Free Fiction: Office Romance

 

Squirrels leapt across the grass and up into trees. Daffodils were in bloom and blossoms were just beginning to unfurl from their buds. It was warm, with a cool breeze that played across the back of his neck.

He meandered through the park at a leisurely pace, taking in the view of the river that divided the park from the luxury flats with their floor-to-ceiling windows. Nate had always loved this park. Especially in the morning, before anyone else got to it.

It was short-lived, though. It took twenty minutes, if he dragged his feet, to walk from one end to the other, and soon he was on the other side of it. Looming over him was a red-brick block of offices, the lights off and blinds drawn. He pressed the buzzer on the door and waited for Gladys, the cleaning supervisor, to let him in. He greeted her warmly, but she barely acknowledged him in return. He got the sense Gladys was not a morning person. That, or she just didn’t like him very much.

He wasn’t the first person into the office, for once. Someone was in the staff kitchen, clinking cutlery, and the kettle was rumbling to a boil. He peered around the doorway to see a young man he didn’t recognise. His hair was short, curly and bed-rumpled, but his suit jacket was wrinkle free, well-ironed. As Nate walked through the door, the stranger turned, a teaspoon in his hand.

“Oh, hello,” he said, all Welsh vowels. “I’m Steffan. I started last week. D’you want a cuppa?”

Nate looked him over. He must the be the new sales assistant, Tina’s replacement. He was short, with wide eyes and a slightly pointed chin. Kind of cute, Nate decided. That was good. They needed more of that around here. His liked his colleagues, but none of them were very good eye candy. Except maybe Dianne, but she was the boss, and married. Or he supposed there was Isaac, from accounting. Okay, so maybe not none of them, but it had been a while since Nate had had someone new to look at.

“I’ll take that as a no then, shall I?” Steffan asked, and Nate realised he’d been staring, silently.

Great, he thought, I’ve creeped out the new guy. What a way to start the morning. “Sorry, yes,” he said, before feigning a yawn. “It’s too early. Not quite with it yet. I’m Nate. And I’ll take two sugars.”

Steffan nodded and turned his back to Nate, busying himself with the mugs. He was careful to choose only the plain white ones, Nate noticed, which was good. If he accidentally used Lisa’s kitten mug, this place would become a living hell for him very quickly.

“So where you from, Steffan?” Nate asked, taking a seat at the nearest of the three tables, and stretching his legs out.

Steffan turned, a steaming mug of tea in each hand and his eyebrows raised. “What? You can’t tell?”

“Ha. Well obviously. But where abouts, I meant.”

“Right. Ystradgynlais.”

At Nate’s blank look, Steffan smirked; clearly he’d assumed Nate wouldn’t know where that was, and he’d been right.

“Powys,” Steffan clarified. “About half an hour from Swansea. What about you?”

“Bristol born and raised,” Nate said, a hint of pride leaking into his voice.

“Huh. You don’t have much of an accent.”

Nate chuckled. “Get me drunk, and you’ll hear it.”

Nate couldn’t help but enjoy the way Steffan blushed.

Continue reading “Free Fiction: Office Romance”

Free Fiction: Office Romance

The Troubles of Tidying

Tidying is just. so. hard.

Okay, so maybe I’m realising that I am a horrible hoarder and pretty much have been all my life.

Lately, I’ve been watching lots of lovely minimalists’ videos talking about how nice having less stuff is and god damn it I want that. But!

I’ve gotten rid of a lot of easy things (mainly size-too-small clothes and literal rubbish) and now I’m looking around and it’s still no better. I just have so much more stuff than I even realised. I’m moving out in a few months. I’m doing the whole travel thing (well, a bit) and then I plan on living small for quite some time. So I have to downsize. A lot.

But I feel emotionally attached to everything. It’s ridiculous. A dress I haven’t worn in 5 years but used to love as a teenager. A Christmas card with a short story someone wrote me (that I read once, and has sat in a box full of similar items ever since). A pen that doesn’t work but looks nice and goes with the matching letter opener I’ve never used. Things I ‘might need’ even though I haven’t needed them in years, or ever.

Why am I like this?

Do you find it this hard to clear things out, or are you one of those people who hate having stuff around and throw them out as soon as you can? If you have any success stories, or tips on how I can battle my hoarder instinct (and win), comment and let me know!

 

The Troubles of Tidying

2017

2017 has lately been feeling like kind of a nothing year for me. Or at least the last half of it was. Most of 2018 will most likely be about the same as I’m working hard to save money to visit friends on the other side of the world. It’s easy to forget how much I actually did last year, when the last half of it was so quiet. Still, there were adventures to be had in 2017, and I’d like to reflect on those.

For one, I finally got to visit Ireland, a place I’ve wanted to see for most of my life but never got around to until this point. It turned out to be a bad time, with a country-wide bus strike that left me stranded in Rosslare for the better part of a day until my cousin could drive halfway up the country to pick me up. I was only there for a few days, but I got to see a lot, the highlight of which was Killarney national park, with its lush, brooding mountains and winding rivers.

My housemate of three years moved out, and I started living with someone new, which was a daunting prospect at first but has turned out great. They may or may not be moving out this year, but another change is less worrying since it’s already worked out once, and I myself might well be moving out at the end of the year anyway.

I got a new tattoo, which didn’t heal quite right so I’ve just been in for a touch up (which was way more painful than the original, although thankfully did not take anywhere near as long). This was my first ‘big’ tattoo, and I sat for almost three hours for it. I know that’s actually no time at all compared to a lot of tattoos, but considering I’ve only had small pieces that have taken no more than half an hour, 3 hours was a lot! Hopefully 2018 brings a couple more, although most likely they’ll be small as I’ll be saving throughout the year.

I started going to yoga classes, and although I don’t do much of it at the moment, my posture has improved and I feel like I’m putting less pressure on my knees when I stand. It’s pretty hard to believe though that for 26 years I genuinely did not know how to stand up straight.

I also started driving lessons in October, which was absolutely not a fun new hobby, but incredibly stressful. I’m sort of okay with my lessons now and am not shitting myself every time I pass another car (although if everyone else could just take their cars off the road when I have a lesson, that’d be great). I’ve still a lot to learn when it comes to driving, but I’m really hoping to pass my test this summer. Fingers crossed!

In December, I saw an otter whilst out on a dog walk, in a Bristol lake. I’ve seen otters before in sanctuaries, but never in the wild, so this was a big deal for me. Considering they were once on the brink of extinction in this country, finding one in the middle of a busy city is pretty cool (:

I did, also, write a full length novel, although more and more now I’m thinking it will probably never see the light of day. Still, the actual writing of something that long is an achievement in itself, and I consider it a stepping stone for more to come. Though perhaps for 2018 I will just focus on writing shorts and novellas, things that cause me less anxiety that I might actually be able to send out into the world without too much agonising.

Having written all this down, maybe 2017 wasn’t quite so boring after all, and I’m sure 2018 will bring plenty of new experiences too. I’ve set myself up with a challenge for the year, to go plastic free. It’s pretty much impossible to be 100% plastic free, but I will be buying alternatives or just going without where ever possible, including and especially food packaging! This should have the added benefit of cutting most processed foods out of my diet, forcing me to eat healthier and to cook more often, and also mostly (if not totally) cutting out palm oil, which is something I should have done forever ago. It’s a bit of a daunting task, but as I’m in the hippy city of Bristol, I don’t think it’ll be as difficult as it would be in other places. And if I could go vegan and stick to it, I can probably do this too.

Let’s just hope the apocalypse doesn’t happen before the year is done.

Peace out.

2017

My Top 5(+) TV Shows of 2017

I watch a lot of TV. Like, a lot. I love finding good shows and getting really into the world and the characters, and I watch a lot more TV than I watch film and even more than I read books. If you’re the same and you’ve run out of shows to watch or are feeling the cold and want to hibernate under a bundle of blankets for a spell, then have a read and try checking out some of my favourite shows from 2017.

Dark

This show has absolutely beautiful music and cinematography. Set in a GermanTV Dark 2 woodland town, the atmosphere is sinister and brooding. Dark is a time travelling murder mystery, a sci-fi show with a very paranormal feel to it, with clear influences from Stephen King and David Lynch. This show hooks you pretty early on and the mystery only builds as you get deeper into the show (seriously, guys, what the hell is going on??). It will certainly keep you guessing.

The only problem I have with this show is figuring out who’s who. Split into three different time periods (1953, 1986 and 2019) the show does pair up each younger character with their older counterpart in split screens to make it easier, but many of the older women in 2019 have the same hairstyle and general appearance about them so it took me a good 5-6 episodes to start figuring out which character was which.
TV Dark

Glitch

This is a bittersweet paranormal drama with, again, science fiction elements woven into it. A bunch of people crawl out of their graves, wreaking emotional havoc on their loved ones. TV GlitchA little reminiscent of Les Revenants in the concept and emotional aspects of the show, but with a very different backdrop (set in Australia, this is a long way from France’s cold and misty mountains).

One of my favourite scenes is the main character, James, kneeling down to pray and then rapidly changing his mind, muttering ‘fuck this’ and storming off, which to be honest pretty much sums up the whole mood of the show. Glitch is emotional and at times a little sinister, but mostly good-humoured, and lets you get really invested in some great characters who, let’s be honest, you probably won’t like right away, but most of them will grow on you pretty quickly (looking at you, Paddy).

WantedTV Wanted

This is essentially a buddy show between two women on the run from the Australian authorities after witnessing a murder. There are so few of this style of friendship stories between women that this is a real gem. Although this is a crime thriller, the show’s really all about the relationship between Chelsea and Lola, two very different women of different ages and backgrounds who are thrown together and suddenly have to rely on each other in order to survive. As with Glitch, this show has a lot of typical Australian good humour which makes it a really fun watch that isn’t too heavy, but is still quite exciting and keeps you hooked pretty much all the way through. I think I watched both series of this one within just a few days (which is totally not what I do with every show….)

The Handmaid’s Tale

Although I’ve not read The Handmaid’s Tale, I have read other books by Atwood, so I expected this to be bleak, but oh my god this was an intense emotional ride through a dystopian nightmare where no one can be trusted and everyone is watching. Often infuriating, and always heartbreaking, this show is beautifully shot and well acted, and well worth watching if you can handle the fairly awful subject matter.TV handmaid

Bojack Horseman

Of course this would end up as one of my favourite shows of all time.TV Bojack 2 What’s not to love about a narcissistic, depressed and bitter horse-man hybrid? I started this show a couple of years ago, and then for some reason didn’t quite get into it. Now the show is in its 4th series and it just keeps getting better. Usually after more than 2-3 series shows take a drastic downhill plummet, but there’s so much to these characters and they keep developing (and backsliding, and then developing again, and backsliding). It’s a cartoon and yet the writing is very real, the characters are solidly believable (despite most of them being talking animals), and as you may have heard, the show has some great ace rep as well as dealing with some pretty heavy subjects like depression, addiction, and dementia. Plus, it’s fucking hilarious.TV Bojack

Honorary Mention: The Straintv the strain

Now in its 4th series I’m amazed I hadn’t heard about this earlier. It’s a really cool vampire dystopia set in New York, with old myths blended into modern-day science. Two main characters are a 90-something Jewish vampire hunter and a 40-something CDC doctor, which gives you an idea of the show overall. The vampires are just grim as hell and the show is a good mix of creepy, gory, and light-heartedly camp. Don’t take this one too seriously, but still watch the hell out of it!

Other shows I’ve enjoyed this year are The Expanse, and Blue Planet II (because anything narrated by David Attenborough is gold by default, and some of those sea creatures are even weirder than the The Strains’ vampires).

My Top 5(+) TV Shows of 2017

Glastonbury Frost Fayre

What better way to celebrate the fullness of winter than with a fayre? IMG_3330Glastonbury Frost Fayre is an annual event that draws visitors in from miles around. We spent two hours on a bus to get to Glastonbury (thanks Bristol traffic), but it was so worth it.

Glastonbury is one of my favourite places in the UK, and it was the place I’d always ask to go if I ever got a choice of day trip location when I was younger. If you’ve never been, it’s basically a small witchy town, steeped in myth and religious history, and the local businesses are pretty much all built off that.

Of course upon arrival we immediately made a beeline for the mulled cider stall (the best thing about winter of course) and warmed our hands around the cups whilst watching the Morris dancers.

 

Later, we met up with some friends and checked out some bands, had a mosey at the abbey, and watched some more Morris dancing. I refilled my incense supplies, had a giggle at the rather insulting horoscope candles in Star Child (bossy, moi?) and purchased a new notebook.

img_3322.jpg

I had meant to pick up a bunch of Christmas presents, but the cider depleted my cash quicker than I expected, and as is usually the way with these things, I could see lots of things that I wanted, but nothing anyone I knew would, so it’s back to the drawing board on that front.

We ended the day by watching the sun set over the high street. The town’s Christmas lights were turned on, and we drank more mulled cider and danced a little, mainly to keep warm. We were pretty tired by the time we headed home, and we were definitely all eager to get back in the warm. The day was a nice reminder that winter can be fun. It’s not just mouldy walls and staying in bed all day because it’s too cold to get out from under the blankets. There’s roast chestnuts, dark, cosy evenings, Christmas lights and markets every other day. And if anything makes the hard times worth it, it’s definitely mulled cider.

Glastonbury Frost Fayre

Free Fiction: ‘Scrying’

Happy Halloween! My favourite holiday of the year (: To celebrate, I’ve written a little m/m romancey thing. Enjoy!

Scrying

The sound of rattling metal filled Kyle’s ears as the fence reverberated against the force of his boot. He kicked the fence again, and the lower link broke. Kyle pushed the panel back, leaving a gap just big enough for him to crawl through. The fence clanged back into place once he was clear, but he wasn’t worried about noise. He knew well enough that no one would hear him out here.

The old hospital loomed just beyond a thin smattering of spruce. Kyle had always thought it an ugly building, squat and grey. It had been built in the late 60s for pure functionality, but it hadn’t stayed open long. Just 40 years later budget cuts had seen the hospital close. Plenty of people in the neighbouring towns had lost their jobs, and others had lost a much needed lifeline. Kyle wasn’t complaining though. He’d gained a home.

Or at least he had until the guardian scheme had moved them all on elsewhere. The building now was marked for demolition, and no one cared if it was looked after or not. Kyle thought maybe the same thing had happened to him and Ernie. They’d stopped caring, stopped looking after each other. Still, he wasn’t ready to bulldoze everything they had, even if Ernie thought so. Continue reading “Free Fiction: ‘Scrying’”

Free Fiction: ‘Scrying’

Caravan

We took a trip to Wales this week, driving up for my dad’s wedding. We stopped off at a few picturesque points along the way. The Honey Cafe in Abergavenny is a traditional stopping point for us. It’s changed hands a couple of times since my first memory of it, but it’s remained a nice place (clean and reasonably priced) to stretch our legs and grab a bite to eat. After that we broke at a little stream in the hills. And several times for sheep in the road, of course.

We broke down about half an hour from our destination. Of course it was at Devil’s Bridge, narrowly avoiding a dramatic swerve around the side of the hotel as the brakes on the car overheated (thank you mountain roads). It was probably retribution for all the times we failed to wave to the devil whilst crossing over as kids. Although really it was the best place to break down as we were able to use the phone in the hotel to call for help.

Eventually we arrived after about 4 hours of driving (thankfully not me – not having a license has its benefits) and checked into our accommodation before joining my dad and step-mother to be in the pub for a few drinks. If you’re ever around Aberystwyth way, take a drive to the Halfway Inn in Pisgah, because it’s a lovely place with views out over the valley, and a spooky reputation. We stayed in a caravan just above it, with some rather noisy and overly friendly neighbours who ate all our carrots.

The wedding went well. It was blowing a fierce gale the morning of, but it calmed down for the afternoon and no one’s hat was swept away. It was a nice little family get-together with wine and food and much catching up with each other, and just a little bit of the bitching that usually goes hand in hand with family (sigh).

Oh, and the wedding cake was a pork pie. Obviously.

img_2885.jpg

Caravan

Rain

I’m tucked away in the attic, listening to the rain hammering down on the roof above. I always feel a rush of excitement when the rain comes down like that, and although today has largely been a rather groggy hangover day (pizza is helping), I still leapt out of bed and ran downstairs to go and stand out in it. Not that the alleyway is a particularly nice place to experience the wonders of nature–there’s only so much joy you can feel when standing between broken eggshells and a mouldy lettuce. If I ever move house again, I’m definitely angling for somewhere with some semblance of a garden.

This evening I’m reading about atheo-paganism, which I’ve been thinking about lately. I think in the past I’ve always assumed I can’t be two things at once, but human beings are mostly just a mass of contradictions anyway, so why not?

I have a week off coming up soon and hopefully if the weather holds we’ll be going camping in the Forest of Dean. I’m holding out for a wild boar sighting. It would be good to get out of the city for a bit, even if it’s just for one night. As much as I love Bristol, I have a yearning for greenery and fresh air.

Rain

Heatwave

So I’ve done what most British people do when exposed to the slightest bit of sun: gotten burnt. I did it for a good cause, though. I was too busy listening to speeches at an animal rights protest rally to go home and put suncream on. Strange, but it seems like more people are dicks about animal rights protests. I’ve been to a few anti-austerity protests before this one, and maybe it was the size of the protest or something, because it was about 40-50 people instead of several hundred, but a good half dozen people or more were happily shouting ‘meat is normal’ and ‘I love bacon’ at us. One man did come up to bitch about Jeremy Corbyn though… Wrong protest, but nice try. Maybe people get offended and defensive because we’re not just asking for slaughterhouses to be closed, we’re asking the people we pass by to reconsider their diet, the way they live; we’re telling them outright that what they’re doing is wrong. Or maybe they’re just dicks and like to wind up the ‘snowflakes’. But eating meat isn’t normal. Not the way we do it in this country. There’s no love or respect in it. Animals are abused, they’re scared, they don’t want to die. If you wouldn’t eat your dog, why eat a pig? For survival, I get. But it’s not something to be proud of.

IMG_2645

An interesting sentiment hit home with me during the speeches. That just being vegan isn’t enough. Being vegan is saying ‘I want nothing to do with this cruelty, I’ll have no part in it’. It’s passive. Vegan activism is doing something to stop it. That said, I do think just the act of being vegan does something. People ask you about it, because it’s a ‘weird thing’ and they’re curious, and you can show people that you don’t just eat rabbit food, that on the weekend you’re out eating pizza and burgers and cake and ice cream (although probably not all at once). There’s a need to talk about it, to talk about what goes on and to explain your decisions, because animals have no voice of their own to speak with. I worry – I don’t want to ruin peoples’ dinner, but then maybe it should be ruined. Because what went into that dinner is grim as fuck. Most people, if they had to see all that, they wouldn’t want to eat it. At least I don’t think they would. Cognitive dissonance is a powerful thing though. Sometimes it’s easier to go on deceiving yourself than to acknowledge brutal truths. People don’t want to know. I think that applies to anything, really. If I want a smart phone, or a new laptop, is it easier to live without one or to just not think about the fact that child slaves are used to mine the elements that go into making them?

Version 2
Odin and Tyr’s first time pea fishing.

It’s hot again today, maybe even hotter than it was yesterday, because I woke at 9am thinking it was midday. I’m thinking up ways to keep my rats cool over the summer. This heatwave is going to last all week, so I’ve ordered some ice pods for them. Today we’ve all moved down from the attic to the living room as it’s cooler here. They’re not happy about being in their hamster cages/carriers, but needs must. I’ve got plastic tubs of water chilling in the freezer to put in the cages. Every evening free roam is occupied with pea fishing. Frozen strawberries, peas, and sweetcorn are dropped into their cages every few hours (less so on the strawberries – too high in sugar) so they’ve something cold. I’m glad of my old stone flat in weather like this – it keeps the cold in. It’s still hot, but not as hot as it could be. My rats aren’t happily running about, but they’re not about to keel over.

The other problem is the flies. I don’t know if it’s just something about living in the city centre, or if it’s because we’re fairly close to the river, but there are like twenty or more flies buzzing around our living room. In a vegan household it’s not so easy to get rid of them, either. I’ve put basil in the window, and we’ll be adding mint and cloth strips dipped in eucalyptus oil come payday, but in the meantime we just have to put up with it. They’re not harming anything, they’re just annoying as fuck. If anyone has any other cheap, cruelty-free tips, we’ll take them.

 

Further Resources:

Viva – articles and resources on farming conditions and veganism.

How to keep pets cool on hot days

How to keep rats cool in the summer 1

How to keep rats cool in the summer 2

Heatwave

Rats are Bastards

Male rat intros are hard. I’ve always just dumped new girls in the same carrier or small hamster cage as the residents and the most aggro I’ve ever had was from Ren, who looked annoyed and fluffy for an entire afternoon until she finally relented and accepted the new rats. A little bit of pushing and shoving, but nothing more than that. This is the first time I’ve ever had to introduce boys. I’ve read up on it, got advice from a few long time rat keepers, and thought I had found the best solution. They were getting on fine in a bathtub filled with an inch of water – Hati even seemed a little protective of Odin, one of my new babies. Odin kept squeaking and trying to jump out of the bath, and Hati took lead from him. So I moved them into a carrier thinking it would be fine, and after only a second there was squealing as Hati jumped on Odin. I fiddled with the latch of the carrier, grabbed Hati and shoved him straight back into his cage, but in the maybe twenty seconds it took me to do that, he’d torn a huge chunk out of Odin.

It was horrible, a big open wound and I’ve never seen anything like it before. Cue me crying down the phone to the emergency vet receptionist, who I called twice just to make sure I was doing the right things. She told me not to bring him in, just to keep an eye on him. It didn’t make me feel better, but it did save me spending the rest of my meagre savings. Apparently, according to my rat keeping friends, boys do this a lot. So I waited, and yesterday it was already healing, half of it closed up. Odin didn’t even flinch when I went to clean it. He just sat there and let me bathe it in a salt solution, which couldn’t have been comfortable. He’s only known me two weeks, but he seems to trust me already, even though in his mind I’ve tried to drown him several times and set a giant angry rat on him. I don’t know if I’ll keep going with this intro. I probably moved too fast with it, so I might, and take it extra slow, or I might neuter Hati and try again in 8 weeks. We’ll see. As lovely and cuddly as these boys are, I might stick to girls next time.

Luckily my own introduction to my new housemate was not quite so violent. It all seems to be going okay at the moment, and although we’re different in some ways we do have a fair bit in common. We went on a walk that I swear wasn’t meant to be six miles long but somehow ended up that way, checked out Cabot Tower to see Bristol from up high, the Bristol Suspension Bridge which was much nicer than it looks from below, and Ashton Court deer park. On the way home we stopped at VX, the best vegan junk food shop of all time, just before closing, and might have gotten the bus the rest of the way home because our legs wouldn’t work anymore.

Jay has now moved all her things out (except little things that I keep finding everywhere – mostly sewing needles that have embedded themselves into the carpet), but it’s been quite a gradual change, and not the dramatic ‘bye forever’ that was my last big move as she’s only moving a forty minute walk away (I’ll probably still catch the bus).

We’re starting to get the house more as we want it now. I’ve moved into the attic and the rats have their own little room which is an absolute godsend, as is their new two storey cage which is so much easier to clean. I spent three hours putting that thing together, and now I’ve realised I have to take half of it apart again to make it more secure for the girls (if I don’t, there’s a risk of them worming their way into the boys’ half of the cage, which would obviously not be good). It’ll be worth the effort though.

Rats are Bastards