28 August 2011

Hurricane time

Waiting to hear from friends who were in the path of Hurricane Irene (they're fine) had me thinking about our one and only English hurricane that I can remember, in 1987. I was all of 18 and in my second month away from home, and because this was 1987, we didn't have televisions in our rooms, or internet or mobile phones to be aware that there might be a hurricane. Or not, depending on who you listened to. It may have been on the radio, but frankly I was busy discovering cheap rotgut alcohol (oh Thunderbird, beloved drink of penniless students and winos), Indian food and Pink Floyd. Oh, and wondering what to do about being a non-smoker when the pot got passed around (they baked me flapjacks! I mean, I'm sure they would have. But they didn't. Because of course I did not try it. Never. Not even in flapjacks. Because that would be bad. Ahem, so, moving on).

Our halls of residence were in the middle of a beautiful wooded park. It did occur to me that evening that the trees were swaying an awful lot in the wind, but I shrugged my shoulders. Windy. Big deal.

Quite a big deal, as it turned out, although I suspect not on Irene's scale. At breakfast, we found out that we had all slept through our first ever hurricane and some of us went out to look.

Our baby trees around the edge of the park were all bent and sad. One had fallen over, and being fine upstanding youths, who never smoked pot or ate interesting flapjacks, we thought, poor Sad Fallen Tree. We will save you, Tree! Together we pushed Sad Fallen Tree up, to stand next to the path once again and have a new chance at life. Proud of our efforts, we moved on in our quest to explore our wind-ravaged land and offer help, or at least be nosy.

Of course, a hundred yards up the road, we realised that Sad Fallen Tree might fall over again, and this time might hit someone on the way down. We raced back down the road and pushed over Sad Fallen Tree again, so that it didn't kill someone in its second tragic demise.

Being a fine upstanding youth is hard sometimes. You might even look like a vandal. Just as long as you don't get caught eating the flapjacks.

24 August 2011

Making some new friends

I just discovered a rather wonderful sounding campaign to build platform and make new writerly blogging buddies. It's run by Rachael Harrie, and it's called the Third Writer's Platform Building Campaign.

Check it out

Sounds like a lot of fun, and a great way to meet other bloggers. Since I have been a lackadaisical blogger in the past, and this must change, I'm in. Hopefully it will deal with my tardy blogging ways. I will report back at intervals.

23 August 2011

Things I learned on my holidays

Image courtesy of http://dir.coolclips.com/

  1. There is no point at which nine year old boys get bored with chicken nuggets.
  2. It's good to keep an eye on the river as you eat the the giant spherical fish cakes in the Ramsholt Arms in Woodbridge, just in case Neptune comes back for his nuts.
  3. Tents function far better in the rain with the roof vent covered up.
  4. It takes a long time to boil a kettle if you don't realise your gas has run out.
  5. Take the map with you into the corn maze.
  6. People who think they can write anywhere should try doing it while sitting on a tree stump in the forest.
  7. It is only when you have to sleep on an airbed for six nights that you realise how much your memory foam mattress topper keeps the rest of the world safe from you.
  8. Being next to a colony of rooks as they all take off from the trees together makes you wonder if you're in a gothic horror story and don't know it yet.
  9. Getting on a bouncy castle aged 42 makes you the coolest parent on the planet in the eyes of your offspring.
  10. Forty year old brains experience bouncing differently to nine year old brains.
  11. It only takes a nest of spiders three hours to create a cobweb scene worthy of a horror film in an unattended tent.
  12. When you are camping in bad weather, angels sing over the door as you walk into a centrally heated pub.
  13. It helps to tie your bikes to the bike carrier on the back of your car as well as to each other.
  14. Hearing drumming practice in the distance in Rendlesham Forest makes you feel like you're on the set of an old Tarzan movie and the natives are about to come after you.
  15. It's always good to discover the flying ants preparing to rise under the tent after you have packed up to go home.
  16. When you see hundreds of birds circling overhead, tell yourself it's the flying ants they want and don't make any sudden moves.

13 August 2011

Seven virtues - humility

Links to all the participants here

And so we come to the end of another Lady Antimony challenge. Thank you so much for all the great stories I have read. It's been fun.


Sam studies in secret, late at night. During the day he looks out of the window as he listens to the teacher, and he loiters behind the bike sheds with the others.

Nobody is going to accuse him of thinking himself better than the rest of them. He can do without a target painted on his back until he leaves school. He will walk into his exams as an also-ran, destined to lift and carry until his back fails, the same as everybody else.

His savings hide in a drawer, waiting for his exam results to join them and take him somewhere else.

12 August 2011

Seven virtues - kindness

Links to all the participants here


It is a burden beyond telling to know that the world is going to end. Lauren weeps for mankind as they ignore the sermons of her leader, his pleas to repent and to give. Every day he preaches in front of the camera, strong and handsome enough to stop her heart, but the credit card pledges are paltry. A few hundred believers will not avert the fires of the apocalypse.

She takes a deep breath and pours the poison into the fresh water pumping station. She cannot prevent the deaths to come, but at least she can make them painless for a few.

11 August 2011

Seven virtues - patience

Links to all the participants here

This is my favourite one of the seven. I would probably have put it first or last if we weren't doing them in a specific order this time.


William lines the tiles up one by one in a long serpentine of black and white, the spots forming an infinite mathematical equation that describes the universe in a way he doesn't quite understand. When it is finished he will know what no man was meant to and he will control everything. The world will know him as God and he will be merciful as they cower at his feet.

"Time for your medication, Mr Davis."

The opening of the doors sets the dominos to falling in a gentle ripple of numbers.

"Oops, was that me?" the nurse asks.

William sighs and sets the first domino upright again.

10 August 2011

Seven virtues - diligence

Links to all the participants here


The man shakes as I straighten his fingers and staunch the bleeding from where his fingernails used to be. "Shh," I murmur. "You must keep still."

Blood weeps from cuts all over his body. If he moves too much I won't be able to save him. I stitch every slice closed so that he can live another day. When I finish my fingers ache, but my lord will be pleased.

Tomorrow we start again, then the next day, and every day after that, until the man has told me everything he knows and we have all his friends too.

09 August 2011

Seven virtues - charity

Links to all the participants here


The boy is delighted with the skateboard. "It has glow in the dark paint," I tell him. "Pretty cool, right?" Giving it away makes me feel warm inside, like it's the best thing I've done in a long time.

I go to different parts of the playground to give the X-box games away; don't want the same people to get everything. I want to see as many happy, smiling faces as possible. Every time someone thanks me I feel good.

Plus it will make it that much harder for my horrible, Barbie-beheading brother to get all his stuff back.


08 August 2011

Seven virtues - temperance

Linkies to all the participants here


Mark grins as he produces a bottle for the party. "I nicked the brandy. Mum will never miss it."

I take an interest in my lemonade as he pours the liquor into the punch bowl. It disappears, swallowed by the orange juice and cherryade.

He offers me a cupful. "You man enough?"

"You know we're not allowed." I'm sticking with lemonade.

"Stay home next time, loser." He drinks the whole cupful and takes more. His friends crowd round him, wanting some too. They don't even taste the pee I put in the brandy this afternoon.

Mark and his idiot friends 0 - loser little brother 1

07 August 2011

Seven virtues - chastity

Linkies to all the participants here

Oh nightmare, for I am Not Ready For Kickoff. I wanted to have all my posts cued up and ready to go, but instead my first one is just going to scrape under the wire. They are all scribbled on paper - a weekend spent sitting on a hillside at Gatcombe Park writing microfic while watching the cross country was blissful - but I just got in and I'm going to be typing feverishly.

I plan to read all of the other stories, but I have just entered into an agreement with someone to beta read each other's manuscripts, so I may save the commenting for a few day's time. I am playing though, honest!

Titles went by the wayside this time - I'm just going to use the virtues as titles and call it done.

And so, off we go with:


Dora strokes the cat sitting on her lap as she waits. "Now you have to be good. No getting jealous." He is about to lose his spot in her bed, his for too many years; guilt makes her squeeze him until he mews in protest.

She hesitates at the knock on the door, not wanting to appear flustered when she answers it, but the postman doesn't even look at her as he hands her the box and walks on.

She wonders if she should wait another year before opening it, but twenty years of chastity is too many to bear. Eventually, Mr Battery-powered becomes Mr Right.

05 August 2011

Say what again?

I got a Versatile Blogger Award, courtesy of the sweet but evidently misguided Rebecca Clare Smith. I am somewhat stunned, since at the point I first read the words 'blog' and 'author platform' in the same sentence, I started to feel like I was under one and all the bloggity words evaporated from my brain. I just hoped they found new and loving homes.

Now apparently, as the recipient of this *holy crap I got an* award, I get to nominate more bloggers to receive the goodness, and also have to dish out seven previously untold facts about myself.

So, I point the happy finger of cool green and yellow iconage at.... Lissa for having some great discussion of the issues raised by Disney princesses as well as lots of other interesting posts.

On to seven facts about me. Um, okay, right, so... shut up, I'm trying to think...

1. I think steak and kidney pie tastes like pee. I'm not sure whether it's the power of suggestion or whether I am the only person who is aware of this. Seriously guys, can you not taste the urine? It's kidneys; processing pee is what they do.

2. My science brain and my fiction brain have a no-fly zone in between them. It takes at least half a day for the neurons to apply for the appropriate permissions and switch over. This is why I can only crack out a decent word count on holiday, with good old fashioned pen and paper.

3. I have an approachable face. This is the only reason I can come up with for why every time I go out surveying, somebody ambles over to ask what I am doing. They never ask my colleagues. Never. Actually, maybe I just look suspicious.

4. Boy, this is tough. Time for that good old fallback, environmental health. In my previous career, I discovered that in a microwave, cornflakes begin to smoulder and people begin to phone the fire brigade a long time before the larvae infesting them are more than mildly annoyed. I also learned that you cannot seal infested cereal in a plastic bag. Mealmoths laugh at plastic bags. And then they infest the laboratory and all the other samples.

5. I learned that I cannot kill. Not even to put something out of its misery. This made covering for the pest officers something of an embarassment. Unless you mean The Boy harm, you are safe from me.

6. I learned that nothing disturbs a man more than walking into the pub toilets to find a woman with a white coat and a clipboard. Good times.

7. I am a fair shot with an air rifle. Doesn't that make you happy about fact number 5? We won't mention the fact that when I fired something with some stopping power, I fell over backwards.