I spent the morning sitting in the conservatory at my dad’s house, watching a red kite swoop over the pond. He couldn’t get anything out – this is why there’s a net covering it. I’ve only ever seen them from a distance before, black silhouettes with forked tails hovering over the hills, gliding on the updrafts. It’s easy to forget how huge these birds are. There are tales of them carrying off small dogs, but I think they prefer an easy meal, road kill or food that’s left out for them. This one didn’t seem to be going for any of the live fish, he was swooping for a dead one floating on the surface.
We then left for Devil’s Bridge, and had a good wander around the falls, testing my fear of heights with Jacob’s Ladder.
We stopped for a while by The Robber’s Cave, where the legendary Bat’s Children had their hiding place, and where I got the idea for my book of the same name. Being here makes me think a lot about that story, walking the same paths that my characters walked, seeing, more or less, the same landscapes. It’s nicer in the summer, but the dark dreariness is probably more the setting I envisaged as I was writing.
Outside of the falls, it’s a lovely, bright day, with the gorse in bloom and lambs darting around the fields. I’m a bit tempted to smuggle one home with me.
Today we’re having a chill out day. I’m sitting in my cousin’s house with a cat curled up on my lap, staring out the window at the countryside. It’s a nice day, breezy but the sun is shining and there’s more white cloud than grey in the sky.
We’ve packed a lot into these past couple of days. On Saturday we went for a walk along the cliffs of Courtmacsherry to see a raven’s nest. At first I thought there were six to eight raven chicks in there, but on a second look there were only two. They were huge. The mother raven was sitting a few feet away on a rock, while another was gliding in the air above. For a first raven experience, it was pretty great. After that we stumbled across a faerie hollow and picked some wild garlic for dinner before retiring to drink gin, cuddle squishy rats, and play Cards Against Humanity.
On Sunday we drove into Kerry, passing through West Cork, into the mountains of Killarney national park. We stopped for lunch in Kenmare, and I spent too much on fancy soap and mugs. Lunch was had at a little cafe called Mick and Jimmy’s, where a band were playing, and the staff were very sweet and provided us with lots of great vegan options. After, we made our way to the Gap of Dunloe, and saw another raven being attacked by a much smaller hooded crow, and a kestrel that was standing in the middle of the road and took flight as we approached.
Gap of Dunloe, Killarney
Killarney is crazy pretty. It’s incredibly dramatic, and you can’t not think about how it was created when there are giant boulders bigger than most houses, cracked in half either side of the road after being spewed out by some great volcano. It was the perfect weather for it too, with storm clouds lurking over the mountains. Though thankfully the rain held off until we were on our way home.
Later, we’ll go for a walk to look at baby goats, come back and watch some films. My cousin hasn’t seen What We Do in the Shadows, which is practically a tragedy.
I learnt a lot in 2016. Not all of it good. Most of my time was probably spent watching political news as though as it was some really tense disaster movie, or more likely the prequel to one (except probably worse because it was real). But I won’t dwell on the bad things about 2016. We all know what they were.
Let’s focus on the good stuff instead, like David Attenborough surviving the year. Actually, I’m just going to talk about good stuff in my 2016, like finally getting my first tattoo, and then my second a few months later. I’ve wanted tattoos since I was a kid, but for years I didn’t know what to get or whether I should get one. Then I found an old Norse symbol I liked and just thought ‘fuck it’, and got it done a couple of days later. I lost three rats in 2016, including my heart rat, Ren, but gained another five (despite declaring I was going to take a break from animals for a while). It seems like it never happened now, but I fostered a rabbit and learnt a lot about their care, like how much space, food, and attention they really need (hint: it’s a fuck of a lot). I got to be a bridesmaid and watched two of my best friends get married. I spent four days in August at a music festival (only my third one), saw some great new-to-me bands and ended up queuing for something called The Big Ride which turned out to be a children’s wheeled horse pushed by a mime. Bat’s Children was published and it was nice to see that to completion, especially as it’s the first totally new publication of mine in about two years. The value of the pound dropped so I got paid more in royalties (always a plus side). And I finally got properly started on a novel (my first!) after months of thinking about the story and how it would work, and many scrapped beginnings.
For 2017 I have a couple of resolutions. One is something I should have been doing this year, but failed at miserably, and that’s to fucking budget. Since I got the job I’m in now, I’ve developed the tendency to throw money away on silly little things that all add up, when I could be saving it for those rainy days that are always lurking somewhere up ahead. So I’ve worked out a reasonable budget for at least the first three months of 2017 and that’s what I’m going to stick to. I’m going to stop slipping into my god damn overdraft and get some savings together. This means no more takeaway pizza or Best Buy samosas whenever I feel like it, and a lot more cooking from scratch.
It’s highly likely that few people care much about my rats except me (well, me and the rescues I get them from) and that writing about them a lot is boring for people, but they take up a large chunk of my life and I like talking about them, so I will.
Mahogany had her lump removal on Friday. Her scar is going to be HUGE. It extends all the way from her front left armpit to halfway down her body. Apparently the lump we could see was only a very small portion of what was actually there. She’s just spent the last couple of days sleeping in the hamster cage and it all seems to be healing nicely. We’re back to the vet next week for her check-up.
I got my boys on Monday. They’re pretty massive. I’m continuing my theme of mythical names (Porcelain and Mahogany didn’t get them because they were meant to be here for short term fostering) and I think I’ve decided on Loki, Sköll and Hati. Sköll is a bit of a bully, Hati is the sweeter, people-friendly rat, and Loki is the nervous one who spends most of his time at the moment hiding from me and Sköll. They’re all a bit sneezey which is annoying, but I’ll give them a week’s worth of nebulising and see how that goes.
Porcelain is being rather, let’s say, amorous, towards them. She was climbing up my stack of DVDs last night to get to them, so I’m very glad rats can’t mate through bars (not that I think she could reach the cage anyway). Mahogany doesn’t seem bothered by them at all, and it’s only Sköll who seems particularly interested in the girls. I swapped a rope shelf from the girls’ cage into the boys’ since it was never used, and Sköll would not let anyone else on it. From now on, there’ll be no swapping items unless thoroughly washed first.
The cinema I used to work at had their Christmas party on Monday, and naturally I went along. I miss the people I used to work with there. It’s very different from where I work now where people are quiet and polite and correct themselves from swearing, and a night out is a quiet meal or a Mama Mia singalong (shudder). This party was loud and drunken with people interrupting each other’s games by lying on the pool tables and throwing all the balls into the pockets–these are people who work closely with each other, who know each other, and who are totally comfortable in the presence of one another. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t miss the job at all and really most of the people who work there now are quite a bit younger than me–at 23 I was ‘old’ when I started that job and I’m definitely not about to de-age any time soon. Also, talking to someone there made me realise I need to be more proactive about looking for the kind of job I want. I like my current job, but I’d be very much settling if I did this forever, because it’s a nice, easy job with good benefits, and maybe it’s the best job I’ve had so far, but it’s not the dream job and it only takes time away from doing what I really want to do. I tend not to go for jobs that might otherwise be perfect because it’s not the right location (i.e. they’re all in fucking London) or some excuse like that because I’m comfortable where I am, and that’s not really going to get me anywhere.
The students are starting to leave halls now, so things are quieting down a bit here. I am counting down the days until we get to leave too! I am going to savour this holiday like a fine wine (except not wine, because wine is evil).
I finally saw Sisters of Mercy, a band whose music I’ve loved since I was about thirteen years old, live last week. It was far more packed in there than I expected, but then they’re probably right at the top of the popular goth music list and I didn’t see anyone younger than us there (sob). It wasn’t as good as I expected to be honest as the vocals kept sinking into the music and I couldn’t really make out the words which was a shame, and the band was mostly hidden in smoke (which was kind of cool but maybe like 5% less smoke for some visibility would have been good). I enjoyed the night though despite being stuck on the stairs dancing like my arms were glued to my sides and trying not to accidentally grind on the woman in front of me, and yeah, I’d probably still see them again because Sisters of Mercy!
The next item in my calendar was Glastonbury’s Frost Fayre, which was an afternoon of eating Christmas cookies and drinking mulled cider, listening to drums and choirs and folk music. I haven’t been to Glastonbury in years so it was really nice to go back again, especially when it was so busy because it’s a place packed with strange and wonderful people. I got a couple of Christmas presents there and some books for myself, because Glastonbury has some great book shops that are pretty cheap and naturally they’re all stocked full of mythology, spiritualism and occult titles. Very handy inspiration and reference tools for writing.
I stood and watched a band for a bit and then found myself in the middle of a crowd of witches and wizards waving wands and broomsticks. Nothing to do with the fayre, just a joint stag and hen do going past. Things closed down a bit earlier than expected, and by 8pm the bustling, crowded streets were dark and empty so we took refuge in The George and Pilgrim, a supposedly haunted pub dating back to the 15th century. Eventually we had to leave and I jumped on a bus back home, back to light and noise and city fumes.
There was a rather tense moment when the couple sat on the bus next to me started having a very loud argument because the bloke wanted to get off at an earlier stop for a piss, and the woman wouldn’t let him. For a while I was genuinely worried I was going to get this drunk stranger’s wee on my coat (obviously moving wasn’t an option because British). Thankfully they eventually decided to get off the bus.
My foster rats are back with me now after their stay at the rescue, and they’re settling back in pretty well, although they were in a foul mood the first night I had them free roaming and Mahogany bit me twice. I think she’s trying to establish that she’s boss, but considering our size difference I’m pretty sure she loses that one. Meanwhile Porcelain is trying out some new meds for her mycoplasma — I have to count out exactly ten grains from a tablet meant for dogs twice a day which is just as exciting as it sounds.
It’s now December, so I’m spending most days fighting through the crowds at the Christmas market to get home, and switching the heating on every ten minutes when it goes off. I have a feeling it’s going to be a very cold winter this year, as the last few days have been around or below freezing and we actually had mist inside the hall the other day. (Cue people from Scandinavia rolling their eyes at me – I know 0 degrees is nothing, okay, but I’m cold.)
I have a pretty quiet week ahead of me, hopefully, and plan to just focus on my paranormal detective story because I really need to work out the knots I’ve gotten myself into there. Step one is to finish reading The Crime Writer’s Guide to Police Practice and Procedure (for those of you trying to write crime in the UK it’s absolutely fantastic and up-to-date so far!) This means taking a little break from the internet, which is surely the hardest part of any kind of work. I think I might have actually started to get somewhere this evening. At least I hope so! Fingers crossed.
It’s hammering it down outside today. My clothes had only just dried after getting to work soaked when I had to leave again. When I got back, I found it was raining inside my boiler as well, meaning no heating. So my clothes are still drying five hours later and everything from the boiler cupboard is in a big sopping mess in our hallway. I’m just surprised it wasn’t the internet that broke, because that’s what usually goes.
I’m a bit stuck on the story I’ve been working on lately. I hit 40k and now I’ve stalled. It’s like I’ve dug half a pond and hit rock. Bit frustrating to be honest because I’ve no idea what to do about it. I need to sit and figure it out but I’m balking at the idea a bit because I’m worried it’ll mean starting again. I’ve restarted this story so many times! And I’ve just come way too far now to do that again. I suppose if I must, then I must, because I want to do these characters and their story justice, but… argh.
On to better things: tomorrow I’m seeing Sisters of Mercy, one of the few bands I’ve loved and listened to since I was a young teen and I’m so excited! It’s going to be pretty great, even if I can’t drink that much because school night.
This week I’m also going to be picking up my two long stay foster rats, Porcelain and Mahogany, from the rescue after their viewing last week. It didn’t go so well. Mahogany sat stuffing her face whilst ignoring everyone and Porcelain went and bit the rescuer in front of her prospective new parent and that was pretty much the end of that.
Whilst there I will hopefully get a chance to fawn over a group of boys the rescue currently has, which includes two rexes and a marten. One of my first rats was a beautiful blue rex girl and I loved her curly little whiskers. And martens… well I’ve never even seen one before. I’d love to have them but I’m late to the party as they’ve had lots of interest and really, I shouldn’t anyway. I’m meant to be taking a little ratty holiday. Plus it would mean having two separate cages and doubling the time spent free roaming them. Still, I’m probably more excited to just go and stare at this marten rat for a bit than I am to see one of my favourite bands. Here’s a picture of him – he doesn’t look happy, bless him, but I’m sure he’s settled now and been given lots of treats. The other boys below certainly look happy enough with their dinner.
Aren’t they gorgeous? Obviously I stole the pictures. Both images should link to the rescue facebook page in case you’re in or near south west England and want some rats – but probably not these lucky boys.
Well, September has kicked off to a good start. To cut a long(ish) story short, I now have no rats of my own, and am just down to the two foster rats. I lost Ren a couple of days ago, my favourite rat probably ever, literally the day after we lost Milo, the funny little rat I took on for a friend not even three weeks before.
It’s going to be very weird when the foster rats leave. I’ve been keeping rats for four and a half continuous years now. I’m so used to having them around. Feeding them, talking to them, cuddling with them, and just having them out to run around the living room has all been part of my daily routine for a long time now. I’m used to having animals around. With the exception of my three years at university, I’ve always had animals in the house.
So I don’t know how long my pet keeping break will be. I might well get more rats in a year or so, but for now I’m tired of being constantly in and out of the vets’, tired of having to be on guard for any sign of a crackle in their breathing, or red staining around their noses. My fucking bank balance is tired. Really though I’m just tired of losing them all the time. I love rats. They’re one of my favourite animals for sure. But they only live 2 years on average. It’s not really enough time, not when you get attached to them, and there are some rats, like Ren, that you get attached to very strongly in a very short space of time.
Tomorrow I’m going in early to the tattoo studio to get something to commemorate Ren, and all of my rats. Pretty basic, just a little rat paw print. I’m a bit excited and a bit nervous. My first tattoo hurt a lot more than I expected (to everyone who ever told me they don’t really hurt, I hate you and I want your lack of nerve endings). I feel like I need it though.
I’ve got a week long holiday now and not much planned so I’m going to spend most of it writing. I’m working on a paranormal story (surprise surprise) that I really like. The characters are really jumping out at me and I find myself just wanting to sink into their heads and get their story down on paper. It still needs a bit more planning plot-wise, but everything else, all the characters and relationships and internal drama is pretty much already there with very little effort on my part. So I’m looking forward to not having to do anything else but that for a few days.
This weekend my friends and I jumped in a car and headed down to Hampshire for Boomtown festival. The queue for the carpark was about an hour, but we had snacks, music, and were all excited enough that we didn’t mind the wait. There were a lot of old camper vans broken down along the way, people jumping out and trying to push them uphill.
It felt like we had arrived a day late when we got there. There were cans and bottles littered all over the place, people staggering around and shouting, drinking and laughing, all just in the queue to get our wristbands. Most people were carrying in their essentials–tents, backpacks, and of course, alcohol. One girl was carrying a full length mirror in with her.
The first thing we really noticed there was that there were a lot of men in dresses. Some as costume, but most not. Most wore their dresses or loose robes casually, because it was hot as balls out and a skirt is much cooler than trousers or shorts, and because they knew no one was going to give a shit what they wore. It made me a little sad that men don’t usually feel comfortable dressing like that outside of the festival bubble, that the rest of the country isn’t quite as liberal. There were also a few people wearing wizard hats, and that combined with the people in dresses made me feel like this was the Quidditch world cup, and I was watching people like Archie who hadn’t quite mastered the art of dressing like a muggle.
This week has kind of sucked. My oldest rat, Deci, died the other night. I knew it was coming, but I thought I had more time. I always think I have more time than I really do with my animals. Maybe everyone does. I’m going to miss that crazy old rat. When I got her, I really wondered what I’d let myself in for, because she was so frightened and bitey and I had exactly zero experience with that sort of behaviour. I’m so glad I did get her though and persevered because she was amazing, and she ended up a very trusting and confident rat. Never really normal though. I don’t think I’ll ever meet another rat as weird as her.
Rico’s gone as well now. He’s found his new home, which is great, but the lounge feels kind of empty without him and I keep having to check myself because I’ve gotten used to him being a part of my daily routine. I’m pretty lucky with the home I found though, because he’s gone with my aunt and uncle in Wales, so I’ll get to see him now and again, and I know how good they are with animals. He’ll have loads of space and other bunny friends. It’ll be great for him up there. For a while they weren’t sure they wanted another rabbit, but my aunt and cousin managed to convince my uncle, and he totally fell in love with Rico as soon as he met him. Who wouldn’t? I’m getting lots of updates about him already, and apparently he’s already settling in and is having a great time running around outside, eating grass and cuddling with his new humans. He hasn’t met the other buns yet because his hormones haven’t settled from his op, so that’ll be next month. Fingers crossed it all goes well! It sounds like he’ll also have his own pet, because my dad said something about a blind chick that lives in with the rabbits. Why it doesn’t live with the other chickens, I’ve no idea.
It all feels very quiet here now, but I still have my Ren, and the new foster girls I picked up the other week. The newbies, Mahogany and Porcelain, are quite skittish as they haven’t been handled much before, so I’m taking things quite slow with them. They’re used to me stroking them now. Well, a bit. Not so much with the picking up though. Hopefully by the end of next week they’ll be more at ease with it all. We’ll see.
It’s the first of December, and time to get to putting up that Christmas tree*! Unless you’re a Christmas purist and only keep it up for 12 days, but to be honest that’s a lot of work for so short a time. 12 days is about how long I leave the washing up (yes, our kitchen does currently resemble that scene from Withnail and I), and a glowing tree is a lot nicer to look at, so long as it didn’t come from some radioactive wasteland.
With December comes a glance back at the year we’ve had, before looking to the next one. I’ll probably remember this year as kind of a crazy one. The first few months saw me full time at the cinema, getting sick every few weeks from being run down on long hours and few breaks and living mostly off of sharer bags of Doritos and waste hotdogs (if my old bosses are reading this… I’m joking about the waste hotdogs… *cough*) Continue reading “Reflections”→