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Saturday, 26 December 2020
Saturday, 19 December 2020
Yet again the Government has reacted to a spike in the COVID figures rather than following the advice of anyone with an IQ of greater than that of a cactus, so a whole lot of people just got told that either their christmas plans now have to change entirely within the week, or, they don't get christmas plans at all.
Because, you know. We can't just do the smart thing first. We have to reject the smart thing constantly, reject it and reject it until we are blue in the face, and then - three days after the most forceful rejection of the opposition that we can muster - we capitulate and do the smart thing. In a perfect impression of a stubborn child that knows it should do a task but doesn't want to because it was just asked to.
Boris and his mob of cronies commands zero respect and has zero position of authority. They pissed all that way. Mostly through spending most of their current time handing out contracts to their mates and deliberately sabotaging any hope of a Brexit deal, shrugging their shoulders and scoffing as they vote for children to have no food and then get angry when a charity whose aim is to feed hungry children intercedes to do just that.
Where does that leave us?
It leaves us with each other.
This is the camaraderie found in places of hardship. This is the partnership forged by teams that have to work under pressure. I've blogged before about work ethic being less a promise to serve your boss and more a promise to help your coworkers, and that's where we are, right now.
So what do we do?
Pay attention, because this may be the only time I ever do this:
We embody part of the spirit of Christmas, by being kind and thoughtful to others.
...yeah yeah I know, usually I'm the Grinchiest man on earth but - but if there's any one way I can weaponise Christmas into something that will actually help us as a people, then I think I have to, right?
What do I mean when I say that?
I mean that right now, everyone is going to be under a significant stress. Not knowing what the rules are going to be from week to week and day to day - that is stressful even if you are in the lowest tier like me. Even if you don't have an understanding and smart employer like me. I am lucky, very, very lucky. Most people I know aren't so lucky.
I understand that there will be temptation. The Government doesn't know what it is on about, so why not just do whatever we want? Go see Nan? Have a huge party?
Herein is the spirit of Christmas - which isn't "get pissed and have whatever fun we want at any cost". It's remembering those less fortunate than you.
That means, making the sacrifice of doing the smart thing, to protect the lives of everyone you may come into contact with. Be more understanding of others as they do their best under the same circumstances. Shop workers and service personnel aren't your enemy. They are honestly doing their best. We're all Sisyphus right now, pushing that big-ass rock up a hill.
The difference is that sooner or later, that rock will reach the top. We just have to keep right on pushing.
The biggest gift you can give this year is thoughtfulness. The best thing? It doesn't cost a penny.
And never forget that all of this could have been avoided if our Government had actually governed, and not decided to gamble with our lives.
Saturday, 12 December 2020
A year ago, I wrote a blog about putting down a marker - a prediction for how the next year or so would spin out, following the result of the General Election the day before.
Of course, there's a Black Swan here that had no small impact on basically everything. Mister Coronavirus. First detected around about the time I wrote that first blog, actually, I think. That kind of means a bunch of predictions can't be assessed based on how we voted as a nation.
For example - all the predictions about everything getting worse for people who work for a living and have to pay rent and such, that was just a general look at how things were going in the first place, and an indication that under Johnson they would continue to slide assward. Which they have, though the Pandemic is just really seeking to heighten those difficulties and disparities.
Luckily, another tower block didn't burn down - but nothing has come of Grenfell. Total whitewash. As predicted.
We did, indeed, not get 50,000 more nurses. Government spending on the NHS wasn't ideal in any way, in fact. We also didn't get 20,000 more police officers.
I was wrong about there being precious little protest, though. And it was a protest that needed to happen.
A thing I couldn't take into account, as I said in that original post, was Brexit - and just how much of a shitshow that would be. We went from No Deal being "a million to one chance"...
...to it being basically inevitable by the end of the week. We went from everything would be great, to "we haven't lost our current trade deals with Canada so that's alright". Fisheries? The former department of Nigel Farage? Yeah, now we have some goons demanding that the Government dispatch the ROYAL NAVY to guard our fish stocks. Literal gunboat diplomacy.
And when we voted, last year, admit it - there was a swathe of people that wanted Boris Johnson as Prime Minister because it was funny, yes? Like, he promised Brexit, but also, he's funny and goofy and hahaha if you ignore the fact that he's a fetid prick with a serious tendency toward bigotry.
Well. Turns out that having a joke for a Prime Minister who promised you a good Brexit, means that you have a joke for a Prime Minister trying to negotiate your good Brexit, and that means you don't get one.
This whole thing is going to be an absolute disaster, and puff pieces are being run in the press even now, demanding that Remainers not gloat about the sorry state that this country is going to be in, in three weeks.
We aren't. We're going to be too busy worrying about our jobs, trying to afford groceries as they get more expensive, navigating a world wherein everything was made more difficult for everyone below a certain income bracket for....
So the very wealthy can dodge a bunch of tax loopholes being closed and then make an absolute mint on the collapse of a nation's economy?
So the Tory Party can be more united, as was David Cameron's original plan back in the early-to-mid 2010s?
So our bananas can be bendy again?
Was anything, anything at all, worth what we are facing right now?
I don't think so. And I'm not smug about that. I'm tired, and in physical pain, and I'm sad, and I'm angry, and I'm afraid for the future of my friends and family and loved ones. Because we're the ones that have been sold up the river. We're the ones that will suffer the consequences - and a percentage of us will do so while grimly and doggedly believing that this was better than the alternative.
Oh, and by the way, an Australia-type deal IS No Deal.
Sunday, 6 December 2020
Here comes the cold.
See... you may go through this blog, every December, and see at least one post wherein I am being a total Grinch. Which is just... accurate. I am. I'm not good at Christmas. Never have been.
There's supplementary reasons. Like. It's not just me being obnoxious.
Seasonal Affective Disorder for one thing. Everything going dark so early kills my mood so hard. The idea of waking up in the dark and going to bed in the dark just chills me to the absolute bone. It really carves away at any mental fortitude I previously possessed. It not being light enough to read by, just at random points in the day? Hatred. Hate that. So, so much.
Another thing. The moment the weather turns cold and damp consistently... all of my joints start to ache.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a hell of a thing. And cold, and damp, makes it worse. When I first went to get it checked out, because you know having this constant pain in my joints shouldn't happen, I was told that it was because I was overweight, it meant my joints had to deal with more, and suffered as a result.
"Fair enough," I reply. "But, like, the worst of it is in my knuckles."
As I didn't walk on my hands, that proved to be a bit of a stumper.
So throughout most of the winter I just have this added extra layer of ouch, both mentally and physically. Which is why the song "The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year" makes it hard for me to follow the philosophy of not wanting to yuck anyone's yum.
And that's before we even get into this year, this particular year, and the challenges it has put at our feet.
It's been hard. We've lost people. We've had to isolate ourselves so we don't lose more, and even those of us who are actually better at coping with isolation are suffering for it. It's throwing the nature of how our society works in our faces - every selfish act, every act of government cronyism and populist cruelty. It's inescapable, and it keeps taking.
That's before anything else goes wrong. Before the economy starts to tank, before the everyday bullshit issues that are going to spring up between now and... whenever.
It's just hard, at times. It's okay to acknowledge that.
But if I'm not so jolly, that's why.
Sunday, 29 November 2020
It's often kind of hard to actually wrap up a story. Just ask this dude.
I passed NaNoWriMo's 50,000 word deadline a couple of days ago, and managed to tie up the story vaguely to my satisfaction a mere 700 or so words later, which was pleasing. For those struggling to imagine a book of that length - that's about the length of The Great Gatsby, Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, or Fight Club.
For me NaNo has two endings: when I hit 50k, and when I finish the book, and the two are often kind of different places.
Like the last few times I've tried - and succeeded - the books have ended up between 60-70k. I don't think that is a strength of pacing or anything; I thin if anything I have a habit of waffling too long in descriptive pieces. I need a sharper editorial blade than I currently possess, maybe.
This time, though, the two married up with reasonable ease. That is a happy accident. I was definitely not aiming to have the entire plot wrapped up by 51k. That said I was riding by the seat of my pants for several segments of the book so the length wasn't guaranteed either way.
Writing this one was a little rough at times.
There were moments that I feel that, maybe, I dipped too hard into myself. Looked too hard in the mirror. Perhaps found uncomfortable things in there that I'd have honestly rather not thought about too hard.
But I managed to take all that and turn it into work and words. I told a story. Even if that story is just about a guy trying to work out how to get by in a world that seems inimical to people in general, let alone to people with mental health problems.
It's not meant to be a spotlight on how people are treated, or on how one should react to mental trauma, or on my personal feelings about memory loss, or anything else. It's just a story that I have had in my head for absolutely years, that this year's NaNoWriMo seemed ideal for.
It's being beta-read right now. Following that, there might be some minor edits; but I am going to just... put it up online where people can read it. The first draft, as it exists right now, is going on my Patreon.
(EDIT: It Is Now Here.)
And that's... that, I suppose.
That was my November, again. Amid the pandemic and the politics and the chaos, I wrote a novel, and doing so honestly helped to keep me sane.
Because, soon, it will be That Time Of The Year....
God help us all.
Sunday, 22 November 2020
Public transport is important to most people in the UK, in one way or another. My locality is no exception, as neither is that represented in my NaNo project.
This here picture was part of a tweet posted by a chap named Ben Rue who works for Wightlink:
What you can see here is the Isle of Wight's trains. Our old stock on the left, our new stock on the right being delivered.
New is relative, of course. Our old stock has been renovated and refurbished several times but it was first made in about 1938 - it literally survived the Blitz, much like many angry people on the internet claim they did when talking about masks and political correctness.
The new one? Also refurbished? Was made in around about 1978. Which means it still saw almost 20 years of the Soviet Union, and is four years older than me.
It got me thinking about the role public transport - transport in general, even - plays in our lives. About how much of our time is spent getting from place to place, and how difficulties in that specific arena can pretty much define your day.
The notion of commuting really only began in the industrial revolution. Before that everyone just lived where they worked - and a significant amount of city and town building and planning surrounded the notion of keeping the employees near their place of work. You can still see this in the industrial heartland of the UK. The term "commuter" even comes from the fact that tickets for people that had to regularly travel to work had a reduced or "commuted" price.
Now if you are lucky enough to have your own means of getting to and from your place of work, then this might not apply so much - you should concentrate on driving when you are driving - but for those of us that have to bus/train/whatever, the time in between origin and destination can be very valuable as thinking or meditation time.
That period of introspection is really useful to me as a writer. Like, not so much for this year's NaNo, because it's first-person and so it is perpetually from the main character's thoughts; but nonetheless, the periods of the young man going from place to place are often the periods of greatest reflection.
You know, like the Stereophonics song.
And I think that, for a lot of the world, that experience is very universal. That period wherein the world moves around you, and you are being conveyed to a destination, so there isn't much you can do with yourself aside from think... or try and not think, as hard as you can.
That's why airports sell books, after all.
Just a thought. Perhaps something deeper next time.
Sunday, 15 November 2020
You know, seeing anxiety or depression or fury or mania happen in a book or movie always hits different when it has plagued you for years and years.
You know it by instinct the moment it happens. You also know if anyone involved with the production of this thing has ever experienced it - because if they have, then it feels that much realer, hits that much harder.
It speaks to you, the same way as a song does. I've talked before about a singer feeling a song when they sing it, and how that translates into how the song sounds. It threads into that.
So when a writer can make you feel a thing - a thing that the writer has felt themselves, that they are perhaps in the process of feeling as they write, and that you perhaps are feeling as you read - that can be a very special thing. A moment of intimate connection.
A moment for the reader to feel that they have been seen, and understood.
Which is precisely why I take the time to write my characters suffering through the random mental stuff that I suffer from.
Like running into someone in the street, and having a panic attack over having to just... talk to them.
Doesn't sound like much, does it? Just running into someone that you don't want to see in the street? Not so bad. Just grit your teeth and bear it...
But with an anxiety disorder, this situation is awful. Infinitely worse. Like walking is easy unless you have a broken leg. Now you face a yawning gulf in which every moment you WILL question and second-guess every single thing that you say and do for the next two minutes, until you can get away - and you will shred yourself afterwards for all the awful, terrible crimes against social order that you just committed.
Every single micro-expression becomes a vector for something, a fear, a doubt, a terror of some kind. A sign that this person thinks of you as an outcast, an idiot, a loser, an enemy. It's totally uncontrollable, and it is so much more common than anyone who hasn't experienced it would imagine.
That's why I write it - because there are people who suffer this, who deserve to have their story told. They exist and thus deserve to be seen.
And also because the main character's anxiety isn't just there to drive the plot. It's part of them. It's a significant part of who they are.
You have to be true to that.
And if along the way, someone can see something that rings true in themselves, and feel like someone else understands them?
All the better.