Thursday, January 13, 2022

It's hard

I see people meeting up in pubs, in large happy groups, and I do admit to feeling envy. I can't afford to take those kind of risks at my age and with my issues (lungs and CFS/ME) so I won't be indoors with anyone but my household unless I'm wearing an FFP2 mask. Even a normal cold knocks me out for several weeks.


I think that what's happening now is that everyone who is low risk is getting back to normal. Anyone with children is probably exposed to the virus because of the need for their children to be in school, so I can see why they would not see the point of being ultra careful.

Those of us who are higher risk or very vulnerable just have to look after ourselves. It's hard though.

Friday, December 24, 2021

Christmas Magic

 


“Stop pushing me!” Lissa whispered.

Zack glared at her.

There wasn't a lot of room behind the Christmas tree and Lissa was taking up most of it. Just because she was older than him she thought she could boss him around.

He put his thumb in his mouth, then took it out again to ask, “Do you think he's really gonna come?”

“That's what we're here to find out!”

Lissa was proud of herself. Her Mum and Dad were always going on about not just believing everything you hear, and thinking things through for yourself. When she'd asked her Mum earlier that day, “Is Father Christmas real?” her Mum had asked her, “What do you think?”

Earlier in the week, there had been a big fight at school when her friend Sarah said it was all just a story, and Angie in their class had said, “Of course it isn't. I get presents from him every year,” and Sarah had called her a baby and Angie had hit her and Mrs Gregson had come over and told them both off.

Lissa hadn't joined in. She was going to find out if Santa was real by using the scientific method, which in this case meant putting out a mince pie and a glass of milk and hiding behind the tree and waiting. She hadn't wanted Zack to join in, but keeping anything a secret from him was impossible.

They'd been waiting for ages. Lissa took a chocolate coin off the tree and unwrapped it. She broke the chocolate in half and gave one piece to Zack and ate the other herself.

There was the sudden sound of bells and a flash of white that made them blink. Now floating in front of the hearth was … a fairy? Six inches of glitter and sparkles, wearing a white dress like a ballet dancer's. A scarf of fluffy white feathers fluttered up around her neck and her wings were silver and white. She was the most beautiful thing Lissa had ever seen, but she wasn't Father Christmas.

“You might as well come out of there,” the fairy said, in a surprisingly loud and grumpy voice. “I know you're there and I've come for your help.”

Lissa stepped out from behind the tree and Zack followed. “You're not Father Christmas,” Lissa said accusingly.

“Well spotted that girl,” the fairy said, then as if reciting words she had rehearsed “I have been sent on a mission to recruit--” She stopped. “Look, do you want a magical adventure, Santa Claus, North Pole, save Christmas?” she asked in a more normal tone of voice.

“Yes?” said Lissa, because what else were you supposed to say when you were offered a magical adventure.

“Come on then, we'll need to hold hands. Oh, and you'd better wrap up warm as well.”

The fairy waved her wand over them, brilliant sparkles fell all around and between one blink and the next they were dressed in their warmest clothes. “Honestly, I have to think of everything,” she muttered, then in a louder voice, “Right, grab hands, and here we go.”

This time the sparkles made the whole world go white, and it stayed white even with their eyes open wide. Snow flakes fell softly onto the snowy ground, and the house in front of them was bright with snow.

“Let's get on with it then,” the fairy said. She pushed the front door open, and they all stepped inside.

It was dark, lit only by the flickering of a wood fire. The fairy made an impatient sound, then there was a click, and everything lit up.

“You know I prefer candles,” said the old man who they could now see sitting in the chair in front of them. He wore a white t-shirt and blue stripey boxer shorts and his socks were a plain boring black. He looked like their Dad did when he was getting ready for work and hadn't put his suit on yet. There was a suit – a red one with white fur – draped over the other chair in the room. Father Christmas, because it had to be him, put his head in his hands, his white beard poking out from underneath.

“Well light the bloody candles then,” the fairy said.

“Language, Fae, there are children present,” said Father Christmas.

“Yes, children. They're here to help you on your rounds tonight, so there had better be some rounds for them to help with. Get dressed, we haven't got all night.”

Father Christmas lifted his head wearily. “It's no good, Fae. Nobody believes in me any more so I might as well give up.”

Fae put her hands on her hips. “No one believes, eh?” She turned to the children. “Do you believe in Father Christmas?”

Zack nodded solemnly, his thumb in his mouth. He was still young enough to believe without question in Santa and the Tooth Fairy and that his parents knew everything.

“What about you?” the fairy asked Lissa.

“Well, he's there,” Lissa said. “I mean, I wasn't sure if it was true or not but he's sitting there. But shouldn't he be wearing that,” she pointed to the red suit, “and flying through the sky and everything?”

“That's what I'm trying to tell him,” Fae said. “Come on, Nick, snap out of it. You've got a public to think of now. All those children round the world just waiting for you.”

“Ho blooming ho,” Father Christmas said, but he got up and pulled on his red trousers, and the red jacket with the white fur, and his big, black boots.

“Come on,” he said, “let's get the reindeer hitched up to the sleigh.”


It was a magical night. The sky was clear and the stars were out, so many stars, and a crescent moon. The four reindeer pulled the sleigh through the sky over mountains and fields and towns and lakes, stopping every so often for Father Christmas to land the sleigh on the roof of a house or block of flats and pop down the chimney, coming back up again breathless and smiling. Yes, smiling, because as the night wore on Father Christmas seemed to regain his cheer. His laugh changed from the fake “Ho, ho, ho!” they had first heard, to a genuine chuckle, and then a belly laugh.

“Why doesn't he stop at all the houses?” Lissa asked, “and where are the presents?”

“I'm stopping at houses where they need and want the Spirit of Christmas, and that's the present I'm bringing,” Father Christmas said.

“Will you stop at our house?” Lissa asked.

Father Christmas looked at Zack, whose eyelids were drooping over sleepy eyes. He nodded. “Yes,” he said, “I think it's time.”

The sleigh settled on the roof of Lissa and Zach's house and Father Christmas took them by the hand. Woosh! They were down the chimney and in front of the hearth, which was pretty amazing to Lissa seeing that there was a wood stove filling the fireplace and no way they could have got through it or round it.

A tinkle of bells made her look round at the fairy.

“So, did you get your answer then?” Fae asked.

“I guess so,” Lissa said.

Zach curled up on the rug in front of the fireplace, put his thumb in his mouth and closed his eyes. Lissa sat on the sofa and tucked up her feet. She was too tired to stay awake any longer. The last thing she heard before she fell asleep was a deep throaty laugh from Father Christmas.


“Well, look at you then!” Her Mum's voice woke Lissa from a deep sleep.

“Looks like you stayed up to see Father Christmas,” Lissa's Dad said.

Zack sat up on the mat and rubbed his eyes. “We did see him,” he said.

“Sure you did.” Dad winked at Mum.

“No really, we did!” Lissa said.

“Good for you,” Lissa's Mum said, but Lissa could tell she didn't believe them. Lissa looked round the room but there was nothing to show what had happened.

Next year, Lissa thought. Next year I'm staying up again and I'll make absolutely sure to bring some proof back with me but right now, it was time for waffles, and presents, and later there would be Wallace and Gromit on the TV.

The whole family sat down to Christmas breakfast and didn't even squabble once. Maybe that was its own kind of magic.

Sunday, November 08, 2020

Playing Fetch

Today Rufus was sad because I wouldn’t give him two helpings of cat food so to cheer him up we played Fetch.

The game is played like this: Rufus sits on the kitchen table and I toss one of his small, soft balls to him. He bats the ball in any direction other than towards where I am standing and I chase after the ball to retrieve it. Rinse and repeat.

Only dogs chase balls; cats cause balls to be chased.

Thursday, November 05, 2020

Influences

Unlike this gorilla, my aliens are shades of gold and orange

I'm writing a story for NaNoWriMo about 
a linguist who is enjoying her retirement when the aliens arrive and invite humans to join the Unity, a post-scarcity intergalactic federation. She is one of nearly two hundred people chosen to visit the Unity and see the wonders on offer; wonders that turn out to come at a price. The Unity are relying on the two hundred to make the decision whether to join and Renee needs to choose which matters more, free will or survival. 
Someone on Quora suggested that my plot reminds him of Olivia Butler. To my shame, I don't think I've read any of her books. There are a lot of other influences on my story, so I thought I'd share some of the main ones. I can recommend all of them, with the possible exception of the CS Lewis book. 

Yes, I know Avatar was mostly about the 3D effects. I'm shallow: I just loved the sheer beauty of the scenery. 

The Gate of Ivory 

I think it's the first time I've been so unashamed in stealing from my source material, Polenth's Bigfoot book in particular.

Still Mercedes Lackey began her writing career by writing fan fiction, so I'm just going with whatever works.

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

No ghoulies and ghosties



Autumn is never my favourite time of year but it usually has its high spots. 

I have a friend's birthday coming up, then it's Halloween, then it will be November and National Novel Writing Month.

I can't see my friend in person, and Halloween isn't going to happen because I don't want all the neighbourhood children breathing in my face, so that leaves NaNoWriMo.

I have two tiny ideas. Each of them would make a short story. 

I have very little motivation but I know that I haven't enjoyed the non Nano years more than the ones where I've challenged myself and managed to get out some sort of a story in the month, so I think I'd like to go for it.

I have twenty-five days to plan enough of a story to carry me through writing 50,000 words. Is it possible? Can I do it?

I really don't know. What will you be doing?

Friday, May 22, 2020

Cycling in lockdown

So today I went for a short cycle ride with my husband on quiet local roads with plenty of trees and grass. Social distancing wasn't a big problem, we just moved away from the pavement whenever we had to pass a pedestrian, which wasn't often.

We, however, were passed by a hearse. And a house.

Obviously, the wicked witch of the west had been extricated from under the house and was on her way to her final rest.

Truly, we are not in Kansas now.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

The Christmas Fairy

Angie hated present shopping. It was a nightmare when you had hardly any money and anything you could afford was totally naff. She decided to have a quick look round the shopping centre, because you never know, but then it was off to the Pound Shop to get something plastic and useless for everyone.

A large heavily decorated Christmas tree took up most of the space in the shopping centre. As she looked up from the ground floor, the angel on the top was just a circle of silver with pink dangling legs. It was probably a Barbie doll or maybe one of her lesser friends. Angie shrugged. Christmas was meant to be so magical but all it meant for her was a crappy toy to open and family rows all day that were even worse than usual.

She wondered if her Dad would come over, but after what happened last year she doubted it.

She took the moving staircase to the next floor. As she drew level with the Christmas tree fairy she could see its magic wand complete with silver star. The wings were softest white swans-down and moved gently in the air. They fluttered as the fairy turned her head with its silver crown, winked, and turned away again. Angie turned to look back at the fairy but by then she was at the top of the escalator and had to jump off quickly.

The top of the tree was out of sight at this level and the down-escalator was the other side of the store. She ran through the crowds of shoppers, drawing angry looks and a "Do you mind?" as she pushed past. Down the escalator, across the store through another mob of people, then back to the tree again. She looked up through its tinsel branches. There was no silver circle, no dangling legs. The fairy had gone. Disbelieving, she rode the up-escalator again but sure enough, the treetop was bare.

Angie shrugged. She must have imagined it. She had wasted all that time and she still had all her presents to buy. They would be a load of tat but she had to get something. She gave a deep sigh. Why was Christmas so miserable?

***

When she got home, Mum was in the living room with her feet propped up on the settee and a fag in her hand. "I've just sat down," she said. "It's egg and chips tonight; the chips are keeping hot in the oven. If you're doing yourself an egg you can do one for me too."

Angie went through into the tiny space that was her bedroom. The high window let in a little light, and there was just room for her bunk bed and her one book- and toy-shelf. Her clothes lived in her Mum's bedroom which wasn't much bigger but took a double bed. It used to belong to Mum and Dad but now he'd moved out. At least that meant that the rows had mostly stopped, except when Nan came over or Mum had a boyfriend staying. The current one, Steve, wasn't too bad. He didn't talk much to Angie except to say, "How was school then?" but he didn't hit her Mum or make her cry, and he didn't make her feel creepy like some of Mum's boyfriends had.

Angie wrapped the presents she had bought: some hair stuff for her Mum, a keyring for Steve, perfume for Nan and a bracelet for Auntie Jean. She liked the bracelet best. It was so sparkly it was a shame to have to give it away.

She thought again about the fairy. If only it had been real. "I could really do with three wishes," she said to herself.

"And you shall have them." The voice sounded faint and high, like bells or birdsong. Angie looked up at the shelf above her and there, perched on top of a Harry Potter book, was the fairy from the shopping centre. She smiled and waved her magic wand sending out silver sparkles that glittered and fell through the air. Then she spoke.

"You can close your mouth.”

Angie felt a small shiver go down her back. “How did you get here?” she asked.

“I flew,” the fairy said. “Now come on, I haven't got all day. What do you want? Oh, and you can't wish for more wishes or any of that crap.”

Angie had not known that fairies said "crap". "Can I wish that there won't be any rows on Christmas Day?" she asked.

"Well, you can." The fairy shook her wand again sending out red sparkles this time. "I wouldn't advise it though."

"Why not?"

"Wishes have side effects. The smaller the wish, the smaller the side effects. Now for a big wish like that, I might have to make you or your Mum seriously ill, whereas if you just wished for fewer rows, I could get your Mum too drunk to start anything, although it wouldn't stop your Nan arguing with your Auntie Jean."

I might have guessed, Angie thought. Fairies turn out to be real and they're no better than the rest of my crappy life.

"What can I wish for then?"

The fairy flew down and settled on the bottom bunk next to Angie. She fluffed out her skirts and looked up with a confidential air on her face. "I can do favourite foods, better presents, and slightly better moods especially if alcohol is involved."

"That's a bit limited."

"Take it or leave it. Or wish for something bigger but you might not like what you get."

Angie sighed. She was used to having to settle for things. "Can we have trifle, and no Brussels sprouts, and a nice present." It would be better than nothing.

"Done!" the fairy said with a smile. "It's been a pleasure doing business with you." She waved the wand sending rainbow sparkles throughout the room. "I'll even throw in a little bit of happiness as a free gift."

"Free gift? But I'm not paying you!" Angie said.

The fairy looked embarrassed. "Ah. About that. All those times you put a tooth under your pillow for the tooth fairy and you didn't get anything back, that was me. Times were hard and I knew you'd blame it on your mother. Now there's been a complaint and the Fairy Counc- Let's just say, I decided to make it up to you. You'll get your wishes. Have a nice day!"

She flew up and out the window, which Angie was sure she'd left closed. All the magic seemed to leave with her and Angie was left with nothing but a heap of badly-wrapped presents and the sound of her mother calling out, "Are you going to do those eggs or not?"

***

Christmas Day dawned bright and cold. Angie was awake and into her Mum's room before she remembered that she was supposed to knock and wait. Mum and Steve were both asleep; he was snoring gently.

"Mum, is it time to get up now?" Angie shook her Mum's shoulder gently.

Her mother stirred and grumbled. "Go back to bed. It's too early."

"I'll make you a cuppa tea, Mum," Angie said hopefully. To her surprise, her mother said, "Oh, all right then. But don't wake Steve. He came in late."

Angie's feet were cold on the kitchen floor and she shivered. She put tea bags into two mugs and added the hot water, leaving the tea to stand just like her Mum liked. Then she carried the tea carefully into her Mum's room.

Her Mum sat up, took the tea, and smiled. "You're a good girl, Angie," she said. "I know it's been hard for you lately but Steve had a bit of a win last week so I think you'll like what you've got from us. Auntie Jean's bringing trifle, too. I know that's your favourite. I think we're going to have a good Christmas this year.”

“What about the sprouts?”

Her Mum laughed. “You and your sprouts! Iceland were out of them so you're let off this time.”

Angie heard a sound she recognised. "Did you hear that, Mum? It sounded like little bells." Or fairy laughter.

"Oh, you! You're always imagining things. I'd have thought you'd be big enough now to know better. Still, it is Christmas. Snuggle under the duvet with me and when we've had our tea, we'll get up and start making the dinner. We've got some cabbage we can have instead of the sprouts."

Angie pulled a face. Still, two out of three wishes wasn't bad. Maybe there would be a bit of magic around this Christmas after all.

Saturday, March 02, 2019

I am fine

My only sister died at the beginning of this year.

It was a big shock at the time because she hadn't been ill, but I'm getting over it now.

I'm absolutely fine as long as no one talks to me about death. Or sisters. Or hot tubs, gardens, garden centres, charity shops, carveries, Costa coffee, presents, Alice in Wonderland, decluttering, dogs, chihuahuas, NCIS, hair dye, or Brighton.

As long as I don't catch sight of the weeping pear tree she gave me, or the soap dishes, or the pouffe. Or the wrapping paper I bought for Christmas covered in little dogs.

Have you read Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine? It's a great book.

Eleanor Oliphant is fine and I'm fine too. Absolutely, perfectly, completely fine.

Thank you for asking.

Saturday, December 01, 2018

I did it again

Another successful Nano!

Honestly, looking at my record you'd think it was easy and a foregone conclusion that I'd reach 50k but every single time it feels like a huge challenge and in no way certain I'd win.

This time I started with no plot in mind, just "sequel to a previous Nano where the MC ends up with the wrong person. Make sure they end up with the right person this time".

It's easier writing in an existing world because there's a lot you don't have to invent.

It's harder writing in an existing world because you have to remember details you've already invented.

The story didn't end how I'd intended but now I know what I wanted to write.

There's a lot of rubbish in both stories but I reckon I could merge the two into one decent novella-length story if I put my mind to it. The question is, can I get the motivation to work on it without the challenge of Nano? Word count is so easy to measure and there's a real buzz from reaching the right number every day. I'm not sure how to motivate myself now.

All suggestions welcome!

Friday, September 21, 2018

Trans women are women.

Speaking as a cis woman, I want to say firmly that trans women are women.

I admit that it took me a while to understand this and I’ve had to broaden my definition of women a bit to reach that conclusion, but it seems ridiculous to define “women” as “cis women” and then say that trans women aren’t in that group (by definition). We can just as well define “women” as “people who know they are women” and trans women fit right in there.

There is no one “true” definition of a woman , as humans we choose how we categorise the world. It’s a bit like poor old Pluto: first it wasn't a planet, then it was a planet, now it's a dwarf planet, and many scientists think it would be useful to categorise it as something else instead. The lump of rock orbiting the sun hasn't changed but we define it differently according to what is most useful.

It’s most useful to broaden our definition of “women” from “assigned female at birth” to something that embraces everyone who feels themself to be a woman.

Trans women are women.

For me, that is “the truth”.
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