Bat Fit 2015

Bat Fit 2015

Bat Fit 2015

So lovely Professor Z has once again kickstarted her Bat Fit challenge for 2015, with the theme of nourishment. I confess to barely remembering my BF goals for 2014 – everything was washed away in a tide of emotion and grief and I am hoping that 2015 won’t follow a similar pattern.

So my goals are modest, and tend towards positive achievements rather than any ‘losses’ as such. I have a few personal goals I’d like to achieve next year, some of which are time specific which for me is a good thing, because I am a dreadful starter-finisher! Let us begin…

Write More

I like to write. Crumbs, it’s even the goal of my sabbatical to write a second novel – and preferably one which is better than the first! I spent the past few months researching the topic and the time frame, and I now have a good basis on which to start writing. I have my characters, setting, and the bones of the story line. I have a pristine new journal within which to blot my fountain pen. The time frame for the long hand version is the six months between January and June, with a transfer to type to be completed by the beginning of September. I have taken the plunge and booked up for the wonderful Moniack Mhor writing residential again at this stage, and have the perfect tutors to run through my particular issues (particularly dialogue). All good!

I also wish to keep improving my short story writing and submissions. One published, one prize winner in 2014 – I’d like to build upon this and have 2 clear goals to submit to between January & March. I really benefit from structured one off writing sessions with good tutors, so I’m looking out for some to attend asap. Nourishment for the mind!

My study is looking a little degenerate at the moment, so my plan for Monday (when Him Underfoot returns to work!) is to strip it all out, clean head & toe and re-establish my desk as a proper writing tool rather than book dumping ground! Once this is done I am pledging to write daily on weekdays, something I’ve been a little slack about doing recently…

 

Swim & Walk More

Two things I love to do, yet don’t do enough of. Since Miss Sally has become a biddy dog I’ve not been able to walk her very far, and my own mileage has dropped accordingly. Swimming is brilliant for getting that back up, there’s a 2.4 mile walk home along the seafront & with a cafe pitstop en route. It’s perfect!  There are also several local museums and art galleries I want to visit in the new year, and if I go into the city it is a wonderful place to walk around, admiring the beautiful old buildings of my home town. These may sound like small goals, but they are both achievable and enjoyable.

 

Complete Dry January

Dry January is run by UK charity Alcohol Concern, who encourage people to make a pledge to abstain from alcohol for one month after the excesses of Christmas. Well, I still have New Year to go and I can’t wait to start the pledge on the 1st. I completed this pledge just fine in 2014 before falling down the neck of many wine bottles when my dad died in February and onward. In 2015 I want to be more controlled with my alcohol consumption and this is a great way to start.

 

DIY

There are several outstanding DIY projects at my house. Firstly my bathroom is a disaster zone. It was scheduled for a full make over the weekend HU and myself became ill, so never happened. However we have all the materials in ready for action, and I can kick start it all on my own – I’ll leave ceilings for the six footer in my life though!

My gardens (front & back) are very small. They are home to nesting birds every year, and have some lovely plants. However, they have also had a roof dropped on them in the past 18 months. I am still finding bits of scaffolding in the clematis! They’ve been completely neglected, and I want to take some time to look after what is already there (my roses in particular are lovely but need some TLC), and to add to it all sympathetically and in such a way that the wildlife remain happy. I never use pesticide or weedkiller – the local blue tit families get too much joy from coming down en masse and feasting on aphids on my roses. All the wooden furniture and gates need some maintenance for spring. Think this one will keep me busy!

The hall & vestibule suffer dreadfully from having a large hairy dog slurking round corners and shaking everywhere. She likes to lie contorted around the skirting boards, and frankly everywhere is very grubby. Time for a make over. And of course, all this painting should get me a bit fitter!

 

Finally…

This year I have depended upon the people I love the most to hold me up and carry me through some of the worst times. I want to be able to give back to them as much as possible during 2015. This includes looking after Him Underfoot a little better. If that sounds very 1950’s housewife, it isn’t! He’s been ill, works like a donkey in a full time post and has just set up his own business. I don’t work at the moment – but what I can do is make sure he doesn’t have to worry about the house, the bills, cooking & cleaning etc. I am signing up for free small business courses in how to do book keeping and accounts, taxes etc, so that he can concentrate on working for his actual business clients and try not worry about all of these concerns.  It’s a good learning experience for me and I have the time to do it. I want to make sure that when he gets home after a 10 hour working day that he’s eating right – which helps me in turn by cooking healthier meals. Win-win all round!

So this is my starting point for 2015. I’m sure some of these will drift, mutate, be neglected etc, but if I can stick to this roughly as a plan then I’m hoping to be in a better, more productive place by this stage next year. And frankly, if I squander this opportunity to complete novel no 2 then I need a great big kick up the backside! Hmmm….!

A Christmas Wish

To everyone who passes by here over the next few days, I wish you all a wonderful, happy and healthy Christmas with your loved ones, be they human or fur baby. I’ll leave you with a gift of a song, the beautifully haunting Bridie Jackson & the Arbour singing All That You Love Is All That You Are. This song  always moves me to tears when we see her singing it live, but the title basically sums up how I feel about life right now, contemplating Christmas with my loved ones.  There’s one of them missing, but never forgotten.

With love, Jane.

Winter

A little beauty, on a crisp cold winter’s day.

I think reading The Sandman has brought Tori Amos back to my mind, given she’s the template (of sorts) for Delirium.

“When you gonna make up your mind? When you gonna love you as much as I do? When you gonna make up your mind? Cause things are going to change so fast…”

Turquoise is the Colour!

It generally comes as a surprise to people that my favourite colour isn’t actually black. It’s blue. Many variants on blue, particularly that lovely shade of petrochemical blue darkness like the edge of the sky during a thunderstorm. Or the vibrancy of teal, that borders on green, shot through with turquoise. I have a bright blue bike and Ipod mini. My study is heritage blue, the only room in the house with coloured walls. ‘Blue’ seems far too simple a word to convey the extraordinary range of this colour.

I’ve not been buying a great deal this year – amazing what having no income for the past 8 months does to a girl’s shopping habits! It’s making me appreciate what I do get, and recently several very pretty items have come my way – mostly blue!

Firstly, my mum has bought me this beautiful Teal coat for Christmas, which is just lovely of her:

Beautiful, beautiful!

Beautiful, beautiful!

This is the Hell Bunny Millie coat and I’ve been loving this for soooooo long! I tried it on in grey last winter season, loved it but hated the colour on me. When I saw this shade I knew it was meant to be. I haven’t seen any photos that do the colour justice. It arrived on Friday and as yet I’ve not been able to wear it. I intend to rectify that over the next month.  I will say I do have a couple of grumbles about it – the finish on the button holes and the belt are not as I’d expect from a Hell Bunny garment (the belt in particular is shoddy, and I’m intending to replace it asap). Also, sizing – HB are driving me nuts with poor sizing. I’d tried this on from A/W 13/14 season and it fitted me perfectly as a small (I’m a UK 10/12). My coat is about a size larger than last year’s model, and whilst that leaves me plenty of room for jumpers I’m a bit irked as it sits a little large on my frame. I don’t want to incur the cost of returning it to Attitude as it’s not their fault it’s bigger than expected – and I am no one’s definition of an extra small! That said, HU thinks it looks lovely (he likes me wrapped up!), and I do adore it, so it’s a keeper – and Hell Bunny are considering replacing the belt as I type.

Recently one of my short stories won me £25 worth of book tokens. I wanted to use them for a book for keeps, and having read a review of ‘Tales of the Marvellous and News of the Strange”, a mediaeval Arab fantasy collection I knew this was the book for me. That said, I’m not sure about the Guardian’s review linking it to Fifty Shades…!! Published by Penguin, it is a visual delight despite my poor photography:

Blue Book Beautiful

Blue Book Beautiful

I am so looking forward to reading this next year. My folk tales and fairy tales shelves are starting to look rather pretty, and I intend to spend some quality time with them next year.

My mum deciding that I needed cheering up and bought me this rather beautiful thing – a new cushion for my reading chair:

Too pretty to sit on!

Too pretty to sit on!

Again, justice has not been done to my beautiful silver, blue & green peacock – it is far too pretty for me to slump on!! I think she found this lovely item in Marks & Spencers, of all places. The chair was found in a back lane and reclines, it could do with re-covering but I kind of like it as it is.

Finally, I did treat myself to two necklace charms when I was supposed to be Christmas shopping a couple of weeks ago. The Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle has a lovely gift shop and whilst I was buying a beautiful poppy vase for my Aunty, these fell into my sticky little mitts. They are made by Pick Up Sticks, and can be found in the UK at Notonthehighstreet.com – but they are waaaay more expensive there (£39 each, faints!). Mine cost £11 which is a considerable difference.

Tiaras Make Me Taller!

Tiaras Make Me Taller!

The background is the endpapers from my new book. I couldn’t decide between the two (I must Make Art or Throw a Hissy Fit! being the one one on the right), so ended up with them both. They have different mottos on the back as well, and are the size of a decent locket. I love them! They look amazing with Victorian governess necked dresses and tops.

Queen of Courage

Queen of Courage (reverse of Tiaras..)

So all in all I’ve been a little bit spoilt, and it’s not even Christmas yet. I’m starting to look forward to the festivities despite missing the first batch last week and over the weekend due to illness. The decorations have been brought downstairs, cards written, presents bought and my best friend is coming to stay at the weekend for 2 nights and an indoor champagne party! Him Underfoot has been an absolute darling, and I am feeling much loved. Seasons greetings to you all.

New tree fairy, Christabel

New tree fairy, Christabel

Mr Sandman, Send Me A dream

I rarely post book reviews on this blog as I find reading both highly emotive and quite personal, and accept that what works for me may not be another person’s cup of blackberry tea. Being somewhat bed bound this week I reverted to comfort book territory, picking up Neil Gaiman’s Preludes and Nocturnes, the first collection of the Sandman universe.  I first read this book back in 1992 and it holds so many emotional associations for me that what follows is not a critical review, rather a personal reflection of what this book means to me still – 22 years on.

Where it all starts

Where it all starts

Back in 1992 I was a callow student of library studies (you’ve seen the picture here, I’m even sat at a VAX!), fascinated by university life, the development of a new and strange method of communication called JANET (the Joint Academic Network) which the geeks used to communicate with each other on campus via the aged VAX computer system. This was way before the internet was open to popular use, and a super tool for a girl to employ to meet the then main target of her existent – geeky boys. I was happy to play computers with them, they were happy to show me their toys.

Morpheus

Morpheus

One of them had adopted the user name Morpheus on said system, which led to a discussion (actually in person) one day about the origin of the name. Oh, he said, let me show you my comic book collection, strange little girl. I willingly followed him up to his seaside book attic (aka paradise found) where a world of wonder was pressed into my eager little mittens. A sea of comic books, all loving preserved in plastic covers, filled in regimented lever arch binders. (An aside, I was using the frankly appalling user name Strawberry Tart at this point. I was 19, but I really don’t think that’s any excuse).

Now I’m a girl. A book nerd, fair enough, but I’d never been exposed to the wonderful world of the comic universe. My Morpheus was happy to educated me for the price of a few kisses. I really was that callow.  And so I read my first batch of single issue comics, by a chap called Neil Gaiman. This batch known as Preludes & Nocturnes.

Welcome to the Hellfire Club...

Welcome to the Hellfire Club…

Now Mr Gaiman himself acknowledges that he wasn’t all that happy with the execution and story development of some of these chapters. He may be right – but I didn’t have any comparable frame of reference for what I was reading. Sure, I loved fantasy, elves and hobbits and David Edding’s wonderful Belgariad. But this was another level of reality. I dived into it all headlong and began a love affair with The Sandman that has now lasted 22 years.

There were so many firsts for me with this book – my first actual adult comic book reading, my first meeting with the Endless, The Corinthian, The Furies, the glory that is Lucifer, Dave McKean’s beautiful artwork, John Constantine (Hellblazer being the second series I submerged myself into in Morpheus’ comic loft), and the greatest personification of Death I’ve ever read.

'Just feeding the birds'

‘Just feeding the birds’

This all came flooding back with this sickness induced re-read. I always seem to gain my greatest pleasure from Neil Gaiman when I’m bed bound and taking strong medications that can cause hallucinations!! I enjoyed every page, every detailed illustration in this now very battered first edition trade paperback. I fell in love with the Dream Lord all over again (though sadly not with his namesake who got a little huffy when the kisses stopped and banished me from his attic. Bah!).

For me, the pivotal chapters are 24 Hours and The Sound of Her Wings. 24 hours is pure horror theatre, and as a little gore hound goth – both then and now – it played into my nightmares beautifully. Then there’s The Sound of Her Wings, where we meet our second member of the Endless, Death. We walk a few hours in her shoes. We walk in the shadow of her wings, every day. I only hope that death is in reality that kind.

Introducing Gregory

Introducing Gregory

I loved this then. I love it now. I’m still in contact with my Morpheus, albeit at a distance. He gave me a great gift, this world, this toy box of fantasy. Right now I’m stepping back into The Doll’s House. The journey is long and occasionally uncomfortable, but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Thank you, my Morpheus, and Mr Gaiman, for the magic that still captivates.

 

Endnote: thanks to everyone who has sent me good wishes. I am slowly getting better, this is my worst asthma attach in 20 years and I’d forgotten how debilitating they can physically be. I’m rather snug, surrounded by pillows, books, tea, various internet devices, and drifting off to the lovely sounds of Agnes Obel’s Philharmonics and All About Eve’s Ultraviolet. Zzzzzzz!

Wheeze

It’s been a scary few days. Him Underfoot collapsed on me on Saturday, in a world of unexplained pain. I carted him off to A&E, not always pleasant on a Saturday night in December, where the staff were wonderful, thorough and reassuring. Thankfully he is ok – he’s rather entertaining when stoned on morphine -but when the person that holds your heart becomes so fragile it rips something right out of you. I love the goon. He’s mine. I should be able to help, gods, I felt so useless even down to the fact I can’t drive and finding a taxi on a party night isn’t fun. I was cursing my inability to drive the 3 miles to the hospital. I was also developing a pretty nasty chest infection and I don’t think being out until the small hours helped much, because I’m now having my worst asthma episode for 20 years. I can barely walk from one room to the next and am currently slugging a pailful of steroids. I woke on Monday night thinking there were birds singing in the clematis only to realise that it’s December, it was 2am and that it was actually my chest whistling away.

What breathing feels like (pic: Dave McKean)

What breathing feels like (pic: Dave McKean)

We are both slowly on the mend but I’ve had to cancel 4 events – one of which was a day of charitable work for the Action Foundation I should have been at right now and I feel terrible for letting them down. They were lovely, as they always are, and I hope I can make it up to them in the New Year. I should make their celebratory Christmas lunch next week though, so fingers crossed.

All this has kind of led to any Christmas celebrations or prep being put on hold. I literally haven’t had the energy to even write cards. I’m a bit ambivalent about it all this year, though I am looking forward to being with all my family for a couple of days. It’s a cliche, but time really does feel like sand slipping through my fingers.

The reason I watch Dominion!

The reason I watch Dominion!

I hope my next update will be more cheery and seasonal. I promise seasonal cheer! For now I’m going back to wallowing through multiple episodes of Tivo’d dodgy sci-fi (Dominion, I’m thinking of you, Michael is one hot archangel…!).

Sorrow

Tonight’s insomnia ear worm is the wonderful Mary Black’s Bright Blue Rose. I can’t help but think about my dad tonight. Though I may believe in Asgard as much as I believe in heaven, it gives me comfort to think he’s out there above me, dancing with the stars.

Forget me nots amongst the snow, It’s always been and so it goes. To ponder his life and his death eternally.

Grief strikes at the oddest times.

“Sonny don’t go away, I’m here all alone
Your Daddy’s a sailor, never comes home,
Nights are so long, silence goes on,
I’m feeling so tired and not all that strong”

Hair Evolution

So the dog and I are currently both under a rug on the settee, wrapped up against the cold which finally seems to have settled in for the winter. I’ve been listening to The Mission all afternoon which has a tendency to send me off into the wafty lands of nostalgia. So I looked at some old pictures. And my hair…

Mini Me...oh dear!

Mini Me…oh dear!

My fringe appears to start at the back of my head. It’s like I’ve been given a combover at the tender age of 4! Thanks parental units, I know this was the 70s but sheesh…

However, I cannot blame anyone but myself for the state of my ginger glory on the final day of school. The only redeeming feature of this photograph is my prized Ian McCulloch t-shirt. For some inexplicable reason in my mid-teens I used to mousse my hair then wrap it up tightly in pipe cleaners to create curls. I decided I needed some such bounce on my very final day at school, got up at 5am to wrap my hair (which only needed to be left in for 30 minutes maximum), then promptly fell asleep until 8pm. It was a crowning disaster. I didn’t have time to wash it again and spent the entire day looking like my hair had exploded in an unholy ginger halo. I went to the pub like this. I spoke to the boy I had lusted after for months dressed like this. Mind, as he was wearing his replica Waffen SS uniform at the time it probably wasn’t an issue.

Pipe cleaner monstrosity...

Pipe cleaner monstrosity…

 

Incidently, when my husband saw the above picture for the first time, his response was ‘Oh, I didn’t know you went to school in a borstal’. I have to admit our common room did look a bit trashed. I seem to recall all the girls stood on that table later in the day for a photo and it collapsed. Ah, those happy school days.

By the age of 19 I’d gone for the read deal – a true 80’s perm. Except it was the 90s. Oh. This is the only known photo of my perm-from-hell that lasted a whole 6 months before being removed wholesale fro  my bonce. (Actually, that’s a lie, there is one other but it’s consigned to the darkest reaches of the cupboard at the top of the stairs, to wither for eternity).

There's a monster on me heed!

There’s a monster on me heed!

The result was the shortest bob I’ve ever had. It had grown a little by this picture, taken when I was about 2o at university – a dear friend described me recently as looking full ‘…of piss and vinegar’. Cheers mate! I was actually doing a splendid job of failing my first degree here, spending too much time lurking in computer labs chatting up geeks and reading Hellblazer & Sandman comics.

'Full of piss & vinegar'

‘Full of piss & vinegar’

I then spent most of the 90’s in the hair wilderness. Make that a complete self awareness void. This sums it up nicely:

YETI!

YETI!

Oh, well maybe there was one other event in the 1990’s…

Marrying the lovely Him Underfoot

Marrying the lovely Him Underfoot

We both have fringes! EEK!

Thankfully the noughties and subsequent years have seen my hair settle into it’s midlife with surprisingly few moments of abject horror. This is in large part down to my finding a truly lovely hairdresser who I appear to be following around the north east with slavish devotion. Tracy, babe, you’re a gem.

Whitby hair

Whitby hair

Here endeth my somewhat frivolous post. It’s been fun, there are so many memories attached to these photos (and so many more I could have disgraced myself with). Now all I have to worry about is the creeping grey of cronehood. Woe is me, indeed!