Camp NaNoWriMo

In less than a week I will be embarking on my first ever summer camp!  Yes, you heard me. I’m going to be spending the whole of July at a writer’s retreat, along with thousands of other aspiring novelists from around the globe…

…I am of course talking about Camp NaNoWriMo 🙂

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For those who haven’t heard, NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month in it’s long form, takes place every November 1st-30th and the idea is that you pledge to write 50,000 words in one month.  There’s a whole online community built around the event, and at the end of it all you can validate your word count to become a winner.

Camp NaNoWriMo is the spring/summer equivalent.  There was one in April and another is starting on the 1st July.  I already have a cabin with eight other campers (i.e. writers!) and as you can set your own personal word goal for camp I have set mine to 40,000, with my aim being to double my existing word count on the YA novel I’m writing.

Most people start NaNo and CampNaNo with a new project, so I’m classed as a ‘rebel’ (and there are a few of us!) since I’m not strictly starting afresh with a new idea.  But I am still aiming to write 40,000 entirely new words which is a pretty big deal in itself.  Admittedly I have written 20,000 words in a week before now, but when you consider that in July I will be primary carer for my boys (as usual!), doing a 10k charity run, for which I still need to finalise my fancy dress costume, and potentially job-hunting as well, 40,000 words then starts to seem like ummm…quite a lot actually.

I am optimistic though (a rarity for me, I know!) as I’ve been feeling pretty inspired recently (well, either that or I’m just hiding from reality in my own fictional universe…la la la la)  I’ll update here with how I’m getting on so stay tuned if you’d like to witness the creative process/ a nervous breakdown in action!

The Spare Room

When we viewed this house, in September last year, we didn’t think we’d have a spare room.  There were three bedrooms, and four of us plus another on the way.  So the math worked out at two big people in the biggest room, two small people in the next biggest room, and then a tiny person in the tiny room.

By the time we moved in, there wasn’t going to be a tiny person anymore.  And for a long time I couldn’t go in what became the ‘spare room’ because, it felt wrong.  As my due date crept nearer I was acutely aware that “we’d be hanging the curtains and putting the cot up round about now” and I just hated that we weren’t.

I decided I needed to take action, and turn the room into something else.  Not a ‘spare’ room, not a nursery for a baby that wasn’t, but an actual room with an actual purpose.  We threw some ideas around but settled on a writing room.  I imagined a massive Louis XV style dressing table with a padded chair, and inspiration boards covering the walls.

There were a few problems though.  Namely, the fact that what had started out as a ‘spare’ room had quickly become a ‘junk’ room…

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So before it could become anything else it needed some serious attention.  And then there was the tiny, almost insignificant fact of not having the funds to acquire a massive Louis XV style dressing table and padded chair…along with the realisation that even if I miraculously came across such funds, such an extravagant piece of furniture would be unlikely to fit…

So for a long time nothing got done, and the junk room got worse, until the junk started to actually escape out of the door, spilling forth onto the landing.

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By which time I had come to realise something else, quite essential to the whole thing: I don’t need a writing room.  Seriously.  I love the idea of one.  But I don’t actually need a designated space to write.  In fact I seem to write best* when curled up on my bed with a notepad on my lap and my ipod on, or scribbling away on the sofa whilst Chris plays Second Son on the PS4, or very very occasionally here at the desk.

(*best here describing how easily the words flow and how satisfied I am reading them back afterwards, no external validation has actually verified the quality of the writing!)

After having this epiphany it seemed kind of silly to go ahead regardless, but on the other hand having an entire room dedicated to junk seemed pretty wasteful as well.

Around the same time a little cog whirred into action in my brain, causing me to act on something I’d been thinking about on and off for years, and so it was that I found myself requesting a “Fostering Information Pack” from our local council.

I wasn’t really expecting what happened next, which was a follow up phone call the next working day to ask if I wanted to go ahead and apply.  Apparently our local authority (and presumably it’s the same story all over the country) has such a high demand for, and lack of available foster carers that they are pretty errr…how would you put it?!…proactive at recruiting, once you take that initial half-step of an enquiry.  So on that note a social worker will be visiting us next week to discuss it all some more (and presumably ask us about a million follow up questions to the thousand and one screening questions we were already asked during the phone call!)

I’m not sure yet what will happen or where this will take us (if anywhere) but it feels good to have at least started it.  As someone who has been in and through the care system in this country I am all too aware of the difference a ‘good’ placement can make to a child’s life, and if we, and our ‘spare room’ can be that difference…well, how awesome would that be?

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Father’s Day & The Large Hadron Collider

Me: (excitedly)  “There’s going to be a thing!  A thing, a thing at MOSI…you know…the thing…the collider thing?  It’s going to be there tomorrow!”

Chris: “I am absolutely certain that the Large Hadron Collider will not be at MOSI tomorrow, on account of it being some 100 metres below the ground in Switzerland, not to mention rather large.”

Me: (deflated) “Oh…well…maybe just a part of it will be there then?  Or, like…just an exhibition about it?”

Chris: “That would make more sense.”

So that was me told.  It also meant I got an impromptu physics lesson before bed…and no, that isn’t a euphemism for something else.

I was sort of right though.  The Hadron Collider Exhibition is at MOSI until September.

So today, to celebrate Father’s Day, we went along to see it…

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And very exciting it was too.  Even the kids thought so.

Ok, ok…so they may have been slightly more interested in pressing the keys on pretend keyboards:

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and making calls on pretend telephones:

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but I reckon they make fairly convincing tiny scientists:

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Meanwhile I was left puzzling over the fact that despite never enjoying science in school I was now not only choosing to spend my free time reading white boards like this one, but was actually paying for the privilege 😉

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Seriously though, we had a good day.  I still don’t feel like I properly understand it, but I think that’s probably ok, since the people that do have spent more than 1 hour and 15 minutes studying it!

One thing’s certain…it sure is smaller than I expected 😉

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Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads/Dad’s-to-be/Substitute Dads out there, including my own (RIP) and of course the father of my sons, who is undoubtedly the best of them all 🙂

And we’re off! (Book Jar Post 1)

I finally went and did it!  After all this time…putting it off…waiting for the right time…last night I finally swooped down, casual as anything and picked the very first book out of my Book Jar 🙂

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And you are not going to believe what it is…

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Haha.  So after my Book Shelf Inspection, and saying that I’d started this book last year but had given up after a few pages, I am now going to be attempting to read it again, the whole way through this time!

And if you’re thinking “it’s a fix” I assure you, it most certainly is not.  If I desperately wanted to read another book I’d just do it.  The point of the Book Jar project is not to force me to read books I don’t want to, it’s to eliminate (or at least cut down on!) all that musing and pondering and deliberating that I do when trying to decide what to pick up off the shelf next.

I could get in an independent adjudicator I guess but given as this is a jar of book titles, not the national lottery, you’ll just have to trust that I’m telling you the truth 😉

Zen & Fair

So I’m feeling a bit more *zen* today.  And after yesterday’s explosive rant I thought that in the interests of balance, I should share that information with you all…if only so you won’t think I am an alcohol-fuelled, rage-filled homicidal maniac.  Because I’m not…most of the time. (Yesterday morning around 10 am being the rare exception obviously).

Nothing has really changed since yesterday, the situation still stands…I just haven’t had to deal with it, and have chosen not to think about it either and my mood has been much improved as a result.

It got me thinking about my last yoga class (which was now 3 weeks ago, thanks to shift-work and lack of childcare…grmbl, grmbl…oh wait, that’s not very zen…sorry!)  My yoga instructor was urging us all to try and accept the drumming in the studio next door, rather than try to ignore it, or wish it away…telling us that we cannot control external forces, but we can control what we choose to allow to affect us.

Well shit me, she is on to something there!  I swear, the minute I just gave in and thought “some dude is practicing drums next door…ah wells…” it totally stopped bothering me.  In fact…and I am honestly not making this part up, I actually fell asleep a few minutes later.  Seriously, I totally dozed off in Shavasana (I have no idea if that’s how you spell it by the way, I’ve only ever heard it said!)

Now I don’t like to think of myself as a control-freak or anything (even though I am) but if we’re honest there’s a part in all of us that wants to be in control…of our bodies, our choices, at work, in life…whatever.  Trouble is, it’s not always possible is it?  I should know, having spent a significant portion of last year at the mercy of my own nervous system when it decided it would no-longer-be-functioning-thank-you-very-much…oh-by-the-way-that-means-you-can’t-move.

There’s still a part of me that hasn’t accepted my diagnosis, that thinks If-I-just-ignore-it-maybe-it-will-fuck-off.  It’s the same part of me that seeks fairness when dealing with the tax credits office, and the same part of me that was initially wishing the drumming practice would relocate somewhere far far away from where I was practicing yoga.  But at the end of the day, I do have CIDP, the tax credits system is a joke, and people ought to be allowed to practice their drumming when and wherever they please…well, certainly when they’ve hired out a studio in the middle of the day for it in any case.  So I can go on wishing-it-weren’t-so, and refusing to believe it, and railing against the injustice of the whole goddam situation…but the person who ends up most affected by my fury will be me.  Because I’ll be worried, stressed and probably depressed.

I’m not advocating lying down in the middle of the floor and doing some belly breathing every time a situation pisses you off (although if it’s safe to do so- feel free!)  I just think I could do with remembering that while I cannot control everything that happens to me, I can control how I react to it.

So I may still choose to type a vast array of expletives in a row and call it a “blog post” but if that’s my way of coping, then it needs to make me feel better.  I need to be able to hit the “publish” button, watch those expletives fly off into the ether and then get on with my life.  Instead of then continuing to be a miserable bitch for the rest of the day.  A challenge, I’ll admit…but one I am willing to accept.

 

A Rant about Tax Credits

I’ve given this post such a self-explanatory title to allow those of you who may be uninterested in my perspective on the tax credits system to skip past it.

Go on, merrily skip on your way.  If you stick around you’ll only be party to my profane ramblings about the ridiculousness of a system that is designed to ‘help’ people but often times does anything but.

No…still not put off?…You sure?!

Right then…allow me to begin.

Our story begins on a cold dark night.

Nah, just kidding.  It begins in the autumn of 2010 when my boyfriend did something truly shocking and horribly selfish…he decided to go back to university to retrain and further his career prospects and opportunities.  I know, disgusting, right?!

So I called up the tax credits helpline and told them that he would no longer be working.

“Well, you won’t get any money then”

“Um…but I’m still working?”

“Yeah but you’ve BOTH got to be working to claim”

“Err…right.  But he’s going to be a full time student”

“That doesn’t count.  Unless he’s in prison, or leaves you…you won’t be getting anything”

I’m sorry, UNLESS HE’S IN PRISON OR LEAVES ME?!

Are you seriously, I mean, seriously telling me that I would be better off, financially if the father of my children was a fucking criminal or irresponsible wanker?  Is that the kind of message we really want to send to people?  Crime doesn’t pay!  Except that…err…it does.  So here, have a few extra quid for having the good sense and foresight to only get knocked up by someone with an irrepressible urge to mug, maim or kill?!

WHAT. THE. FUCK.

Then again, I called them this morning, to update our details now that I finally have both of our P60’s in my possession.

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The conversation was basically a lot of sighing (on her end) and stunned silence (on mine)

Apparently we were overpaid last year.

“Why?”

“Because you didn’t tell us about these changes to your employment and income”

“I’m telling you now?!”

“Yeah but you should have told us when you became unemployed in February”

“I didn’t become unemployed in February”

“No, but you’d been off sick for more than 28 weeks”

“Yes.  But I was still employed and being paid sick pay?!”

“That doesn’t matter.  For the purposes of tax credits you’re classed as unemployed once you’ve been off sick for more than 28 weeks”

Oh, right.  I see how it works now.  You make up rules, and we’re all just supposed to magically fucking know what they are!  I totally get it!  Genius.

Here, how about I make up some fucking rules of my own, like: If you’re employed, you’re fucking employed?!  That seems like a good one to start!

“So, you’ll owe us some money back because between February and April you weren’t working enough hours to claim tax credits, but were being paid them”

“Why weren’t we working enough hours?”

“Because you were unemployed (NO I FUCKING WASN’T!  YOU JUST MADE THAT SHIT UP!) and your partner was only working 16 hours a week”

“I was off sick from work, where I’m contracted to work 20 hours a week, and my partner has been working 38 hours a week (or more!) since November last year”

“Well, we didn’t know that.  You should have called us last November”

“I kind of had a lot on my plate at that time, what with being in hospital and all”

“I understand that, but this is a joint claim, so your partner should have called us”

You’re right.  He totally should have.

It’s just that he was being an utterly selfish bastard AGAIN, caring for me, his paralysed girlfriend who had just been diagnosed with a rare neurological condition, and looking after our two small children, you know- the ones you won’t give us any money towards childcare for?  Yeah, those ones.  Also, in November, his Mum who was waiting for a liver transplant, was diagnosed with lung cancer, and she died in the January.

And all the while he was working the increased hours- you know the 38 a week, that we forgot to tell you about but no, you’re right, it was an unacceptable oversight on his part to believe that you could access that information yourself…wait…what’s that you say…you don’t need me to supply you with our income details for last year because you can access that information yourself?…OH MY FUCKING GOD! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE!

So, apparently we will owe them some money back, from that (imaginary) period of time when I was magically unemployed without knowing it, and when Chris was working 16 hours a week that for some reason took him 38 hours to do.  But don’t worry- they’re not going to ask us for a cheque or anything, they’ll just “take it off of the coming year’s award”.  I.e. if they WERE going to give us any tax credits for 2014-2015, they will now be giving us less…or none.

Which is fine because I DON’T WANT THEIR FUCKING MONEY ANYWAY!  But sadly I need it.  Hence the extreme frustration at being forced to deal with their inane system and exasperated phone advisers, who always act like your changes in circumstance are a massive inconvenience to them…

“You moved house when?! *sigh* And you took a second job to survive *sigh* So what date did that employment start? *sigh* Oh that changes everything, now I’m going to have to switch screens *sigh*”

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go pour myself a glass of wine that I can’t afford.

Yes it’s 10am on a Tuesday morning, what the fuck is your point?!

 

 

The Bookshelf Inspection

I just read this piece by Peter Damien over at Book Riot and was inspired to do the same with my bookcase (ok, ok, three bookcases and fireplace)

So, without further ado, here are the results of my investigation:

READ

I was going to make this the last book I read, but actually the last book I read (The Color Purple) was a library book so is technically a bookshelf squatter rather than a resident.

The last book I read that actually belongs to me is The Red Tent by Anita Diamant.  It’s one of those books I have been ‘meaning to read’ for absolutely ages and then I finally read it two weeks ago and it’s amaaaazing.  I read it across three days, and on the final day I was in hospital having my monthly IVIg treatment and I’m sure the nurses thought I was really rude as I just let them do their thing and pretty much ignored everyone with my nose in this book (occasionally brushing away a stray tear, which would set my IV alarm off due to my arm bending!)  I loved it, and I’m so glad I bought it second hand rather than borrowing it as I know it’s one I’ll want to revisit.

 

INTENDING TO READ

Cormack Mc Carthy’s The Road.  Chris has been telling me I should read it for the last hundred (ok, two) years.  I do want to.  I just want to be in the right place mentally before I do, but it’s creeping up the pile in my head.

 

HALF READ

Generation X by Douglas Coupland

I started it about a year (ish) ago and for some reason didn’t get very far (just a few pages) before putting it down andI’ve yet to go back to it.  It’s only a tiny thing, so I’m sure that when I eventually do get round to it, it won’t take me very long to finish.

 

PRETENDING I’VE READ

Aesop’s Fables.  This is on the kids’ bookcase, along with all the other “not picture books, but not adult books” like Matilda, and The Borrowers Omnibus.  I got it as a swap on Read It Swap It but I’ve never read it.  I know what it ‘is’ though, so feel like that almost counts?!

 

SAVING FOR WHEN I HAVE MORE TIME

Homer’s Odyssey.

We also have The Iliad.

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Yeah…I’m gonna need more time…A LOT more time 😉

 

WILL NEVER READ

My boyfriend’s David Eddings collection.  I don’t really ‘do’ fantasy so when I scan the bookcase they don’t even really register in my mind to be honest.

 

PURELY FOR SHOW

This is a tricky one so I’ve sort of cheated and picked my boyfriend’s “The Girl Who…” hard-back boxed set collection.  Because they’re the nicest looking books on the bookcase and I have no intention of ever reading them…in that format.  He’s read them on kindle and I’ll do the same, that way I get to find out how great they are (as everyone keeps telling me) without damaging the beautiful shiny hard-back-ness of the actual books themselves 😉

 

Not only was it quite fun, but this exercise also served as a reminder of just how many unread books we have in the house and how I really REALLY need to get on with my Book Jar project! I promise I will…really soon!…