Saturday, 4 July 2020

Stay Safe. Stay Alert. Watch out for Arseholes.

When someone infected with Covid 19 coughs, some of the heavier spheres of death fly in an arc and land on the carpet just over 3 feet away, while the more cunning ones hang around in the air in the form of aerosols for at least three hours. I personally think aerosols is too clinical a name; I think they should be called arseholes.

I live alone in a retirement block on the second floor. To get any fresh air, I have to use the lift and walk along two corridors, both potentially full of deadly arseholes, so I wear an N95 mask that I got from the Internet. Nine years out of date and probably useless, but it gives me a bit of confidence.

Sometimes I wonder whether I should shut my eyes when I'm in the lift, but I know those little particles would be perfectly capable of landing on my eyelids and travelling through to my eyes, so I don't bother. 
As I move slowly from the second floor to the ground, I imagine a future virus that can crawl. Someone sneezes or coughs and a drop lands on your sleeve. Over the next hour, it crawls up your arm, up your neck and into your mouth or your nose or your eyes. Or even worse, there's a virus that can burrow through the fabric of your sleeve and through your skin into your bloodstream ...

The gentle chimes of the lift announce I'm at the ground floor. 

I see some fellow residents blocking the only exit, hovering round the hand sanitiser like office workers round the water cooler. Having probably not seen another human being for days, they chat while they clean their hands. I hang back, torn between the desperate need for conversation and the equally desperate need to avoid the plague.

Finally, they disperse and I make my way out of the building, slathering my hands with goo to kill the arseholes that might be on the door handle. 

I walk in the front garden - the only place I can go. I'm not one of these lucky people who can go to the shops or visit friends. If I were to catch the virus, it could easily finish off my delicate heart. 

I deal with the feeling of being imprisoned by letting my imagination run wild, but this time in a more positive way. I'm lucky to live in a building which has a beautiful front garden left to run wild. I walk along the edge of the lawn imagining fairy folk living happy lives amongst the ivy-choked beech trees.

Time to go back in again, back to my dark second-floor flat. Just outside the main door, another kindhearted resident approaches me, their eyes bright with the recognition of a fellow human being. They are unmasked, smiling and talking to me about how they're on their way to get a loaf of bread. They walk towards me, closing in on that precious space. I back up, sensing those arseholes flying towards me.

I get the impression, just for a moment, that the virus is in control of this person's movements, taking over their motor control, forcing them to stagger closer and closer to me. The land of the walking dead. 
My back is now pressed against the wrought iron fence, so I shove my mask over my face, hoping that its out of date status doesn't really matter.

I want to tell this kind, sweet soul to back the eff up and give me some space, but all that comes out of my mouth is a platitude about the weather. I'm doomed to die of politeness.

I edge along the fence and make my escape back into my sanctuary. It might be small and dark, but my flat is a safe space. Arsehole free.

Saturday, 6 June 2020

Paramedics and Bubble Wrap

I was woken this morning by a paramedic in PPE blundering into my bedroom.

But, before I get into the story, I need to tell you three things:

1) Due to my heart failure, I have one of those pendants that you press if you're in trouble which links through to a company who call the paramedics if you don't respond. 

2) The day before, I'd had a delivery from Amazon. Just two tiny things but in a huge boxes, so my hallway (which is very small) was cluttered with loads of plastic wrapping and boxes big enough to house small ponies. 

I remember thinking, as I went to bed, it would be challenging for someone to get in if there was an emergency. I cleaned my teeth and promptly forgot about it.
I don't have a picture of the boxes as they've been taken away.

3) I'd had beans for supper and I'd been farting all night and the window was closed, so my bedroom smelt like a fart factory.

My emergency pendant machine thing woke me up at 6.30am by trilling like a little phone. So I crawled out of bed to take a look. There were quite a few buttons and I had no idea which one to press, so I pressed them all except the big red one. I knew not to press that because I didn't need any help other than to stop this machine keeping me awake.
Once the machine was suitably pacified, I went back to bed. 
I'd just dropped to sleep again when I heard someone trying to get into my flat, pushing their way through the cardboard box mountain and packaging.
My brain said things like what? and how? and other helpful things, while a kind voice said hello? are you okay? where are you?.
The bedroom door opened and a paramedic tripped through into my room, her feet tangled in plastic bubble wrap. She was standing there, masked and gloved, with her emergency defibrillator box, probably expecting me to be on the floor half conscious.

I was climbing out of bed with my hair sticking up, trying to work out what was happening. The poor woman. I’m glad she was wearing a mask because it shielded her from the fart miasma in my room.

It turned out my pendant had malfunctioned and had called the services while I was asleep. The company had tried to call me on my phone, but I’d switched it to silent at night.

Once she knew I was okay, she cancelled the emergency call and left me to it. (I just want to say a quick thank you to all these emergency workers. They have saved my life twice).

The company did a remote test on the pendant and said it was fine, however, until I know it’s truly fine, I must do three things:

I must keep my hallway clear
I must keep my phone on at night.
I must not eat baked beans for tea.

Sunday, 31 May 2020

Lockdown Gardening in a Second-floor Flat

A year ago, I was living in a bungalow with a large garden. It was rented and there was no lawn, but I had plenty of space to plant things and watch the flowers grow. 
I don't know about you, but I always find green things like trees and tall grasses waving around in the sunshine make me feel better. Watching seeds grow gives me hope and the colours of flowers warms my little heart.

As I said in my previous blog, my heart decided to give up last August and I'm still in and out of hospital as we speak. As a result, I’ve had to move into a retirement flat so that I'm near the hospital and have a warden available if I collapse.

It seems like only yesterday that I was twenty-five years old and playing around in the snow in my dragon jumper. Now, I’m suddenly 61, with a heart condition, living with other old ladies who are a lot older than me.

The worst part about being here is that they won't allow pets. I did ask the landlord if I could have sixteen rats, but he didn't seem to like this idea.
The other thing is that I have no garden of my own. 
Last year, for my birthday, my brother gave me some roses in pots. These are now with a trusted friend because there's no room for them in my flat. I don’t think being indoors, facing north, with no sunlight would do them any good. 
I did ask the warden if I could have my roses planted in the grounds, but he simply grumped at me in a grumpy kind of way. 

Never one to be put off by minor obstacles such as heart failure, lack of money and no garden, I have found a way.

In one corner of my room, by the window, I have a small table  on which I’ve got some seedlings growing. I and my seedlings sit by the window every day, trying to get as much light as possible while I write my books. The seedlings don't help with the writing much as they can't hold a pen very well or make sentences, but they do their best.

Outside, in the communal grounds, I've taken over a neglected corner far from the eyes of the grumpy warden. I've pulled away some of the ivy and planted some seedlings. A lady on the ground floor is rather cheered by my attempts at horticulture against the odds and is watering them for me.
I say against the odds, because the "front garden" is just an ivy choked, abandoned herbaceous border with trees. 

Nothing can grow there and the ground is rock-hard and dry, tangled with ivy roots.
I call this patch of ground "The Tulgey Wood" and have been posting videos on Facebook about it. I think there might be fairies in there. In fact, I’m sure I saw one the other day. Maybe there are other magic creatures there too?

Wednesday, 11 March 2020

Going in on Blue

I haven't posted for a long time as I had left ventricular failure in August last year. I'm only now able to put finger to keyboard and write proper words. 

My heart event was a whopper. A - one minute you're fine, the next you're collapsed on the floor, gasping at your friend to call an ambulance - type. The pain was excruciating. I was sweating, finding it hard to breathe and phasing in and out of consciousness.

Once I was loaded into the ambulance and hooked up to morphine, the paramedic leaned forward to the driver and said, "Going in on blue”. Despite being at death's door, I couldn't help thinking 'what a great title for a story'. 

As we set off, sirens blaring, hurtling at speed towards the hospital, I began to beg whatever or whoever is in charge to spare my life or to take me to heaven and hold me in her loving arms. At the same time, I was struck by my indomitable writer's spirit. Fancy thinking of titles for books at a time like that?!

Three days after I was discharged, I had another LV failure and went in on blue again. I've since been in hospital six more times and am not out of the woods yet. The good news is that, despite all the emergencies and blood tests and nasty cannulas, I'm pleased to be back to my writing again.

The following is an edited piece from a website written by paramedics to explain the various terminology they use. 

Disclaimer: I've met many junior doctors who have been wonderful, so please don't take the reposting of this humorous paragraph too much to heart if you’re a junior doctor.

Blue Call (unedited)
Once a patient is picked up - if the problem is time critical then we will "blue" the patient into the relevant hospital. We radio ahead so the hospital can be ready for our arrival and we then drive with the blue lights and sirens. The slower you see an ambulance driving on blue lights - then probably the worse the patient's condition is! Some people don't understand this - if you had a patient who'd been shot, their bullet was wedged, just touching the main artery from the heart, you would not want to race at 70 miles an hour over speed bumps, round corners et cetera just to arrive and find the patient now bled to death in the back of the truck. No, you take it very, very slow and steady … and leave it to the junior doctors to kill the patient.

As it turned out, I experienced Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy, which is a rare failure of the left ventricle and heart block which is an electrical fault, like you get in an old car.



Thursday, 25 July 2019

Dangerous writing

This is a piece I wrote a while back on the merits of "wild writing". I was working on my fictional desert island story. It's about two teenagers marooned on an uninhabited tropical island. As they fall in and out of love, they slowly become aware that the island is sentient and intent on their doom.

I'll resume it once my memoir is done. There's so much to write about and not enough time.
So, here's the bit about wild writing. 

"Wild Writing"

For many years, I was plot bound, held in check by the beginning, the middle and the end - kept behind the bars of good-girl grammar and spelling. I insisted on knowing what was going to happen and frequently forced my characters to obey. They had no freedom to express themselves, to turn right instead of left, to explore the dangerous jungle trail to the unknown.
I always thought it was weakness when people said that their characters wrote the story, but now that I have two teenagers learning about love and a tropical island intent on their death, I’ve change my mind.
Even I, the god of this particular little world, can’t tell these youngsters what to do or say. I have learned to listen. I can now feel the wild heartbeat as they kiss for the first time. I hear the knock, knock as the bones of a long dead soldier roll against the coral. Fear tightens my belly as the island plans their doom.

Wild writing is not safe. It is liberating.

Do you control your characters? Or do you let them run willingly into the jaws of death and calamity?

Monday, 8 July 2019

My animal/spiritual memoir is nearly finished.

My Chronic Myofascial Pain has got lots worse.

I've been housebound since November 2017, only leaving the house to go to the dentist, the nurse and have a flu jab. There is nothing to do around here within walking distance except, on a good day, get to the edge of the nearby field and look across at the hills.
Fortunately, friends have come to the rescue, visiting me regularly. I've been able to continue my role-playing. I've also been able to continue my writing, although when it hurts to speak, it's hard to use the voice recognition. This pushes me into using my arms to type, which induces neuralgia. A rock and a hard place situation.

The good news?

I've been fostering a delightful pair of black cats. First, was Snib who came to stay for two weeks, and then Kuro, who stayed for five months while his mummy found a house in which to live. 

I've also nearly finished my animal/spiritual transformation memoir. I'm doing the book proposal now and intend to finish the last couple of chapters while I wait to hear from publishers. One of the joys of writing non-fiction is that you don't have to finish the manuscript before casting your net.

I'm learning how to market myself, which is something the authors of olden times didn't have to do. Dickens didn't do Instagram, though I think the Brontes would have loved Facebook and YouTube.

I'm doing my best, but it's a steep learning curve for an oldie like me.

And I'm hoping to learn how to use Instagram. It just shows you can teach an old dog new tricks.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Spreading Magic

Here is a link to my latest short story.  Spreading Magic

A teenage unicorn and his baby sister decide to visit the mortal realm for the first time. They know the use of magic in the human realm is forbidden. They know they must not be seen, and they know they must leave nothing magical behind.

But it's so hard to obey the rules when you're only a baby unicorn.

This story is part of an anthology written by people attending the Swanwick Writers' Summer School. All proceeds go to charity,
This year, Katy Clarke, a much loved 'Swanicker' passed away. She was a pivotal member of the summer school and attended for many years. She is very sadly missed. All the money from the anthology is going to the hospice that cared for her.

The anthology can be bought from Amazon.
The title is: Chasing Unicorns: in memory of Katy.

If you haven't been to Swanwick Writers' Summer School, I can really recommend it. You spend a week in August, in the company of fellow writers, surrounded by sumptuous gardens. And there's cake.