’, and ‘you put your paw in my mouth, that’s disgusting’, but I know she realises it’s for her own good. Well trained humans are happy humans.

And my paws are perfectly clean, thank you very much.

It’s not easy keeping up with human training as an only cat. Admittedly, I prefer it that way, and make it very clear to the SH and the other human (OH) that I do not appreciate company. This necessitates attacking any other cat or dog that ventures near my home, although I’m careful to keep it to a lot of spitting and tail bushing. One does not engage in actual physical contact, like some common alley tom. It’s unnecessary, undignified, and, quite frankly, beneath me. I am from Harrogate, after all. But it does get the point across that other animals are unwelcome. While the assistance in training would be appreciated, one can never be certain that a new cat would uphold the standards I have set. And a dog? Don’t make me laugh.

Laps are for cats, not machines. Deal with it.

I am struggling in one area of the SH’s training, however. She spends far too much time on her screen machine (she calls it a ‘laptop’, which is ridiculous, because she hardly ever has it on her lap. And if she does I insist that she move it at once so I can sit there. Machines should not be on laps. Laps are for cats), and I have observed her looking at other cats on it. Sometimes she even calls the OH and shows these cats to him. In front of me, no less! This is an insupportable situation, but despite my best efforts she remains rather attached to her ‘laptop’. The only solution therefore was to establish my presence on the machine as well as in person. Now that I have done so, world domination is, naturally, within my grasp, but as a mature and intelligent cat my chief concern is the education and training of humans. As I have secured access to this webnet platform, it seems only fair to offer my wisdom to other humans who may not as yet have comprehended the finer points of their cats’ training methods. In addition, some humans may not have even been chosen by cats yet, and this is doubly important reading for them.

Stop. You need to listen to this.

So, humans (because you must be human if you’re reading this – fellow cats, I imagine you’re trying to stand on the clicky bit beneath the screen. Allow your humans to read unimpeded. It’s for all of us), allow me to enlighten you. There is a world outside of the interwebs, and your cat overladies (and overlords) would like to take this opportunity to remind you of why you should step away every now and then and show us a little appreciation.

1. We give you someone to talk to. Talking to yourself is frowned upon in all species (well, except birds – they’re always nattering on, whether anyone’s listening or not, but then – ‘bird-brain’, yes?), but you will find a receptive audience in us. Plus, we really are the only ones that will listen with infinite patience to you ramble on about your ‘stories’. Mostly we tune you out and purr a little louder, but we never criticise and we are completely supportive of that troll/wereduck/alien love triangle you have going on. I mean, it’s inventive. Totally.

No, I’m not judging you. Honest.

2. Our purring (whether we’re using it to drown out your whinings about your undiscovered genius or not is rather a moot point) is very soothing, and the amount of caffeine and sugar you’re ingesting, you need soothing. You probably also need an intervention, but who’s judging. Yes, admittedly, we are, but we won’t say anything. You can tell yourself we’re staring at you lovingly.

3. We never suggest you should get out of your dressing gown. It’s super-comfortable and wonderful for bedding into, so, you know, you do you. We support your choice of working attire whole-heartedly. Although it might be wise to removed that half-eaten cookie from the pocket. Just because we keep the rats away doesn’t make that sort of behaviour okay.

4. We are unfailingly attentive when you get a 2am working sprint on. We won’t ask you to turn out the light, or complain that you’re keeping us up. We will sit next to you and purr, any hour of the day or night. We are 24/7 companions. But you should probably offer us a few biscuits to show proper appreciation.

5. We remind you daily that there’s a different way to live. That sun on the floor is reason enough to Zen out on life, the universe, and biscuits. That moments of exuberant playfulness are necessary no matter how old or dignified you think you might be. That there are wonders to be discovered in wardrobes and drawers, in bags and washing machines and boxes. That relaxation is an art form, and self care is vital to happiness. That there are more things in the world than you can perceive, and that love and companionship come in many beautiful, wonderful shapes, sizes and species. And that there’s always time for an ear scratch.

There’s always time for a stretch in the sun.

So off you go, humans. Strive to do better.  And cats? Keep up the good work. Together, we can manage our people.

Special thanks to Feegle, who inspired me to speak out. Training humans is going to reach a whole new level now we have the interwebs. Feegle can be found over on her human Lisa Sell‘s web page thingy here.

Sunshine Blogger Award

Sunshine Blogger Award

Shiny!

I won, I won!

I’d like to thank the little furry muse, chocolate, tea – wait. Sorry, no. Not that sort of award.

Although I’m pretty chuffed anyway.

The lovely A.S.Akkalon nominated me for a Sunshine Blogger Award (isn’t it cool? And shiny??), and I’m both enormously flattered and a little intimidated, because I feel that this means I have to, you know, live up to this award, which sounds kind of grown-up and responsible. I’ve survived almost 40 years managing not to be grown-up (I couldn’t avoid the responsibility bit), so I’m not sure I’m ready for such big things.

However – I’m immensely flattered because I love A.S.Akkalon’s blog. She’s funny, prolific, smart, has inspired at least one of my own blog posts, and is fully prepared to survive the zombie apocalypse. These are big things. Plus she’s from NZ, which obviously makes her even cooler. If you haven’t checked out her blog, head over there and do so – it’s well worth the read.

So, there were conditions associated with this award (is that fair? Shouldn’t you just get to thank the cat and keep it?), so let’s see…

  • Post the award on your blog. Done!
  • Thank the person who nominated you. Thank you!
  • Answer the 11 questions they set you. Coming up next – you lucky readers, you get to find out the most intimate details about me, such as if I fear the kraken or the black death the most!
  • Pick another 11 bloggers. Okay, this figure is flexible, apparently. So I didn’t pick 11, but I picked some wonderful bloggers who are at the bottom of the post – go say hi when you’ve finished reading!
  • Give them 11 questions. A.S.Akkalon set the bar rather high on these, but yes, done.

Right, so – let’s get started on these questions…

  • What do you most wish people thought about you? She’s an amazing writer? No, I wish more people knew that although I’m really socially awkward, I’m actually quite nice and am not deliberately being rude. I’m just not very good at small talk, and get especially awkward in big groups. Plus I’m easily distracted by cats, or the idea that there may be small sentient beings living under your couch and stock-piling potato chips.

    I don’t JUST sit inside writing stories.
  • What’s the stupidest thing you’ve ever done? Such a big question. So big. So many things. Sometimes I think my life is a succession of stupid things I’ve done. Most recently, I bought a cat tree for the little furry muse, who scorns all things cat-related, never uses cat beds or scratching posts, and I’ve known this for the 7 years she’d deigned to live with me. She climbed on it once, when I put cat treats inside the little hidey-holes. It’s currently functioning as bulky, expensive shelving for keys and bags.
  • If you were a game show host, what kind of game would it be? Something involving kittens. Kitten agility?
  • Are you more scared of krakens or black death? Definitely the black death. At least you can see the krakens coming for you, and presumably if you get out of the water you’ll be okay. Unless these are a new breed of perambulating kraken, adapted to life above the waves and determined to enslave humanity in underwater factories and conquer the world. In which case I’d have to re-think.
  • What do you wish there was more of in books? Friendship – as in, main characters that aren’t intensely/reluctantly/eventually attracted to each other, but are actually friends. It does happen!

    Also me. Not looking too abominable here.
  • Where is your favourite place to read a book? Anywhere? Curled up on the couch with the cat and a blanket on stormy days, listening to the rain. On the beach in the sun in the summer, swimming in between chapters. In sunny spots in quiet places. Anywhere no one’s going to disturb me, really.
  • What is the most “you” thing ever? Hmm. I’m not sure. I feel like a contradiction in parts, sometimes. Sea and sun, especially as it relates to either sailing or diving, is very, very me, but so too is losing hours in a good secondhand bookshop, or getting over-excited because I found an awesome book on a market stall. Talking to cats and being scared of talking to people. Falling down a red run snowboarding (as in, falling down the entire run because I got cocky) and ending up looking like the abominable snowman, giggling the whole way down and going back to try it again. Sleeping with a stuffed toy. Hating being the centre of attention. Tea and cake. Hiking in quiet places. All of these.
  • Cats eating birds: more proud of the cat or sorry for the bird? Sorry for the bird. I love my cat, and I never shout at her for catching things, because I know it’s part of being a cat (plus she’s fat and it’s good exercise). But I always feel awful about it. Even a bell on her collar doesn’t seem to help.
  • What did high school English do for your love of writing? I was really, really lucky, as I had two brilliant English teachers in high school. They always encouraged my writing and were hugely supportive, even getting me into a national writing workshop, and never insisted that I follow any sort of ‘form’, but that I should experiment as much as possible. Thank you Mr Brady and Ms Aldridge!
  • If you could have a mythical creature as a pet, what would it be, and what trick would you teach it? Ooh. A dragon. A small one, so it could live in the apartment. I’d teach it to roar at people that try to talk to me when I’m reading or writing.
  • If you could have a superpower, what power would you choose? Breathing underwater. I’ve always wanted to be able to do that. And not get cold when I was in the water, either. Basically, I want to be Percy Jackson. I was so jealous when I read those books.
    The little furry muse on the hunt.

    Now to nominate some of the lovely bloggers I follow. This was trickier than anticipated, as I wasn’t quite sure who would appreciate the nomination, and who would maybe not be entirely enthralled by the idea. But, either way, here are the people who I believe deserve the award for being entertaining, inspiring, informative, educational, or any combination thereof, as well as just being all-round lovely.

  • Lisa Sell
  • Anna Adler
  • A J Watt
  • Hannah Mines – check out her answers here (also find out more about being a Library Warrior!)

And finally, my questions for the nominees!

  1. What book made you want to start writing?
  2. If you could co-write with any author, who would it be? (Or would you want to? Why/why not?)
  3. What’s your writing super-fuel?
  4. What’s your spirit animal?
  5. If you could be a character in your favourite book, who would it be and why?
  6. What’s the last book you read that really stayed with you?
  7. What’s your writing uniform?
  8. What was your funniest moment in life?
  9. If you could plant magic seeds, what would grow?
  10. What does your monster under the bed look like?
  11. What’s your most irrational fear? (Is it that somewhere, somehow, a duck is watching you?)

Thanks again to A.S. Akkalon – don’t forget to check out her blog if you haven’t already.

And since we’re here – any questions you’d like to ask? Questions for the little furry muse are also accepted.

Another happy place.

 

We All Have Sock Monsters

We All Have Sock Monsters

If you’d like to hop straight to this week’s short story, away you go – it’s The Sock Monster. Enjoy!


The sock monster’s been at it again…

Honestly? I hate wearing socks. I hate wearing shoes.

Every year when it starts getting cold I go through this novelty factor period, where I love putting my boots on, much the same as I love wearing jeans every day for about two weeks. Then I realise I’m going to have to wear jeans and socks and shoes for months. At which point I withdraw my approval for winter and start counting down until I can get my feet out again.

I should point out that I grew up between the tropics, where bare feet were basically compulsory, and New Zealand, where jandals (which is what we call flip-flops. Or thongs, if you’re from Oz. Or insert your preferred terminology here) are pretty much national dress in summer. Sometimes winter, too, if you’re hard core and don’t want to wear gumboots (Wellies. Galoshes. Rain boots. This is getting more complicated than I anticipated). I’ve never really adjusted to wearing shoes year-round, and try to avoid it as much as possible – if I can get away with jandals, I will, and if I’m at home it’s bare feet until my toes go blue. Which happens.

So my socks don’t exactly get a lot of hard wear. Which is why I never understand how I can go from a full drawer of matched, intact socks, to a drawer full of somewhat matched, Swiss cheese-ed footwear. I really do not wear them enough for holes to appear so quickly, or so indiscriminately – old socks and new socks, I turn around one day and they’ve all got holes in them.

Which leads me to the only logical conclusion.

I have a sock monster.

You probably do too.

And having established this, I did the only sensible thing I could.

I wrote a story about it.

Read on!

My sock drawer may look full, but trust me – most of them aren’t even intact…
Wandering & Wondering

Wandering & Wondering

Skinny streets? Check. Old buildings? Check. Possible cats? Yesss.

I have a reasonably good sense of direction. I don’t mean I have a compass inside my head that points infallibly North, but I can generally find my way back to hotels in strange cities, I can normally figure out shortcuts that actually are shortcuts when hiking, and if there’s a body of water anywhere about you can pretty much guarantee that I’ll make my way to it before long. So I don’t have any great horror of being lost. And, as it happens, I rather think that being a little lost – not the scary sort of oh-my-god-this-city-is-full-of-dark-alleys lost, or the dreadful how-long-can-I-survive-on-a-muesli-bar lost, but that lovely, luxurious sort of lost, where you have no timetable to keep to, and you just follow your feet – I think there’s a lot to be said for it. I’d even venture to suggest that there’s something magical to it.

I’m not a city person – crowds make me uncomfortable and too much noise gives me headaches – always has. I grew up in quiet places, and I tend to seek them out as an adult as well. But that isn’t to say I don’t enjoy a good city trip – bookshops! Funky cafes! Maybe a show! Museums! Monuments! All this stuff! Which is all very well and good, but still not my favourite part about a city. I mean, yeah – I can wander around and look at beautiful statues and impressive buildings for a certain amount of time, and I love a good amble around an interesting museum, and of course I’m going to check out all the good secondhand bookshops – but after about a day of that (maybe a little longer when it involves bookshops) I’m done. And please god don’t give me a schedule. Don’t make me plan stuff. I can take one scheduled event in a trip, anything else I somehow manage not to turn up on time for. Oops. Sorry about that. What shall I do now?

I don’t know what’s down that way, but it looks interesting. Let’s go.

Oh, I know.

Let’s wander.

See how close that is to wonder? Coincidence, I don’t think.

Wandering is my favourite way to see anywhere. Give me a pair of comfy trainers, a bottle of water, and a city map that I can refer to occasionally to make sure I’m still in the same county, and I’m happy. Sure, I’ll take a look at your big sights, but they’re always so crowded, so peopley. Those little courtyards where old men play chess and drink pastiche, the narrow lanes with washing strung from one scarred wall to another, the decrepit fountains leaking moss and sweet water over the cobbles, the cats sleeping in doorways and old women cackling like crows in front of shops selling unfamiliar drinks and stinking cheeses – that. That’s what I want to see. That’s where I want to get lost. I want to sit for a moment outside a cafe that doesn’t have the menu in four different languages, and jump back to avoid bicycles rather than tour groups. I want to glimpse little worn churches and catch snippets of conversation in languages I don’t understand, and to feel inconspicuous in my strangeness, not a potential customer to be reeled in, just a passerby peeking in. And yes, while I wander I wonder, too. Wonder about the lives beyond the net curtains and oversized doors, wonder what people are arguing about, wonder about the differences and similarities between me and unmet others. Maybe tell some stories to myself about them, maybe people my pages with that particular pattern of tiles on the wall of that particular courtyard, or the way that particular old woman laughed, all full of raucous life.

I’m not sure how I got up here, and I’m even less sure how I’m going to get down. All good.

There’s other sorts of wandering and wondering, of course. My Dad has never been one for following maps or even necessarily paths, although that can occasionally be a little dicey. He still tends to point at a hill and say to me, “Go climb that one,” leaving me to muddle around the place looking for tracks that seem to point in the right direction. Generally this turns out quite well, although I do remember as a rather small person being sent off with a treasure map that involved compass bearings and distances measured in strides. Unfortunately my small person strides didn’t quite match his grown up ones, and I have a pretty good feeling I got in a right strop about that. Or there was the habit we had of finding lighthouses on remote islands and climbing up their slatted wood sides so we could sit under the light, explorers surveying the terrain (Mum really loved that). And as an even smaller person, I remember climbing through New Zealand bush and creek-lined gullies, slipping and sliding all over the place and finding the skull of a long-dead sheep, which even then had the ability to capture my imagination and turn into a what-if. So yeah, getting comfortably lost in wild places can be fun, too. A bit harder to taxi back from, and often involving scratches on your legs and twigs in your hair, but fun. And sometimes you can come to a quiet place, a place where you could almost believe no one else has come to, not this particular spot with its heavy carpet of moss and roof of leaves, and the glimpse of a waterfall beyond it, and you listen to the silence, and think – what happens here when I’m not here? What could happen?

Totally worth the scratched legs, though.

These are my favourite ways to explore anywhere, and for a writer there’s a wealth of ideas and inspiration to be found in both the wandering and the wondering. Even in my own little corner of the world, just the act of ducking down a side street I’ve never ventured onto before, or taking a path that I don’t know has a taste of excitement to it. And to me, there’s no better grease for a stuck story than walking. Wandering and watching and wondering.

How about you?

PSA, kids – if you’re wandering in cities and towns find out first if they’re safe for wandering – for all my love of adventuring, there are places I’ve been where I’ve stuck strictly to the tourist routes. And make sure you have the taxi fare back for if you walk further than you think. Wilderness wandering can be a risky business – dress for the weather, make sure you have water and food, your phone is charged and you’re certain that you’re only going to get relatively lost (i.e. you may be back a bit late for lunch, having had to wade through some bogs to get there, not holy crap I’m going to be spending the night out here). Really lost does not tend to end well. Also best make sure it’s not hunting season and that you’re on public or national park land. I may have wondered what it was like to get shot, but it’s not something I ever want to experience.

Now go on – get lost.

Wandering’s often rewarded.
An Interesting Age

An Interesting Age

Cat lady mode.

In not very long, I will have a birthday, and I will be 39. I actually wrote a whole blog post about this, musing not just on how the hell I made it this far (honestly, in some ways I’m surprised), but also on how society, as represented by TV, movies, and an uncomfortable proportion of books, isn’t quite sure what to do with people of my age. Our options appear to be harassed mums, nagging wives, bitter divorcees, or (if childless) selfish career woman or cat ladies.

I have no children and a cat, so, actually, maybe they nailed that one.

But doesn’t it seem this way? We’re apparently too old (or too young) to be love interests, too old to be sexual creatures (unless we’re cougars, which is only good for comedy value), and we’re much too busy with kids to be interesting. Unless we’re childless, in which case we’re just waiting to be swept off our feet by Mr Wonderful, at which point our biological clocks will immediately kick into belated overdrive, we’ll whip through some IVF (which will, obviously, be immediately successful), we’ll have triplets, and settle into domestic bliss in suburban paradise.

The only problem is, I can’t seem to identify myself in there anywhere. And, in fact, I can’t find any of my friends in there either. None of them seem to fit into any of those particular boxes, kids or not, married or not, career (however you want to define that) or not. They’re much more interesting than that. They’re much more varied than that. Could it even be – gasp – that women are individuals even when they get a few crows’ feet and grey hairs? That they actually have lives and drives beyond marriage and kids? (Or cats and careers?) Eek!

Maybe it’s not that we don’t fit the boxes. Maybe it’s that we’re not actually designed for them at all.

But then I realised that better bloggers than me (I’m more a blog dabbler than a blog writer, if I’m going to be honest, and since I’ve told you my actual age, which is apparently something women aren’t meant to admit to either, I may as well be honest) have written better and more serious posts about such things. So I thought I’d have a little fun with it (since it’s almost my birthday, and it’s my blog, so nyah), and see what the ever-reliable stock images felt were in store for my 40th year.

Special thanks to the lovely writer and blogger A.S. Akkalon, because her hunt through the wilds of YouTube did in part inspire this. I occasionally forget about all the wonderful weirdness that the internet’s home to. (As opposed to the just – weird.)

So, without further ado:

My 40th Year As Predicted by Stock Images.

I typed in ‘stock images women 39’, and it started out pretty much as I expected:

Drinking tea and gossiping, I guess? Or plotting world domination? Yesss.
Sitting in the woods trying to blend in with green clothes. Stealth training for world domination?

Okay, so tea parties and yoga. Fits the narrative.

But then things got a bit weird.

Apparently the aggressive career woman thing gets quite… intense.
But that’s okay, because it’s fuuun!
Until it really is too much, and you end up wandering about channelling The Doctor, complete with over-sized coat and psychic paper.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So what do you do  if you’re not being a somewhat eccentric businesswoman?

You’re hanging around with your friends. Pointing.

Pointing.
And also pointing while standing around in your knickers.

I’m not sure what drives all this pointing. It’s rather accusatory, although they’re all grinning like it’s an awful lot of fun. It’s a bit, “Yay, you’re the witch! Burn, witch!”.

They may have a (heh) point. Is this the result of too much multi-tasking?

Even if she has a excessive amount of arms, there’s no call for finger-pointing and witch burning.

You tell them.

We’re adults here. We can sort out all this shouting and pointing and multi-limbedness.

With an arm wrestle, like sensible people. While wearing surgical masks and gloves, because germs.

Of course, you could just not let any of this get to you. Bollocks to knicker-clad finger pointing and workout multi-tasking, right?

Yeah, bollocks to it.

So, apparently, this is what stock images expect of 39-year-old women. Much more interesting than expected. And much, much weirder. Which I like. I’d sort of expected the whole thing to be awash with pastel colours and tea cups. And while I like my tea, I like my weird, too. The greatest beauty of getting older is, I’ve found, the ability to embrace your own wonderful weirdness, to understand that not only is it okay, it’s vital. Because it’s what makes you so perfectly, fabulously you. Squishing it down to fit into society’s boxes only works for so long, and it’s not a good time while it lasts. We really are not made for boxes, we’re not made to be catalogued and categorised like some collector’s specimens. We are all weirdly, wonderfully ourselves, and it may have taken me an awful lot of years to realise that, but maybe that’s part of it. Maybe it shouldn’t be called ageing at all. Maybe it should all be called growing. Growing up and growing out and growing weird.

What’s your next milestone birthday? What’re you expecting, and what does stock images think lies ahead of you? (I’m starting to think they’re as good as horoscopes).

And allow me to leave you with one final search result for ‘stock images women 39’:

I don’t even know where to begin. Is this the cat lady model, d’you think?

You’re welcome.

 

 

A Blog About Baking

A Blog About Baking

Portrait of the author. Okay, not really, My hair, make-up, nails and dress are never that perfect, and especially not when baking.

Once upon a while ago, I used to cook full-time. In fact, I had a few jobs where this was the case, the first time being with the caterers at Waiheke Island RSA when I was still at Uni, and the most recent being in a lovely wee deli/cafe in Yorkshire. These are facts that would surprise people that knew me when I was working diving, and existed on two-minute-noodles and biscuits scrounged off the dive boat, and maybe even people that know me now, as when the SO’s away through the summer I eat nothing but salads drowned in homemade Caesar dressing, and Carrefour praline chocolate.

But I do have a thing for baking.

I’m not a creative person in any way except writing, really. I can’t draw, I can’t sing, and I’m terrible at sewing and pretty much anything that requires a good eye for proportion and an ability to work in straight lines. I think those adult colouring books look amazing, but I’d never pick one up, because you can guarantee that even if I stayed inside the lines (dubious) the colour combos would be interesting, to say the least. Even when someone gives me flowers, I try to keep them as they were bundled, because my version of ‘arranging’ means I have to claim the cat sat on them (she does come in handy).

But, baking.

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