Rules of Civility (Book Jar Post 3)

It’s been a while since my last Book Jar post.

Between then and now I have read a lot of books, but I’ve been doing my own choosing.  But after getting stuck in a (rather splendid) rut of re-reading all the Poirot books ever written (usually in the bath) I decided to let The Jar speak…

bookjarpic

I won’t lie, I was so happy to pluck this one out.  It has been sitting in the fireplace since forever, and the cover is soooo pretty…

rules of civility

I’m about two thirds of the way through, and I may be in love.

I’ll probably finish it tonight, which will be both a sad and happy occasion, for which gin will definitely be required.

GIN

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Autumn

I watched autumn through windows last year.

I was discharged from hospital on the 29th August and readmitted exactly 5 weeks later on the 3rd October, and in-between I left the house only a handful of times- mainly to view houses as we were about to move.

I could hardly walk, and everything was an incredible amount of effort.  It felt like I spent basically the whole of September sitting on the sofa under our living room window, watching the leaves turn red and the sky turn grey, wondering when I’d be ‘normal’ again.

A year later, and I’m not quite ‘normal’ but as close as I’m ever going to get, and autumn is here once again and I’m IN IT.

boys

(walking through the park to school, last week, keeping their eyes peeled for “coconuts” aka, conkers!)

Every day, I’m outside, walking through the park watching the leaves falling, feeling the air changing, looking for conkers with my kids, and drinking pumpkin-spice lattes (well someone has to!  If the internet is to be believed, everyone else on the planet hates them?!)

Autumn has always been my absolute favourite season, so many good things have happened to me at this time of year, that for me it isn’t just about the natural beauty, the sights and smells, but the memories they evoke too.

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(Cringle Park, autumn 2012, which feels like last year to me, because of being ill I feel like I skipped a year)

There was the autumn I moved to Manchester.  Ok, technically I moved here in the summer, but it rained for about 5 solid weeks when I first arrived, and I spent the “summer” painting my flat- so it didn’t feel like I really began to get to know the place until the autumn.  That was also the autumn I met my (now) boyfriend Chris, although neither of us remembers our first meeting.  That is to say, we remember the occasion, and were vaguely aware of each others presence, but ours was a slow burn, and it wasn’t until the following autumn that we actually got together as a couple (see: slow).

There was the autumn we got our dog, Fudge, his first walks as a puppy involved racing through the fallen leaves on the green on Slade Lane.

There was the autumn I was heavily pregnant with our first baby, walking along the beach in Whitby, under overcast skies, my ginormous belly swathed under a tent-like tartan duffle coat.

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Then two years later, the autumn I gave birth to our second child.  It was a late one that year, September felt more like July, and the final weeks of my pregnancy were unbearable, and then finally, when he was born at the start of October, autumn arrived, and our first trip out as a family of four was to the park, which was covered with a thick carpet of golden leaves, the air was crisp and bright.

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So when I say “I love autumn”, or declare autumn as my “favourite season” (as though one could exist without the others), yes I love the stuff everyone else seemingly loves about it.  That “back to school” feel (I always loved school as a kid, especially- especially new pencil cases), the drop in temperature, the nights closing in slowly, the reds and golds, halloween parties, pumpkin-spice everything, bonfire night, toffee apples…yes of course all of that.  But also something else.  Unlike the other seasons, which I also love for the changes they bring, somehow autumn is the one that for me, has the ability to transport me back in time.  It holds the emotions of the past, and the promise of the future…

…and conkers.

conkers

Lots, and lots of conkers.

Things I learnt last night

Things I learnt last night

Funeral for a Friend are still as good as I remember, despite it being years since I saw them live.

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Matt Davies-Kreye (the lead-singer) is a really nice guy.

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My little sister is way cooler (and taller) than me (Actually, I already knew both those things)

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There is such a thing as being too old for a mosh-pit, and sadly, at 29 I am it.

Oh, and if you have CIDP and go to a gig two days before your next IVIG infusion, you’re going to suffer for it the next day

*injects coffee into eyeballs*

That is all.

🙂

On Reviews

As anyone who knows me IRL can tell you, I read A LOT.  There have been periods of my life where I haven’t done much reading (most notably, after becoming a Mum for the first time, when I didn’t finish a book for a looooong time!) but generally, I could be described as being a bit of a lot of a bookworm.

One thing I am NOT though, is a reviewer.

I am so rubbish at reviewing anything, if I’m honest.  Whether it’s a day out with the kids, or a new washing powder.  I might have things to say about it, but somehow never get round to sharing my thoughts with anyone other than Chris.  I am PARTICULARLY bad at reviewing books though.  If I hate a book (and this happens quite rarely) I can usually explain why to a friend, but I would never then go online and broadcast my views to the world.  I guess I just think “well, they probably did their best, and who am I to judge, and anyway, I wasn’t forced to read it” and then I’ll put the book on Read it Swap it, or give it to charity and that’s that.

If I love a book, I’m even worse!  The more passionately in love with the story I am, the less I can explain it, the less I want to explain it, in fact I don’t usually want to even talk about it, except perhaps to tell everyone OH MY GOD I LOVE THIS BOOK, YOU SHOULD GO READ IT NOW!

It’s not that I can’t articulate my thoughts and feelings (although that is sometimes the case initially, but I can usually work through it!)  It’s more that I don’t want to.  I don’t ever choose what to read based on (written) reviews.  I choose based on word of mouth recommendations, and what’s in front of me at the book shop/library/amazon page, I consider covers (terrible of me, I know) and blurbs.  I don’t care if it says “RIP ROARING SUMMER READ!” (Daily Fail, 2014) or “THIS BOOK WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE!” (Name of famous person, 2014) on the front or back.  Reading is subjective.  So for someone’s opinion to sway my decision to buy or read something, they’ve got to either be pretty close to me, or else an expert in the field that the book they’re talking about covers (If that makes sense?!)  So random celebrities and newspapers don’t mean shit as far as I’m concerned.

As I get older though, and as my dream of one day seeing my own stories in print moves simultaneously closer (I FINISHED THE FIRST DRAFT!) and ever further away, fading on the horizon (WILL IT EVER BE GOOD ENOUGH TO PUBLISH?!) I am aware that book reviews are a pretty vital part of the whole process.  People who love books need to tell people that they do, and explain why.  Otherwise how does the author know?  How do the publishers know?  How do other readers know?

In my case, I think it’s that I don’t want to spoil the book by explaining it.  It’s almost like book-reviewing proper reminds me of writing comprehensions in high school English, where we had to break down every single passage until it lost all meaning. “Why did Shakespeare put that comma there, do you think?” is not an exercise that helps you to feel an emotional connection with Romeo and Juliet’s story.  So I have grown up to be afraid of deconstructing things to examine what makes them good (or not, as the case may be).  If I have a delicious meal in a restaurant, or read the most earth-shattering novel, perhaps I want to leave those experiences whole in my mind and only comment on them in the briefest of “you should eat there/read that” way.

It feels like I’m betraying those experiences by not shouting about them louder though.  There are some incredible writers, and short of sending them a letter to say “I LOVE THE WORDS YOU MADE!”, a review is probably a good way to let them know how their work has affected me.

I just (yesterday) joined Goodreads, and it wants me to rate at least twenty books so it can recommend some to me.  Even a basic 1-5 star system, without an actually worded-review, is making my feel uncomfortable.  “If I give that book a four, but then this book a five, does it mean I loved one more than the other, or that I loved them both but one was flawed?  Maybe I should read that book again to check it isn’t a five…What if I give all these books a five and then one day someone writes something that needs a six?!  What if I give this book one star and an angry mob descends on my front gate?!” etc etc etc.

You can see my dilemma I think (or my mental problems, in any case).

 

Fostering Update

A while back I mentioned that we were about to embark on our journey applying to be foster carers so I thought perhaps I’d better give a little update on how that’s going…

 

…slowly.

 

That’s how it’s going.  V-e-r-y-s-l-o-w-l-y-!

Seriously though, we went into the process under no illusions about how thorough and time-consuming it would be, but the sheer number of steps and volume of paperwork has still managed to surprise us.

So far our journey has been:

  • Download information pack and register interest online
  • Follow-up phone call from the fostering team to ask if we’d like to proceed
  • Telephone interview covering our personal information and circumstances (all basic stuff like our ages, occupations, number of bedrooms etc)
  • Initial home visit from a social worker to see how suitable we are

Then three weeks ago we did two days of “Skills To Foster” training, which was basically a whistle-stop tour of the realities of foster training, and let me tell you it was INTENSE.  Brutally intense.  There was so much information, and although we have both had personal and professional experience with a lot of what was being discussed, in a way that made it even more intense.  When they were telling us about “the situations that lead to some children coming to the care system” it was hard for me to listen to someone describing parts of my life to me.  I was shocked just how emotionally draining I found it to be honest, as I didn’t think I still had feelings about that time of my life, but apparently I do.

I wouldn’t say the two days of training put us off.  The trainer said it wasn’t her job to put us off, but that she had to be honest, and at times negative, in order to realistically prepare us for the journey ahead.  I’d say she certainly did that, possibly too well.  Haha.

In all seriousness though, none of it was new information to either of us.  Yes there were specifics and intricacies that we weren’t aware of, but on the whole we knew what it involved before we even looked into it, so it wasn’t like we went in with rose tinted glasses and had them ripped off our faces.  The sheer intensity of the two days did have an effect, though.  For a few days afterwards we didn’t even talk about it between ourselves.  Chris was working anyway and when he was home, it was like we both just needed to NOT think about it all, and let it settle.  About a week later we did sit down and have an honest discussion, and neither of us had been put off, but we both had new concerns that we needed to talk about with each other before moving forward.  Mine is about the psychological/emotional impact of the assessment process.  If two days of skills training can bring my emotions to the surface like that and leave me feeling a bit icky and odd for a few days then what will I be like when we’re actually being assessed, and regularly having to bring up and talk about EVERY SINGLE THING THAT’S EVER HAPPENED IN OUR LIVES EVER (Which is basically what the assessment process entails!)

The honest answer to that is, I don’t know.  Chris thinks it could be cathartic and end up being a positive thing, but the fact that it all goes before a panel in the end, whereby I’m judged “good enough” or “not” to be a foster carer is pretty full-on.  We’re kind of offering ourselves up, and what if we’re found lacking in someway?  It’s a scary thought.

I am more than the things that have happened to me, though.  I just need to remember that, and be able to demonstrate it during our assessment.  Maybe I will get it printed on a t-shirt

I AM MORE THAN THE THINGS THAT HAVE HAPPENED TO ME.

It’s got a nice ring to it, actually.

So that’s where we’re up to.  Still very early on in the whole thing- awaiting medicals and DBS checks (the new CRB) and the like.  It’s going to be a long road, and I’m prepared for that.  I just hope it’s not too bumpy or windy, because I get severely travel sick.

Zero Tolerance

This blog, both in it’s current incarnation and it’s previous form over on Blogger, has always been something of a “Politics-free zone”.  This is entirely on purpose.  I try to make it my business, both when blogging and in my everyday life, not to talk about shit I don’t understand.  That handily covers pretty much everything that isn’t my own life.  Actually, somedays that includes my own life but shhh.

Now I know, I am over-simplifying massively.  As Skunk Anansie sings “everything is fucking political”, and it’s true.  You can’t really separate life from politics because every area of our lives is influenced and affected, either directly or indirectly by the politics of the places we live in and the people in charge of it.  In fact, by choosing to actively avoid even mentioning politics, I’m actually being political but before I am sucked into a vortex in which I just spin around mumbling “political” over and over to myself I will move swiftly on to my actual point…

Which is, that I don’t like to talk about overtly political issues because I feel ill-equipped for the reactions and debates it could potentially bring.  I haven’t been able to formulate meaningful arguments since I was studying A-level Religious Studies, when I could argue the shit out of anything at a minute’s notice.  I am blessed/cursed with the ability to see things from both/multiple sides, which meant back then I could even argue the case for things I was opposed to and vice/versa.  I recall many a pleasant afternoon in college arguing the toss with my friend Rachel about abortion, the death penalty, theft, the existence of God, the merits of Nik-Naks vs Wheat Crunchies, y’know- all the big stuff.  Seriously, I carried my opinions like the ridiculous menthol cigarettes I smoked, and would happily whip one out and spark it up whenever and wherever.

Something about growing up, and having children has taken that ability away from me.  I have lost the confidence I once had that I could “win” any argument, a chronic lack of sleep has made me slow off the mark, I’m weary of arguing with people whose minds I know I can never change, the cigarettes have long since gone and taken my spark with them.

I also have much fewer opinions than I used to.  It’s amazing really, that the more I learn, the more knowledge and information I get, the less I’m sure of what I believe.  Nothing is black and white anymore.  Except my cat, who is literally black and white:

 

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(proof)

Everything else is just shades of grey (I hate how it’s impossible to type those three words now without immediately feeling the need to declare your feelings about BDSM).

I used to decide what was ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ using the power of my Dr Pepper and menthol-cigarette fuelled mind, and even if I didn’t have a clear stance on something, I could sure as hell fake one.  These days I can’t fake shit, and ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ are rumbling feelings in my gut, that could easily be mistaken for the indigestion that comes from being almost-thirty and having to share mealtimes with two small children.

I see and hear things every single day that cause a rumble, but I refuse to ‘involve’ myself, for a variety of reasons:

You can’t change their minds

What difference will it make?

Maybe there are factors here you don’t know about?

Are you prepared to accept the consequences of asserting your opinion on this?

What even IS your opinion on this?

I think that last one is a biggie.  Sometimes I genuinely don’t have strong feelings either way, and I think as I get older I’m appreciating more and more that that’s okay.  It’s okay not to have an opinion on EVERYTHING, and maybe some people on the internet would do well to remember that rather than shoehorning their rage into various cookie-cutter shaped issues.

Also at the end of the day, I’m busy, and I want to feel relaxed and happy and sometimes it’s just easier to ignore stuff that irritates you because otherwise you’d spend all day every day riled up about whatever issue was pissing you off.  And I know some people DO that, particularly online, on places like Twitter and Tumblr, and I admire their ability to keep up that level of reasoning and injustice and rage but me personally?  I can’t do it.

Basically, I am Unikitty.

unikitty

I just want to spend my days in happy fucking rainbow land and be left the hell alone to get on with my life.

Does that make me selfish?  In my refusal to engage with political issues am I perpetuating all that is wrong with society?

Maybe…probably.But see, as much as I don’t discuss my personal viewpoints on BIG ISSUES online or in my everyday life, I do LIVE them.  Everyday I live out what I believe, in front of my children and for now at least, that will have to be my contribution to changing the world- pouring all my energies into living my life in such a way that my children will grow up as decent human beings.

Of course the opposite of Unikitty though is Rage Unikitty.  And a consequence of trying to suppress my annoyance and anger at the world is that when it comes out, it looks a lot like this

“YOU ALL NEED TO BE MORE FRIENDLYYYYYYYYYY!”

And that, right there, is my political stance.

You wanted it, you got it.

I have the ability to be, and actually am, friends with people with various viewpoints opposed to my own.  It’s not a problem (as far as I’m concerned, maybe it is to them, but they’ve never said so).  What allows me to be friends with these people is that we have a mutual respect for each other’s opinions.

I believe in freedom of thought and freedom of speech.  I will defend anybody’s right to hold and peacefully express whatever viewpoint they have (no matter how strongly I might disagree with it) BUT there is a difference between thinking and acting.  Between articulating your feelings and inciting hatred.

I feel like it shouldn’t be necessary for me to type the following, because it should be a fucking given, that as a human being I am accepting of all other human beings, but just for the record since we’re opening this can of worms, we may as well dive right in hey?

To be clear, I do not and will not tolerate hatred in any of the following forms:

Sexism

Racism

Nationalism

Sexual Discrimination

Religious Discrimination

Ageism

Ableism

 

Generally folks, it’s fair to say that if you’d like us to remain friends, it would be helpful if you could avoid the “‘ism’s”, yeah?

To be super clear, I’m saying NO to hatred against any person or group of persons in society based on your personal viewpoint that they are somehow “different” or less of a person than you.

By the way if you find yourself saying “I’m not racist but…” on a semi-regular basis, then heads-up, you’re a fucking racist.

Why I should need to make this shit explicit in THE YEAR 2014, I don’t understand.  But there you go.

I cannot protect my children from the world in which we live, I know that.  As they grow up I’m sure that like me, they’ll see things that make their heads and hearts hurt, and I’ll have some explaining to do.  I’m not sure yet how I’m going to help them understand why some people act the way that they do.  In the meantime though, while I still have a modicum of control over their lives, I will not hesitate to challenge you if you start spouting some hate-filled bullshit in their presence.

Additionally, I need you to know that if you’re in the business of bigotry, and wish to express that through the “sharing” of “Britain First” or similar organisations’s posts on facebook then that is your right, but I don’t want to see that crap first thing in the morning before I take my son to school and I’m either gonna block you or call you on it, depending on which incarnation of UniKitty I happen to be that day.

(I’m just going to leave this right here)

Ok, I’m done.

 

 

 

 

 

THE END

Is there anything more satisfying than writing those two little words?

Well…probably a few things actually, and writing this:

theactualend

was one of them.  Yes that does say “The Actual End” but only because 24 hours prior I’d written:

theend

But in reality I wasn’t quite done because I had an epilogue to write.

So finally last night, ten years after first coming up with the main character and loose idea, eight months after beginning to dream up a plot, and exactly 21 weeks after starting to actually WRITE the thing…I FINISHED MY BOOK.

Woot-woot.

Today I have mostly been wearing my “Great Manchester Run 2014 FINISHERS” Tee, and a very big grin.

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Clearly, this is only the beginning, it still needs a lot of work.  The handwritten version in those notebooks is what you might call “A Rough Draft”, and then I have the typed up version, which is a slightly smoother draft.  More like how you’d imagine the first draft of a book might be.  It begins at the beginning and ends at the end and in-between there are a lot of words. 75,300 to be exact.  And only 273 of those are swear words, that’s less than 0.36%  Who’d have guessed?  I thought I was dropping f-bombs (kind of hate that term actually) all over the place but turns out I’m using them less than I do in my day-to-day speech, where my percentage is probably ten times as high. Well, I’ll be damned 😉

I’m not sure yet what my plan is, other than to leave it be for a couple of weeks and then begin the daunting and potentially endless task of editing/re-writing.  So anyone wanting to read it, can expect it to be ready umm…let’s see…NEVER.

Haha.

I’m being quite serious though.

Like every writer who has come before me, the idea of anyone else other than ME actually reading it at this point fills me with a kind of vomit-inducing dread.  And yet…it would be pretty awesome to have someone read it one day, especially if they then told me they’d enjoyed the experience.  So we shall see.

Besides editing, I’m also planning to start writing Book Two.  Yep, you heard me correctly.  I haven’t told the full story, so there’s going to be at least one, maybe two more books. (I kind of wanted to make it a two-parter, rather than a trilogy but I think there are three quite distinct stories to be told, so it’s probably going to naturally end up as three book series).

Having literally just finished (and I use the term ‘finished’ loosely there) writing the first book, the idea of doing that all over again, maybe twice is pretty scary…but also quite exciting.  I’m still as passionate about the characters (particularly my main character) as I was 21 weeks ago so it’ll be fun to spend more time ‘with’ them.

Before all that I’m going to have a bit of a break though.  It’s not like I haven’t had days off from writing in the last 5 months, hell I’ve had a whole two weeks of not writing at times, but it’s always been there in the background, tugging at my mind.  So for the next fortnight I’m planning to let it go, let it goooooo (sorry, but my boys recently joined every other child in the country by becoming obsessed with Frozen)

I have one of these:

wreck this journal

tucked away in a drawer that I thought might be a fun way of being creative without actually MAKING WORDS.  And there are always books to be read and films to be watched.

First though, I may have to make time for a teensy bit more BASKING, and a tad more CELEBRATING.

Flawed, and unfit-for-public-viewing though it may be, I WROTE A BOOK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!