No Surprises

A Graph makes it all so much better…

Today has been a day when I’ve spent a lot of time on the back foot.

I am well aware that pretty much all of the blame for this can be laid at my own door: I’m very good after many years at knowing when I stuff things up. I’m also very grateful for a family who accommodate my ability to be rubbish at the drop of a hat, and without them I’d probably not be here. That’s a wonderfully blaze statement to just throw away in the context of a sentence, but it is true. They make me better, push me to try harder, and help to pick me up when I fall down. So, after I’d done that from the ball of tears and guilt this morning I made it through the day without too much recrimination. This evening however I got hit for six again, but in the most unexpected of ways.

It is sometimes easy to forget just how social media can affect people when you’re least expecting it.

I’ve had my share of issues with people on Twitter since I started using the platform: as your readership grows, so do the issues with what you say and how that affects people’s sensibilities. As I’m blunt, often typing before I’ve allowed an idea to percolate and am (I suspect) conceived as arrogant as a result I undoubtedly raise hackles. I don’t have a plan however, I’m really not here to deliberately piss in your cornflakes or upset your equilibrium. Normally I just say it as I see it, or often (as has been the case at least twice in recent memory) I’ve been completely unaware of anyone’s offence until it’s been pointed out to me I upset them to begin with. Then, I have apologised. That’s me, in the ‘Unaware’ bubble, happily doing what I always do with no grasp of the mortifying nature of my act.

I’m not out here to offend anyone. However, that’s often how it goes down, and it makes me wonder why.

Is P for Pushy?

Certain people just rub others up the wrong way, an abrasive side to their natures that could get a coat of paint off your front door in double quick time. If you don’t know me (and let’s face it, most people won’t bother online for fear of potential consequences) then you won’t understand that starting a fight is absolutely the LAST thing I ever want to do with anybody, but sometimes it just happens. So tonight when I suggested to someone that yes, you can be on Twitter every day but only actually use it once a week at your leisure, to have them pointedly respond with the comment that ‘I know (their) life better than (they) do’ was clearly meant as a dig at me and my assertion. There I was, trying to be helpful and enthusiastic and BANG it’s a slap in the face. So, I apologised, but then I found myself thinking that actually, this IS true. It’s not general advice, it’s an actual FACT. You don’t need to log onto Twitter every day, and you can create a great illusion of presence if you so desire with nothing more than an hour of planning and a Tweet Scheduler like Hootsuite. Most people won’t do this because, for them, Twitter isn’t a marketing tool, it’s the Pub. Many people avoid it altogether as they see it as a massive timesink for just that reason.


Mine’s a Sol. Yeah I know, weak Mexican beer… ^^


When I say ‘the Pub’ I mean that place where you lose yourself for an evening just chatting with a drink in your hand. For huge numbers of people it has become the instant medium of communication Facebook’s just never been, mostly without adverts and pretty much under your control. It’s the running commentary at your sporting event, or gig, or major news story. It is snarky and often blunt and frankly long may it remain this way, because many people just don’t want to be immersed in the details of everyone else’s lives, they just want to pick and choose their own highlights. It’s also really easy to make that instant nature work for you if you know how to. This is how I was able to still post on the gaming Blog when I was away in Paris for a week and maintain the interest of my audience whilst at the same time have a holiday. Everyone knew this as well: I wasn’t deceiving or being underhand. This is possible if you can find the time to plan ahead. ANYTHING is possible if you want it enough, after all.

So when I offend someone for suggesting there’s another way, I really shouldn’t let it bother me, but increasingly it does. Not because I’m right and they’re wrong (or vice versa or any combination thereof) but simply because advice is no substitute for actual enthusiasm and passion. If you want to encourage people to write, for instance, getting upset when they say summat you don’t like is not the greatest of starts. However, it is inevitable that confusion will occur, and when it does it says a lot about the person as to how they respond to that conflict. I’ll freely admit I’m not the greatest at relationships, or making friends, or indeed actually being a human being on certain days. However, I will always admit when I’m wrong, and I will do my very best not to shut people off until I’m sure there is absolutely no chance of communicating successfully. So, today, I was reminded if it matters to you, you’ll work at it to make it happen for everyone. First impressions do matter, but what happens AFTER you fall over and smack yourself in the face are just as important.

Most significantly of all, caring about what people think still has a relevance in the Modern World.

The Ninth Wave

Little light, shining…

The best laid plans normally mean my personal life suffers whenever Real Life gets overwhelming. As you will have noticed, I’m now behind on my Playlists. Hell, I’m behind on most things this week, but with Easter coming I have a chance to restore some much-needed balance. I’ve been quite ill by my standards but I refused drugs and I’ve fought the nasties and I am now *officially* on the mend. I’ll be back to the writing next week, of that you can be assured, but today was all about Kate. This image may have provoked Daily Mail outrage, but if you know the 1985 album ‘Hounds of Love’ you’ll instantly connect the relevance. If the upcoming set of concerts has anything at all to do with The Ninth Wave, I’d be happy.

Yeah, of COURSE I’m going.

There was some panic this morning as I tried to use the Fan Site Code I’d got for early access on the Eventim Website until I realised that I needed to click the e-mail link I’d been given. Once that was sorted it was a case of picking a date and hoping that the website didn’t collapse on me. I’ll be there with the SO on September 12th, and thanks to what I assume was an overwhelming takeup on the part of the fans who also got a chance to pre-order, another seven dates have been added to her schedule, meaning she’ll be in residence at what is now the Eventim Apollo [*] from the 26th of August to October 1st. The fact this isn’t a Tour is significant, I think: I’m hoping with her background we might be getting something considerably more theatrical. What she’d perform is also up for a fair deal of discussion, because a lot of her more recent stuff is… well, let’s be honest, a tad self-indulgent. Mind you, that could be said of her entire output with a partisan hat on… but if she’s staying put for that long, you gotta assume there’s gonna be a reason.

I also have to believe the poster we got for this *does* have a significance to the subject matter, and that’s not the angsty teenager in me speaking and wishing Terry Gilliam had actually made the film of the second side of That Album that was promised but never materialised. Remind me to tell you about ‘Brazil’ one day and its peculiar significance to me one day.

There’s lots of stories like that I ought to tell at least once.

[*] It’s the Hammersmith Apollo. Just *don’t* ^^

Playlist :: Four Sides :: Earth

Simple start.

For my first Playlist, fair to say you’ve been thrown a fair lump of eclectic.

I like to make my compilations in the Nick Hornby style:

“A good compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do and takes ages longer than it might seem. You’ve got to kick off with a killer, to grab the attention. Then you’ve got to take it up a notch, or cool it off a notch…oh, there are a lot of rules.” 

High Fidelity. 

Of course, like me, Hornby grew up in the era of cassette tape, but now you don’t even need a medium to record your sounds, it can all happen ‘out there’ [gestures at Internet] without ever requiring a medium to record on. However, I still find myself being restricted by the limits of such things, even if it’s only in my own head. Here’s an hour of music as a result, which as an exercise in distilling me into sixty minutes is actually surprisingly successful. There’s the token New Romantic nod, an acknowledgement of my heavier early influences (that’s a track from ELO’s ‘Out of the Blue’ album before you ask) plus some tracks that are on fairly heavy rotation on the iPhone. For a first crack at doing this and producing something I’d listen to on a regular basis it’s pretty spot on, and the titles work as a trip from the surface of the planet, down to ground level, to a night out that ends up inevitably focussing on the romantic.

There’s gonna be a lot of that in these playlists. I’d better warn you now. I only write love stories ^^

I’m also quite pleased with the track listings on this one, and I sense that as time goes on I may get quite obsessive about such things. However, I do plan to give people specific soundtracks for the ‘novels’ I’m working on, and they’ll get saved on the relevant Projects Page. For now, if you want to find me on Spotify, I’m alternativegodmother and I look forward to this becoming a weekly occurrence.

Enjoy the music 😀

Fragments :: Two Minutes

Background: 
This story was one of the first stand alone pieces of prose I wrote for my (abortive) Open University second year Creative Writing module. After I finished it I understood I didn’t want to spend a year picking apart what I’d written to adapt it for another format, I was actually really happy with just keeping it as it was. This was one of many ‘epiphany’ moments with my fiction, as it happens. I’m not after academic validation, I just want to write a good story.

Rating:
General for content, though the details some people may find upsetting.

Summary:
Life goes on. It is the history that defines us.

Genre:
Deals with the death of a relative. Was based on the actual experiences I had before my Grandmother died. As a result, read responsibly.

Word count:
1600 words, give or take. I have a hard time with restrictive formats. However, it’s a good skill to learn.

Matt knows from his mother’s anguish on the voice mail that it’s almost time.
He’d hoped the gradual improvement over the last week might be a trend, but this message signals otherwise: ‘Grandpa got worse overnight, you can’t wait until the weekend. Come home NOW.’ His History lecturer is surprisingly accommodating when Matt explains the situation after their weekly tutorial, giving him seven days extension on his very close to overdue second year dissertation. Walking to the station from campus his stomach periodically flutters: excitement is a lot like fear, he understands, only his brain capable of separating the two. That’s the first time he told anyone that a member of his family was close to death. He’s not sure he ever wants to do it again.
Sitting on the train, pulling into Liverpool Street station, Matt remembers the last time he saw Joe Ashton. Everyone was recalled, his branch of the family forcibly tethered around his sister’s brand new Wide-screen High Definition TV, bought especially for the occasion. Cathy wore black that morning, and his sister had stared sadly at his choice of battered jeans and Elbow t-shirt. He knows Joe wouldn’t have minded, because nothing was capable of phasing him. He was the most laid back old git Matt knew, secretly proud of the fact that the World bounced off Teflon Joe with ease. Not even his mother’s perennial fussing could dent his demeanour. He’d looked utterly distinguished that Sunday, in the black woollen coat he’d owned since before Matt had memories of him. Despite the now ever-present stick, he had managed to carry the Poppy wreath to the Cenotaph unaided.
His parents stood motionless as the Last Post played, and the cameras had focussed on Mum, failing to not cry on cue. Matt only now grasps in the cab he can’t really afford but needs to take from the station to the hospital they weren’t tears of pride. She was afraid, must already then have known then about his illness and that it was only a matter of time. Matt’s fear can’t be shaken, eats inexorably into his core; stops him studying and keeps him rooted to his room at Halls. The inevitable refuses to sit in his particularly rational mind. Lying awake at night, fear morphs silently to sickness, the understanding that one day he will be nothing. He will simply cease to exist.

He’d never understood why Aunt Chloe started attending Church, until his mother told him that Grandad had Pancreatic Cancer. Mum had stared at him for a long time, her eyes becoming increasingly misty, then shook her head.

‘Chloe needs to deal with it in her own way, Matt. Don’t think badly of her because she has to believe there’s something afterwards. Try and understand.’

He hadn’t been able to then, but he was beginning to now.
The hospital is busy, and he isn’t sure where to go, but the Receptionist is genuinely sympathetic and helpful. As he turns the corner out of the lift he can see his Dad, standing awkwardly outside a door, doing something on his mobile. Matt smiles, wondering if he should point out that phones should be switched off in the wards. As he gets close enough his father looks up, and meets his son’s gaze head on. They don’t say much to each other right now, but Matt knows enough about the look. He’s done something right.
‘Well done, mate. Thanks for getting here so fast. Your mum will appreciate it.’
Matt knocks before he pushes open the door of the private room. Inside is his mother, lying on the low hospital chair, looking like she’s asleep. When she registers his presence she rouses and a weak smile appears, before she comes over to hug him. She’s not had a shower in a while: stiffness mixes with hot and clammy as Matt awkwardly returns her embrace.
‘Hello Matty.’
He hasn’t noticed that his Grandfather is awake in the bed to his right. He is a pale shadow of his former self, skin stretched over bone, paler than the sheets he is wrapped in, but he is still there, trapped inside his rapidly disintegrating body.
‘Your mum said you’d come. I wanted to see you.’
The door clicks silently, Matt realising that his mother has left the room. Joe beckons him to come closer, to approach the bed, and the young man is powerless to resist.
‘On the side there. The book. I want you to have it.’
When he was small, and Joe would sit and read to them, this was where History began. Tales of dogfights, Lancasters, explosions and men who were Heroes. Matt knew then he never wanted to have to fight for anything that way, but he understood the importance of telling others the stories of why men like his Grandfather did.
‘Never forget, Matty. They were your age when they died. So many boys.’
Matt scoops the battered volume from the small cabinet, unable to stop the shaking. Tears fall, silent and desperate onto the backs of his hands. Now he truly grasps the meaning of the Poppy on his battered coat, the one he can’t bear to remove since Remembrance Sunday. A determination rises, sudden realisation that this is not the time to be sad, but instead to ask this dying man as many questions as he can. He should make notes, to use the skills he has only recently begun to utilise to ensure he can remember them, so that others can share the same story.
His hand aches when his Grandfather finally stops and closes his eyes. This is why he’s here: not just the notebook, but his ability to breathe fresh life into his family’s legacy. Joe knows him better than anyone.

This man will always be Matt’s hero.

==
The dissertation arrives on his tutor’s desk a day before the scheduled deadline.

Chris Fairbanks glances at the first page yet finds himself compelled to keep reading, concluding that Mr Rushwell has done an extremely good job of combining historical accuracy with deeply personal insight. This is a significant piece of work, likely to vastly improve his second year mark.

Perhaps he has misjudged the young man’s desire to pursue a career in History after all.

==
Matt travels back down for the Funeral in clothes bought especially for the occasion, because now he understands the significance of respect. He hopes that the black jeans and white shirt are enough, that he won’t get into trouble from Cathy for not wearing a suit. She hugs him when he arrives at the Crematorium, oddly calm and approving. Matt had expected more tears and depression, but it occurs to him that Joe would have found that inappropriate. Even in death, there is a reason to celebrate life.

After the service he goes back to his Parents’ for the wake: his father has something for him. He hands over Joe’s old coat without ceremony and Matt knows this is how it happens, how life moves on when one person departs. It is the history that defines us. Even for late April it’s cold and wet so he wears the coat on the way back to Halls. It still smells of Joe: roll-ups and bitter, of a life granted by his friends’ sacrifice. Only when he gets off the train does he feel the envelope in his pocket. Inside is a hundred pounds in twenties and a letter.

This is the first time his mum wrote anything longer to him than a birthday message.

Matt, 

Grandad Joe always wished he’d had a son, but instead he got only daughters. I know how much you meant to him as a result, and he asked me to make sure that you got his Distinguished Flying Cross. He knew you’d understand its significance. He also left you enough money to cover your student loan plus some extra besides, but we’ll sort that out when you come back next. For now, here is his ribbon: I’ll keep the medal safe. 

He was very proud of you, and so am I. 

Mum
xxx

The tiny three centimetre piece of ribbon between Matt’s fingers looks so insignificant without context, but Matt understands. “An act or acts of valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying in active operations against the enemy”: the day Joe Ashton had taken the controls from his wounded superior officer and landed a burning Lancaster, saving the lives of the crew. It had been Matt’s favourite story as a child, and had formed the basis of his Dissertation: how individual acts of bravery added up with shrewd leadership and circumstance to turn the tide of war to the Allies’ favour.

==
His mother cries the day he graduates: Matt knows they are tears of happiness, for the first time in many months. Everyone turns up for the occasion, even his sister who had maintained she’d not bother with the journey. Cathy takes more photographs than anyone else, gushing enthusiastically about how proud she was that he’s done so well for himself, that he has an internship already lined up at the British Museum. His Grandfather would be proud of him. Matt grasps the medal in his pocket as he accepts his Degree, silent words of thanks to the man who had meant so much to him.
This legacy was in safe hands.

Forever and a Day

This is a Blog about Writing with a deliberate capital W.

I’ve spent a large proportion of my life trying to find a way to be creative. In the end, I finally realised that it is only with words that I am at my best, that I am the person I’ve always wanted to be and my voice, my real inner monologue, can properly be heard. I have a lot of people I have to be in an average week: mother, wife, daughter, gamer, but none of these are truly what I am. That person is here now, sitting and trying to make this first post not sound like the ramblings of a crazy person but the best way to show you my true intent, and therefore to act as a means of preventing me going utterly insane. Because when I write, I am content in a way that doesn’t come from anything else I have ever found.

This is what makes me the best person I can be.

Writing for me in the last five years has been publicly about one thing: games, and a particular one at that. If you’re coming here and aren’t aware of what my life has been up until this point, there’ll be a link in the next few days to point you back to the place where I learnt to be comfortable with my words, and where I make them work for me on a daily basis. However, this is only a small part of what I am, and what I want to become, and so I have created this site, with the same name but a different agenda, to try and find the means by which I can share my journey with you. I have many works of fiction I’d like to finish and share, plus some serious essays on other parts of life that don’t include pixels. Thanks to the small screen I’ve been able to grasp what I could be capable of, if only I could believe in myself enough to let these words go.

It is time now to find the confidence inside me, to step back, and to let them go. There’s an idea of what you will get in the headers above. There’s nothing there yet, but there will be, if your’e patient with me. I promise I’ll make it worth your effort.

This is my Writing Blog.

I hope you find something in here over time that you can share with me.