Warning: accidental pep talk

Saturday, April 1st – and the local council’s April Fool is to set workmen going with a jackhammer right outside the house, uprooting lampposts. Again, it’s Saturday. It’s the weekend. Everyone’s home trying to have a little lie-in and then do some household chores – at least, they are at this time in the morning. When the noise started up, I went to the window to snoop and scowl, and it seemed all the people in our little cul-de-sac had moved as one. We scowled at each other across the tarmac and then at the poor workmen who, let’s face it, probably don’t want to be working on a Saturday any more than we want them to be. I imagine in a short while there will be a mass exodus just to get away from the rattling.

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‘Do not store in direct sunlight’

Last week I bought (yet another) notebook and a lovely skinny pen, and the first thing I did – apart from sketch a thing that could have been a Sunday roast or an arctic roll being frowned at by an angry-looking fish – was write a to-do list on the back page in an effort to get thoughts and deeds in order.

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Chorus

Four months, according to WordPress, since I posted here saying I would not be posting regularly anymore, if at all. Two months since the post I stand by, the one that some people told me was scaremongering and over-reacting while I fervently hoped they were right – only so far nothing I’ve read in the news (and I mean verified facts) is making me feel that they might be.

So, in the new tradition of a post every two months, here’s one that is not about global news. Back to the good old days of updates about life, home life, projects, the little bubble that I live in. That sort of thing.

I’m musicking, these days. I’m musicking the fuck out of my life, in a way I haven’t since I was many many years younger. There are songs written and being written, and I am working with a lovely producer (though that title really stretches to collaborator) and recording songs. There’s one song out. It’s even had airplay on BBC Introducing, which is nice. And on local interweb radio show The Grind. It hasn’t had airplay anywhere else, but then I haven’t sent it anywhere else. It has a pretty video and a couple of fans. I have a Facebook page and perform under the name that I’ve used for the internet since I was about twelve.

coming-soon-2

There’s an EP on the way, too, which basically means I’m recording a little cluster of songs and sending them out into the world together next year. Truly, if I never do music again after this, I’ll be pleased that I did this much.

Hell, I’m doing a gig at the end of January. Yep, this is the woman who had ‘play an open mic’ on her to do list for something in the region of 15 years. I haven’t figured out the logistics of gigging and instruments, but I will. I have to, because I already said I’d do it. The biggest upside to putting the fucking fear of whatever into myself by saying yes is that open mics seem even less scary by comparison.

I don’t think I’ll ever be a person for whom the world and the unknown isn’t scary as hell. I’m just a lot better at throwing myself at the scary stuff and not worrying too much about landing on my face. Speaking of said face, I think I’m going to have to get over my general dislike of mine and start putting it out there a bit as well. I’ve been meaning to get a couple of reasonable photos done for the writing side of things for the past few months. I think I probably need a couple of the music side of things as well. I wonder if I can get away with the same photo for both?

God, but asking for portraits is weird though, isn’t it? ‘Please do not make me look like me. A more musical version, please. A more writerly one. And also unrecognisable. Can I wear a mask?’ There are some rather brilliant pictures of my sister-poet that were taken last week. We look slightly similar. I’m toying with the idea of just stealing those and pretending it’s me.

Anyway. Photographer suggestions welcome. The whole art and marketing side of things continues to baffle me, but again, I’ll figure them out. I know what I don’t want, and that’s a start.

Writing – I’ve levelled up. I’ve been shortlisted for Bristol and Bridport this year, which feels like a breakthrough though I also haven’t managed to complete a short story since. But then I also haven’t completed a blog entry (duh), a letter, or a poem. I’ve managed a song. I’ve managed articles I had to write. Writing’s been tough, is what I’m saying. It seems like a selfish act in a world that needs loud voices and less selfishness, and less hot-takes and more action. So it’s not been happening. Except for right now, because I am sat in a café waiting to catch a train.

Shit, guys, I feel as though I should be making this more of a call to arms or something. Or some sort of perky lifestyle inspiration. But neither of those things is my bag (honest to god, the aforementioned portraits should be of me looking slightly tired in slightly dusty dim surroundings, if they’re going to be at all honest. Just please – reduce chin. Add cheekbones.)

Reading over this with my editor eyes on (and Editor Me is sniffing and saying that this really isn’t good enough – but traditionally I have just thrown words on to the screen when blogging. I’m nothing If not giving the honest-to-god thoughts from my brain) and here’s the thing tying all of this rambling together. Some point in the last year, my voice kicked in. Writing, singing, speaking up. Turns out I have one after all. I mean, obviously I always did, but it was kind of squeaky and deferential. These days, it does better. It can hold the tone and hold the note, and it’s got power coming from the core and it is very much all my own work – and it has taken work. Feels kind of good to use it.

So this is goodbye (for now)

This post is a non-post, really. A note to say that I won’t be updating this blog for a good long while. I’ve been lax about it this year anyway, so this is not a huge change except that by putting ‘I’m taking a break’ in writing, I get to stop trying to think of how and if I even can address the world as it is at the moment in a post. A lot of other people seem to have that covered. Everything I want to say I’m not brave enough to post, or else needs more thought than my throwaway approach to this place allows. Maybe I’ll do some longer essays at some point, but not blogs. The page of published stuff will stay up and keep being updated because it’s basically my CV; all the old posts will sit there; I might add some music.

In a nutshell: I can’t face writing about the bad things, and they’re happening too fast and too often to offer any perspective. I don’t want to write about the good things, they are happening so fast that to stop and write about them would be to jinx them and miss them. So I give up, for now. Thanks for reading for this long, and for all comments and support. x

 

Wheel of Fortune

It’s that time again – the time I should be getting some freelance work done, so I write a blog post instead.

Last weekend I went to York for a friend’s birthday. Sorry we went, and had our first experience of being recent-test-passers on the motorway, in an old old (borrowed) car with no power steering which coughed and hrrrmed its way from 30 to 70 in about ten minutes. Speedsters.

Anyway, while in York, I had my fortune read for the first time in my life. For £1, by an old man with a monkey puppet, in the middle of the street. Definitely legit. Definitely accurate.

He did the whole ‘swing a necklace over my hand and it’ll answer a question’ thing, which failed dismally to move much at all. “It’s a very faint possible yes,” he said, as we all stared at the motionless pendant. My question was ‘Will I buy a better car than the one we drove down in?’ so, you know, hopefully he’s right. It’s possible the answer hinged on whether we survived the trip back.

Then the fortune telling cards, where card#1 claimed that I have a friend not to be trusted (is it you?). No one has noticeably screwed me over yet, but now I’m braced for it, untrustworthy one.

cards_

Half a google later, and I can confirm they were these cards.

Card #2 says I have good news coming in the mail, apparently. “Definitely by post,” said the fortune teller. “Not by email.” Nothing’s come yet, mind. So far just a ‘leave’ leaflet, of the type we seem to be getting daily. I ripped up the last one and left it stuck out of the letter box on the other side of the door hoping whoever is dropping them in will take the hint. Rebellion fail: it escaped the mailbox and blew all over the garden. Really, though, campaigning is fine, and I’ll listen to factual information, though you’d better believe I make the effort to research that ‘facts’ I’m told (unless a fortune-teller says it. Then I’ll believe every word). But this is the sort of sneaky pamphlet that starts out with ‘You’re probably wondering how to vote. Here are some not-at-all skewed, completely unbiased facts that we have re-worded slightly and left out important details from’ and ends with ‘if you had this information before we even joined the EU, would you have bothered to join WOULD YOU WOULD YOU HUH IT’S A WASTE OF SPACE OBVIOUSLY VOTE LEAVE’. Not biased at all. No. *rolls eyes*

I will freely admit that I am biased on a totally personal level, and the clarified facts keep me that way. But beyond that the idea of the bunch of self-involved government wankers that actually were elected having total power – without the unelected folk from other countries enforcing useful things like human rights – scares the shit out of me. I could go on. I won’t.

Anyway. Cards three-to-five basically said I ought to be coming into some money. Lots of money. I’m susceptible enough that I actually started hoping maybe this meant I was getting a writing grant I applied for. Ladies and gents, I didn’t even get shortlisted. So. *sob*. But if you want to rebuild my dreams and faith in street-corner fortunes, please do send me some cash. Safe to say, by the way, that that particular no-win stung a bit. I wallowed for, oooof, at least half a day (am Teflon, these days. Feeling so brave that I even, in an email regarding music, wrote the words ‘I’m thick-skinned, I promise’ and then wondered if that really applies to the music stuff yet.)

The wound also healed quite fast courtesy of a couple of things. One – a new story out! On the brilliant Loss Lit site, no less, which is full of the sort of sad, strange, dark, lyrical writing I adore, so I’m pleased to be in it alongside such fab writers as Vanessa Gebbie and Josephine Corcoran. You should, of course, go and read the entire Bumper Issue 3.

And then the wonderful Georgia Bellas, of Mr Bear’s Violet Hour Saloon, got in touch to say she’d picked out a couple of previously published stories to read out on Boston Free Radio that evening. (You should listen to the podcast every week, by the way, if you like stories and poems. It’s a gem.) I was especially chuffed that she chose to read ‘Lost to Dolly’, which was written as a radio piece, really. The other story was ‘Sea Monster’ – it was a creature themed show (there’s links to the published versions of both stories on my stories page). God, but your words sounds different when someone else says them, don’t they? Sentences there that I’d forgotten I strung together, but they were just right. Anyway, have a listen HERE if you wish.

Back to the fortune: so, loads of money apparently incoming. Also an opportunity I should grasp immediately because it will not come again. This was translated as “you’ll see something I want to buy, but when I go back it will be gone, so you should by it straight away”. But I think fortune-speak is flexible, so I’m twisting it to my own ends and using it as a kick up the bum for things that I’ll save for later entries.

OR maybe that money comes from a change in jobs! A fork in the road, says the fortune teller of the seventh and final card, a new opportunity, a new job, a life alteration. I mean, this could just be that the Mega Project is at the printers now and will be in people’s hands very very soon, and if I’ve somehow got something very wrong I could be out of a job? [As I, perhaps unwisely, admitted to a board member, I’m torn between it being a success because I worked so bloody hard on it, and it crashing and burning horribly so that I never have to do that work again. (I want it to be a success, of course. My name’s on it for heaven’s sake – and that thought makes me feel a bit nauseous, so moving on…)]

Huh. I think that actually the fortune teller might have told my 2015 fortune. Job, money, opportunities, untrustworthy friends. Yup.

Oh well.


BOOKS: I have finally (after ekeing it out) finished Beastings by Benjamin Myers, which is so richly written I had to read it a bit at a time, then digest. The ending made me want to be sick and also cry. Hell of a combination. And I’m halfway through Terry Pratchett’s non-fiction stuff, and I’ve started The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry. Can’t speak highly enough of that last one. I had to read the first three pages out loud because they are just so *nnnngh* (<noise trying to relay total perfection). I need two copies so I can underline stuff. It is also, unfortunately, the sort of book that’s written so much the way I want to be able to write that it’s simultaneously inspiring me and crushing me. (Sample convo with Coffee Monster, after I made him read the first three pages. ‘It reminds me of your stuff.’ ‘It’s exactly how I want to write.’ ‘It’s like how you write, but distilled, like the between parts are gone that aren’t like that.’ ‘You mean edited?’ ‘No. Yes? Wait…’ ‘But I DO edit my stuff!’ ‘Um.’ *sulk*)

MUSIC: I pulled out the Southway CD we bought off them on the street a couple of years ago and have been enjoying. Also very recent (like, this morning) discovery of There There, who are synthy and lyrical. Also more Eve Conway ‘cause she sang her EP a week or so ago at an open mic night and I adore her voice. And for Gothic ennui and historical, wonderful weirdness, The Black Sheep Frederick Dickens just shared their single Shrines.

Stormy Monday

Does anyone else get to the Monday of a bank holiday weekend and find themselves feeling down about how little they accomplished over the previous two days? And about how much they have to cram into the Monday because they did all the fun stuff already but also wasted quite a lot of time playing stupid fecking Facebook games and can’t seem to just start the things they ought to be getting on with? And then procrastinate further by writing a pointless blog entry?

Ok, not totally pointless, but I’m not going to actually report on anything. Just mumble quietly about life. Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin.

listen-with-mother-2

GETTING OLD

This applies to everything. Everything. In the past week we’ve had one of our dogs down the vet being checked for what is, in all likelihood, just middle age rearing its head. I’m not going into the full details of what’s actually been up with her, but there’s a combination of relief that she’s not got a terrible disease combined with sheer sadness that our beloved idiot pooch is actually starting to show her age. And then it’s a really easy hop-skip-jump to everyone’s getting so bloomin’ old.

My parents (who read this, actually: HI MUM AND DAD (and also sorry for this bit and also a joke near the end that you’ll hate) are now, to me, reaching the age and level of health difficulties where I’m wondering if living so far away is selfish of me; I should be closer. Not something I’ve actually discussed with the Coffee Monster, btw. But it’s on my mind. And it’s not just them – we are on a stroke count of 4 in adults of that generation that I know and love. Heart attack count: 3. And no more grandparents. My parents are the grandparents now. It’s terrifying.

Also, not entirely unrelated, it’s my birthday in a couple of weeks, and we all know that I’m totally calm about the getting older thing. I bought hanging baskets on Saturday. Hanging baskets, for outside the house. With little flowers in them. Shut up.

NOT GETTING STUFF FINISHED

For probably the first weekend ever (or at least in a long time) I did not write a To Do list this weekend. Because I never do everything on the damn list, and that makes me feel worse. And I find it overwhelming to read. And I just had enough of having things to do all the time.

CM said yesterday that ‘I know I take forever to get things done, but then at least I know if something is really niggling at me, I really do want to do it’. Which is one way to look at it, and there’s nothing quite like the relief of having scratched that itch after months of itching, I guess (I’m awaiting this feeling on a few fronts at the moment). Not sure the relief is worth the torture, mind. I think I’ve had a few too many of these things on my mind for too many months. Partly for work. Partly just me – which means I ought to just be able to forget them, but I can’t.

calamine lotion

Or just use this.

I really, really do not subscribe to the more spiritual conversations about being a writer. They downright irritate me, actually: ‘I just have to write. My soul pours out on the page etc etc.’ Usually in more flowery language than that, but I can’t bring myself to go there. Annoyingly though, stories really are an irritating bloody thing. They really do squat in my brain pan and witter on at me in the background all day. And I’ve got two long projects which will not shut up ‘til they’re done. I know that, and it’s making me miserable. I’d feel better if I just finished the first draft of one of them. I really would. Expectations for myself of things I’d like to do are just as bad – those things ranging from actually performing some music to actually buying a car. There’s like a big mental freeze on it all, and there really shouldn’t be.

FIGURING OUT HOW TO FINISH STUFF

So I’ve sort of belatedly realised that if I can scratch that story(&ors) itch first thing, with just a few words of some sort, any sort, then I can focus on the more boring work I need to get done far more easily. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to figure out why I freeze in the face of a lot to do, and how to break that freeze (NEARLY 34 YEARS). I think I subscribed to a sort of dinner-time approach to work. Like, ‘If you eat all the vegetable jobs first, then you can have the ice cream writing afterwards’. But I’m a backwards-eater in To Do lists as well as in food, it seems. This was the nicer analogy, by the way. I nearly went with the one about wanking before going on a date.

THE STUFF

I suppose I should just go and get on with it.

  • Currently reading: Erm. Nothing, actually. For shame.

Whys and wherefores

Hello lovely readers (if you’re still out there after a month of silence).

It’s that point in the evening when the sun drops low enough to sit on next door’s roof. If I’m sat on the sofa, working – which I am, and have been all bloody day – the light blinds me for about five minutes. It is very pleasant to be wilfully dazzled. Seems like the time to crack open some cider.

For the purposes of this weekend, I have renamed cider ‘Don’t Care Juice’. Continue reading

The Circle of Day-to-Day Life

The problem with this blog, I’m discovering as I get more and more lax about updating, is that the longer I put off writing anything for it the more there’s a jumble of things to write about. And then I can’t find a solid topic for a post – or even any kind of hub for the mess to revolve around – and it becomes bitty and a rubbish read, and that puts me off writing, and the cycle perpetuates.

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Love and impatience

Over the past two weeks I’ve developed a crush on the entire Costa coffee staff at my local train station. In the way that a really good musician, or someone really good with words (or, combine the two, a bloody good lyricist – oh WHAT I’m a cliché and a pushover, I know it) can get my heart thumping, apparently so can anyone who hands me coffee with a smile in the morning – at the moment, anyway. And it doesn’t even need to be with a smile. It can be the nervous shrug of the girl who’s still learning the ropes; the slight scowl of the dude in the beanie who is clearly a rock star when he’s not working; the super efficiency of the fellow with the beard who reminds me a bit of one of my uncles; or the jitteriness of the skinny raver who calls me petal. Continue reading

Erase and rewind

The decision to do interviews on this blog was the right one, I think.
The interview with Emily Macaulay that I posted earlier this week is already the second most viewed thing I’ve ever posted. First place goes to a film/event review/critique that was retweeted by the director and one of the actors, and actually the interview is rapidly gaining on that! This is nice not so much because of view numbers (if I truly cared about those I would have stopped blathering into the ether a long time ago) but because I sincerely think it’s a good review and that Emily is worth reading about. So I’ll be doing more interviews – a couple of people have already agreed to be the next victims subjects.

Still, I thought, since we’re nearing the end of the first month of 2016 already, I should probably put a nod in as well – a bit unwillingly, but then once I’ve done this entry, I can’t use it as an excuse not to work on everything else. (Yes, this is how I get through To Do lists – I deliberately don’t list things so that I can use them as procrastination for items that are on the list. Then I write them in and tick them off afterwards. Makes me feel productive, and the warm glow of productivity is my drug of choice.)


So. 2016.
Yep.
That’s happening.

It started with various global disasters/massacres, deaths of beloved public figures (typing away to Hunky Dory right now) and has continued with a rolling programme of bad news closer to home. It has, briefly put, been shit so far. The only saving grace is that things that would ordinarily stress me out in life are now no worse than being kicked by a gnat: bothersome, but there’s no strength behind them and they’re easy enough to swat. The good things are worth celebrating, of course, always. So day to day it’s a zen life – I’m drifting in the anti-grav atmosphere around those solid ice-cold fucking twin planets called Worry and Grief. And please, please don’t message asking if I’m all right. That concern should be directed to people who aren’t me. I’m a moon in this particular scenario, a faraway one. And this metaphor has died on its feet.
Sorry-not-sorry for the swearing.

Things that are happening: I’m attempting my first writing grant applications this month, with a view to attempting some more, because why not? Fingers crossed for those. I’m braced (or not, because I don’t care right now) for a slew of rejections. I’m slogging through a manuscript, determined to get to the end of Zero Draft so I can focus on absolutely anything else. I’m clearing out a lot of my belongings (I have a couple of hundred, I think, books up for grabs. Will be giving them away or selling them. If you might be interested is some pre-loved literature, please speak up.) I’m going to Newcastle Literary Salon tomorrow night. I’m developing what is positively a streak of silver in my hair. I’ve been drawing a lot of pictures (not so much this week, but I was) and putting said pictures up on a new Instagram account. I’m sort-of-learning electric guitar. It’s kind of fun to be so so so bad at an instrument.

Right now I’m on a train heading for my second singing lesson of the year. I managed to cut myself just above my right tonsil at some point last night (dinner? weird dream? spider in mouth?) which is painful and a bit odd. I have a sore throat on one side, that doesn’t affect my voice at all but makes eating a bit of a chore. I have no idea how singing will go. Wish me luck.

Now reading: The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen. I’m reading this slowly so that I don’t run out of it too soon. That’s how good it is.

(No picture for this entry – too awkward to sort out on train wifi).