Preparation

Preparing to travel is stressful, I’ve discovered. Maybe not if you’re already well-travelled, already have the fine art of packing a bag or two down, but I’m not and I don’t. I’ve already moved house once, and in a couple of weeks I have to move again. This around things like working overtime, driving lessons, and of course taking my two remaining rats over to Ireland (sad to see them go, but they’ve an amazing home lined up). Despite clearing out probably half of my stuff and storing another quarter, leighann-renee-506942-unsplashI still have a lot to go through. I need to be ruthless. That jacket I can only wear on cool but cloudless days because the rain will ruin the velvet? Looks great but it has to go. And do I really need two dressing gowns? (I don’t have a firm answer for this one – it might be yes).

The good thing is, I don’t miss my old flat at all. There’ll be nostalgia there for it, for the weird corner of Bristol that I made my own, but I’m glad to be out. I’ll be even more glad when the prep stage is over and I’m on that long haul flight to the other side of the world. Because then it’ll be done. No going back.

Strangely, all this change is keeping me creative. I’ve got two little stories on the go and another one brewing in the back of my head. This is why it’s good to shake things up a little. Otherwise I fall into bad habits. Right now, I barely have time for bad habits. My empty hours are now filled with planning and clearing and learning. I’ve become that person who can’t make social plans until they’ve checked their diary. It’s stressful but I don’t hate it, in a weird way I actually kind of like it. I think that’s because I know this will be worth it. And then, for a little while at least, I’ll have all the time in the world and no plans whatsoever. I can’t wait.erol-ahmed-48243-unsplash

Preparation

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

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.

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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

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

Reflection & Resolutions

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.

The other resolution is to finish a few stories that really need finishing. These are: Continue reading “Reflection & Resolutions”

Reflection & Resolutions

Rat Updates: The Boys Arrive

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).

Rat Updates: The Boys Arrive

Wintering

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.)

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                                                  Frosty.

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.

Wintering

Obsessing over Rats (again)

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.14918924_10154751634904644_521091455180730298_o15025268_10154758718014644_456424192634479249_o

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.

Obsessing over Rats (again)