Category Archives: Unbelievably Random

My 100th Post: The Best Of Blog Tour

This is my 100th post, and so I have decided to try and get 100 views to my blog today!  I have been failing to have much traffic lately, barely a handful of viewers per post, which means that even my dear friends and family may not be reading anymore.  It’s ok, I still love you – but I want you back!

The goal of 100 views is perhaps a too high, since so far the only post of mine which has gotten close to that was my Eurovision post on Conchita Wurst, and that got 90 views that day.  And that was only because of random people who had searched for the busty Polish girls and instead got my post.  Sorry, fellas.

So I’m going to have to try really hard to get people interested in the nonsense I spew forth from my keyboard.  Let’s just consider this post a Best Of Blog tour, in the hopes that at least some of what I write is appealing to the general public.

Every post you read gets me one step closer to 100!  So click away!!  Read, enjoy, or roll your eyes and look at pictures of hilarious animals instead.  Just do it after you click.

So perhaps you’re reading this because you like writing, and that is what this blog is supposed to be about.  Maybe you want to read topical posts like Worldbuilding with my discussion of Ursula Le Guin’s awesomeness or The Mirror of Fantastic Vanity in which I call out Neil Gaiman.

Or maybe you, like myself, struggle with finger-stalling brain-demons and would appreciate Mental Bran Flakes.

Perhaps, instead, you’re only here because I have Facebook press-ganged you into it, or a friend of a friend has posted this link.  In that case, maybe you’d rather read something random and potentially humourous like The Spider and the Flute: a sleep-deprivation-inspired tale of arachnid tragedy about which critics, by which I mean the only person who commented (looking at you, md456), have proclaimed: “I have not felt this sympathetic for a spider since Charlotte’s Web.” Or maybe Hobbies, or “the tale of the boob coaster” where I had an R-rated yarn-craft disaster.

Are you one of my falconry friends?  Or have a passing interest in things raptorial?  How about A Falconry Rant where I bitch about the ignorant masses at my old job as a display falconer, The Austringer’s Lament where I wax lyrically about the hunt, or There’s No Such Thing as a Stupid Question – No Wait, There is where I give up on people in general as having common sense at all.

Maybe you’ve read all these before because you’re my mother and read everything I ever post (I love you!), or maybe you’ve never read any of them and have a new-found appreciation or concern for my mental state.  Whatever the case, thank you for taking the time to read what I write.

This will also be a test of how far this platform reaches.  I have decided that the avenue of self-publishing is the only way for a new writer to break into the industry currently, as much as I long to one day hold one of my books in solid printed paper.  So without the weight of a traditional publisher behind me I will be needing to do all my own marketing and advertising, and that’s the real reason I created this blog.  An author needs to be in charge of her own online presence and so this kind of self-advertisement, however uncomfortable it makes me, is part of the game.

So read, my pretties, read!

Hipster Collie Approves

The Spider and the Flute: a sleep-deprivation-inspired tale of arachnid tragedy

So I was playing a wooden flute, in my pyjamas, to a 8.5 month old, sat on the floor beside the dog. Both dog and baby looked a bit confused, but no one was crying, not even me, so I counted it as a success.

But the sound wasn’t coming out right, it was all wispy and blowy and strange, so I peeked into the flute. Inside, was a dead spider sat in its web.

Now, like the cats who forgot how to cat, I think this spider forgot how to spider. This spider toodled its way around the bottom of my closet, into the cloth case of my wooden flute, and then into the body of the flute itself. It looked around, saw the cavernous (if you’re a spider) interior space and thought, “hey, good square footage, this is prime real estate.” It set up home, spun its comfy web, and then waited.

No bugs.

Nothing.

So it waited some more.

Still no bugs.

Nothing at all.

It waited for so long that IT DIED waiting for the bugs to come along.

Now, I have a fair few spiders in my house right now, because it’s the time of year I open all my windows and flies come in and so the spiders set up shop and I have an agreement with them that they can stay so long as they do their job and don’t piss me off. I see these spiders spidering, and they know what’s what. One night one of them might be hanging out in one corner of a room, but if that corner isn’t a hot fly hangout spot, it moves to another corner, or another room.

Flute-spider was either too stupid to make this connection between “no bugs here” and “I should move up the property ladder” – or it was just a really big fan of woodwind instruments.

I feel a little sad for stupid flute-spider. In my head I imagine it was always a little bit dense, and the other spiders made fun of it. It was eventually driven to find a quiet home far from the other spiders, somewhere no one would make fun of it. It finds a lovely flute house, and is happy.

“I know this is a bit of a tricky place to get into, but the bugs will come,” the spider says to itself. And it waits, and in the background plays the song All By Myself because the spider is lonely.

Time passes, but the spider thinks, “Maybe today will be the day the bugs will come,” and so it waits some more.

“Tomorrow?”

But no.

“Maybe if I just sit here quietly, and think about bugs, it will be as good as if the bugs did come.” And so the spider thinks very hard about bugs, but it isn’t as good, and the spider dies, alone.

And so I thought about the poor spider, and its tragic little life, as I poked it from the flute with a cotton-tipped ear-cleaning stick, you know the ones, and when I eventually dislodged it into my bathroom sink, and turned on the tap, I sent it down the drain with all the gravity and solemnity of a Viking burial. If I’d been able to set a tiny boat on fire, I would have done.

Goodnight, sweet arachnid prince. The bugs WILL come.

Gender and Eurovision: Why We Need More Bearded Ladies

I’ve been quiet the past couple of days because I’ve been busy working on the groundwork of my novel.  And also, watching Eurovision.

Last night was the usual pageantry, the usual exhibition of randomness (why was there a man in a hamster wheel for Ukraine’s entry?  why the trapeze for Azerbaijan?  because EUROVISION, that’s why!) and that’s why we love it.  Lyrics ranged from the trite love song (one in fact called “The Cliched Love Song” to the zany, “I want a mustache” (France’s Twin Twin rocked that particular number) and the downright bizarre:

“Looking for a candidate you have an option only one choice. Sipping my drinks looking around, there is so much beauty, oh yes we can. But yet, self-confidence is a fragile concept, that often fades away in the night. And there it comes, that unwanted guest, there is no place for you tonight “

Thanks for that, Switzerland!  The addition of a whistling refrain really added to it.

So when it came to light that one of the entries was Austria’s popular “bearded lady,” Conchita Wurst, no one really batted an eyelid.  Hey, it’s Eurovision, anything goes!  We’ve had dancing grannies and all sorts.

Quite frankly, a more believable and attractive lady than me, on most mornings.

Quite frankly, a more believable and attractive lady than me, on most mornings.

Although in her native Austria, more than 31,000 people liked an “Anti-Wurst” Facebook page following the decision to select her. In October, the Ministry of Information in Belarus received a petition calling on BTRC, Belarus’ state broadcaster, to edit Wurst’s performance out of its Eurovision broadcast. The petition claimed that the performance would turn Eurovision “into a hotbed of sodomy”. In December, a similar petition surfaced in Russia. [Wikipedia]

But we’re the UK, we’re progressive and accepting of nontraditional gender roles.

And then she won.

Suddenly my Facebook news feed blew up.  People couldn’t just sit on the fence about this one anymore, they had to have an opinion.  I’m sorry to say that I saw more than a few comments on friend’s status updates where people (not friends of mine, I’m happy to say, or they wouldn’t have stayed friends for long) have proclaimed distaste for the “he-she” or that “pick a gender, you can’t be both!”  Thankfully the opinions of my friends themselves were more progressive, and among them some true supporters of Conchita Wurst and her message.

So what’s gotten people so hot under the collar?

With the rise in drag-queen normality, with such shows as RuPaul’s Drag Race, the ignorant public have started to get used to seeing men in drag.  But only if the illusion is complete.  If Conchita Wurst had no beard, I think there wouldn’t have been an outcry.  But her choice to display her beard alongside her crystals, her fabulous sweeping gown, beautiful long hair – this is what makes the common Joe/Jocinda Public uncomfortable.  They need the illusion to be completely man or woman.

Personally, I love the transgression of her appearance.  It’s brave and purposefully jarring.  Her very name shows her disdain of what people might think.  From her Wikipedia page:

While in German, Wurst means ‘sausage,’ the performer compares the choice of last name to the common German expression ‘Das ist mir doch alles Wurst,’ which translates as ‘it’s all the same to me,’ and ‘I don’t care,’ stating that the name emerged from the first meaning of the expression and added, “It doesn’t really matter where one comes from, and what one looks like.”

And indeed it shouldn’t matter what one looks like, how one chooses to present oneself, what gender, or lack thereof, one identifies with.  The fact is that Conchita Wurst sang beautifully.  “Rise Like a Phoenix” was evocative of old-movie glamour, with the class and style of a Bond film’s opening credits.  It was big, it was dramatic, and it was Eurovision.

However, what no one has really commented on, apart from the vulgar odd joke, is Poland’s entry: My Słowianie (We Are Slavic) by Donatan and Cleo.  It depicted several provocatively-dressed busty women as traditional milkmaids, churning butter suggestively with their tits hanging out.  If you’re going to get upset about gender issues and turning Eurovision into a “hotbed” of something, there’s a whole host of things to get outraged about there!

But no, the average ignorant viewer is used to seeing women being objectified; rampant sluttery is old news.  Drag queens with beards, now that’s what they don’t like to see!  Just think of the children!  They’ll grow up thinking that gender isn’t binary, while they swan around in their hotpants and flutter their fake eyelashes at the opposite sex.  Gasp, shock, horror, etc.

Really makes you despair for the human race, doesn’t it?  Personally, I think we need more people like Conchita Wurst, she’s a true role model.  In her own words:

“This is about an important message, it’s call for tolerance for everything that seems different.”

Amen, sister.

What Does Adventure Smell Like?

For when you want your armpits to smell like your mental state.

For when you want your armpits to smell adventurous.

Suremen deoderant thinks they know, and now my husband smells like it.  Personally, I’m not convinced – smells more like an escapade than an adventure.  (Though in reality it smells more like generic boy-scent than anything else.  What a shame, I wanted it to be the olfactory representation of swashbuckling and various derrings do.)

In other news, I was recently asked by Ali George, of 12 Books in 12 Months fame, to write a short fairy tale for an anthology to help fund Homespun Theatre UK‘s upcoming tour, produced by her talented sister Bee.  I wrote a short story titled “Once Upon A Time In Dundee” about a girl and a kelpie.  The anthology is now available for purchase and download on Smashwords in a bunch of sensible formats.  You should buy it!  It’s full of magic and awesomeness.

Personally, I think you should first douse yourself in “Adventure” and then read it – just to make it a fully multi-sensory experience!

Random Rant #298: A Pet Is For Life

In my spare time, instead of doing anything useful or practical, I have this masochistic obsession with checking animal shelter websites and places like gumtree.com where people rehome/sell their own pets.  Why is this masochistic, you might ask?  Because I know I can’t have them but I keep fooling myself, with every new adorable picture, that I COULD!  But no, really I can’t.

But particularly with the private ads of people selling/rehoming their own pets, I get very judgemental of their excuses for doing so.  The reasons they list range from merely vague, “Selling for genuine reasons” ( then why can’t you admit them if they’re so genuine??), to downright ludicrous, “Sale due to a death in the family” – what did the cockatoo do?  Sing rude showtunes at the funeral?  Or did he actually kill Aunt Bessie???

The worst, in my opinion, are the reasons which are entirely avoidable.  These are the most common, sadly enough.  Most often I see examples of dogs in particular being “Sold due to new baby” which I find a terrible reason to get rid of a pet.  If you’re thinking of getting a dog, and you’re of childbearing years and of the inclination to do so, that should be one of the considerations you bear in mind BEFORE getting the animal.  And why is the dog not compatible with the child?  If you’ve trained it right, which it seems 80% of the population are incapable of, then it only takes a command or two to keep a dog in line no matter the situation.  And if it becomes an issue of having time for the dog, well personally I would delight in having an opportunity to either plonk child in a pram and go out into the countryside together, or to make husband/partner watch the child whilst I do so alone.

Similar to that one is the “Selling because I don’t have time for it anymore” excuse.  In some cases, the person in question claims that “it’s not fair” on the dog that they now work long hours.  Perhaps true, but is the upheaval of taking a dog from its home and giving it to a stranger, giving it all kinds of abandonment issues, any fairer?  I have a hard time believing that it is.

Another most common is a vague statement of “Selling due to change in circumstances” and apparently those circumstances can be so dire that the animal needs to go today or else.  I really can’t imagine what changing circumstances require someone to chuck their pet in 24 hours or less, unless someone’s house is currently burning down and they know they’ll be homeless before the day is through.  And you know, plenty of homeless people still have pets!  (Not that I condone owning a pet if you can’t afford to even put a roof over its head, mind.)

But no, I lied, avoidable reasons are not the worst.  The worst are ones like this: “Selling my son’s gecko because he bought it and no longer wants it” – after 2 weeks, apparently this gecko failed to live up to the expectations of this child of undisclosed age.  I guess he didn’t remember to get the magical flying-and-does-your-homework gecko.  Maybe he thought that “leopard gecko” was a combination of a leopard and a gecko?  And when it didn’t suddenly turn into a half-cat half-lizard he got bored??  Sheesh.  That his parent allowed him to get it, and then was generous to help him get rid of it again, says a lot about the problem of irresponsible pet ownership!

So basically I’m saying that I think people are far too quick to get rid of animals.  And also, far too quick to get those animals in the first place without thinking through how that animal could fit, or not, into their inevitably changing lives.  It pisses me off seeing so many animals basically being swapped around from home to home over the course of their lives.

There might be some true “genuine reasons” out there for giving away/selling your pets, but they’re few and far between.  Personally, even though I only have my silly chickens I already can’t imagine having to give them up.  I might have a “change in circumstances”, but I thought that through before we got them and have a contingency plan in place.  It’s not that hard, people.

Pets are for life, not just for Christmas!  Whether that life is yours, or the pet’s, might depend on if you get that murderous cockatoo…

Bad Poetry and A Balanced Dinner

I wrote a really really bad poem today, in keeping with my resolution to write something, no matter how crap, every day.  It was about crisps.  No, I am not sharing it.

I have also just eaten an entire triangle of brie, and a Tunnock’s caramel wafer (never had one before – Jason always hoardes them!), as well as a bowl of soup – what a balanced dinner!  And I’m counting cider as a vegetable for the purpose of this argument.

It’s only been a couple days, but I’m having a hard time with this “writing everyday” task.  Or rather, I can write everyday, but I can’t write well; my discipline can get me through the motions, but my heart isn’t in it yet.  I think that’ll just take time, though.  I’ve spent the whole summer letting my creative juices run dry!

I’ll get there.  Anyways, this was just a quick post to let you know that I’m still sticking to my resolution!  I’ll try to write something more sensible tomorrow.

Confessions of an Absent Blogger

I would like to tell you that the reason I’ve not written an entry in months is due to some significantly productive venture on my part.  I’d even be happy to use the excuse of being so hectically busy in my day-to-day life that I didn’t have a moment to spare for writing, blogging or being generally interesting.  But sadly this isn’t the case.  I’m just a lazy, absent blogger who has lost all her creative discipline.

I used to at least be able to boast that I wrote something, be it blog post, prose or poetry, every day no matter what.  But for some reason this summer has brought out the worst of my procrastinatory nature (is “procrastinatory” a word? If not, it should be).  I feel like I have a tiny voice in my head who, whenever I settle down in front of a word document, says, “Oh just leave it for a little bit and toodle about on the internet, go on!  Go on, go on, go on, go on!”

Yes, I have Mrs. Doyle from Father Ted speaking from my subconscious.  And just like Mrs. Doyle, this voice has become so insistent that I just can’t ignore her.

So it’s time to give Mrs. Doyle the boot.

Hopefully this signals the return to regular service, and please do give me virtual pokes, stern glances and lectures if I appear to have gone absent again for any length of time.  Writing well takes time, effort and discipline like a regular workout for the mind.  And I’ve gone creatively flabby in the last few months!  I need to get back into mental shape!

In other news, since I last posted here I’ve moved house and got some fancy chickens.  Don’t believe how fancy?

These ain't your grandmama's chickens - unless she lived in China and liked blue chicken meat.

That’s some damned fancy chicken action right there.  Just look at those feathery toes!

Superstitious Sheep Socks

There’s something you don’t know about me: I have a very odd superstition about my socks.  It began back in the wintertime, when my feet were so often frozen after a day volunteering with the birds that I began to pay special attention to my sock-layering techique.  Quite practically it all started just to keep my feet extra warm.

But then it went a bit strange.  I started to link the type and colour of socks I wore to the outcome of any particular day.  If my socks were one of my pink cow or sheep socks, it was going to be a very good day.  If I wore either black socks, or heavens forfend the ugly blue-with-brown-spots pair, it was going to suck.  Naturally I started to only wear my pink farmyard animal socks.

I say “naturally” as if it were even remotely normal.

Now, I consider myself a reasonably intelligent woman.  I’d even call myself sensible most of the time.  But as I’m sure you’re all thinking, this is not a sensible or intelligent logical leap to make.

I am Fab-ewe-lous, dammit!

So why did this occur?  Well mainly because life is not ours to control, and we like to pretend it is.  Thus, by telling myself that today will be a good day because I have my hot pink spotty sheep socks on, I can actually believe that choice influences the outcome of the day.  Obviously it has no real, quantifiable effect, but it does affect my perception of the events of the day.  It puts me in the frame of mind to take on challenges which I would shun and quake in fear of if wearing other socks.

In other words, I’ve deluded myself quite soundly.  But if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Survival Instinct

Firstly, I have just come out the other side of those atrocious Twilight books – one week of my life I’ll never get back.  Sheesh, I forgot how utterly ridiculous that final book is.  “Renesmee”??  Please.

In other news, I am currently trying to fight against my survival instincts.

You may or may not know that my day job is that of a falconer-in-training.  I basically spend my days feeding carnivorous birds scraps of meat while they fly around, trying to make sure my fingers don’t get in the way – and more recently, failing at just that.

First, some background information.  Owls don’t have great eyesight for things close to them – why would they need it, in the wild their prey is noisy rodents who give away their position with sound.  But obviously, what we feed our owls is dead already.  So what we do is place a bit of food in our palms, stretch our hands flat and try our best to aim for their beaks.

As a result, I now have a series of large owl-bites covering my right palm and fingers.

Yeah, that hurt.

The stupid thing is that my survival instinct is actually what’s getting me injured just now.  I feel the urge to pull away too quickly from the large, gaping beak of the owl in question – which in turn makes her miss the bit of food and get my flesh instead.

The culprit - an owl named Lump. She might look all cute and junk, but that's a mighty large beak.

So how do you train yourself to stop listening to your own survival instincts?  Especially when they’re wrong and in fact preventing the survival of your badly battered fingers??

I have a plan.  It involves cheating.

During the winter I used these fingerless fleece gloves to combat the freezing temperatures, yet leaving my fingertips free to do all the knots and nonsense I need to do.  Now, the problem with these is that sometimes when feeding the owls they caught the fingerless glove as well as the food – and once something is in their beaks they don’t want to give it up.  So the second part of my plan involves somehow layering some thin leather over the palm of the glove.  We have a bunch of leather at work, which we use to make jesses, anklets and the like, so I have a supply of that.  So I can reinforce the palm of my glove so that it’s not something they can bite into.

And thus save my poor little fingers.

I know I get braver when there’s something covering my vulnerable flesh, so the idea is that by doing this for a while I’ll get the confidence to override my survival instinct.  Eventually I won’t need the glove, and I’ll be able to feed large bitey owls safely.

In the meantime, I am well stocked with plasters/bandaids and antiseptic wound spray.

The Power of Names: A Rambling Post

I told myself I was going to write today.  Actually, I told myself I was going to write on Wednesday since I had the day off.  In typical fashion, this has not happened.  Today I went as far as open a blank document, and have it sit next to me, accusing me with its blankness since about 9ish this morning.

This is going well, obviously.

However, even if I’m not writing I’m at least reading.  I just finished rereading the Earthsea Quartet by my hero Ursula Le Guin.  And then I moved on to C.S. Lewis’ The Magician’s Nephew which took all of an hour-ish to read.
The combination of the two has done funny things to my head, but the most obvious side-effect was  that I went rushing to the Husband’s Bible and found this quote which I knew I remembered from a decade or more ago, back when I was a good little Jewish girl in Hebrew school:

So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. [Genesis 2.19]

From Earthsea I came away with the intense belief in the power of names, and from The Magician’s Nephew I was awash in Genesis allegory.  Little wonder I had to connect the two.

Naming has always been associated with power, with domination, and fantasy often likes to use that as the pretext for magic.  Man named the creatures; they did not name themselves. We name children, pets, each other.  But names are external, coming from sources outwith the name-bearer; the namer has that power, not the named.

It’s not hard to see why we’ve been obsessed with the power of names for centuries.

I often feel as though fantasy reaches back towards established mythology as authors seek to bring in familiar ideas into unfamiliar terrain.  To justify the fantastic as something solid, realistic if not real.  So there we find the biblical allegory, the use of creation myths and heroic sagas.  And the same way that scholars can keep writing new treatises on these centuries-old traditions, so can authors bring new life and new perspective.

But I’m still seeking that nonexistent Unique Idea, though I should know better.