Auld Lang Syne

Today would have been the birthday of someone who was a significant part of my life in my 20’s and 30’s.

He was Best Man at our wedding. We went to the US with us to go watch The Phantom Menace. He was a lodger in our house for several years and the year Lee Evans won the Edinburgh Fringe Comedy Award (1993 I believe) we spent a couple of weeks with him at the Festival. He was a singularly lovely bloke, and to have learnt of his loss is a considerable portion of my life summarily displaced. However, as I don’t do Facebook, and haven’t for quite some time, this is a loss I will consider from a distance as opposed to my Husband, who spoke to him daily.

It makes me think how these ‘things’ work out, because we parted on less than equitable terms.

A lot of my life from this period has been quietly thrown away. My husband and his mates were planning a reunion last year, but of course COVID got in the way. I’ve never really understood the importance of bringing people back together after decades apart to celebrate what is now the past. That person I was bears absolutely no resemblance to the person who’s sitting here, typing this, and it would be REALLY hard for me to go into a pub with these people and get drunk like I did back then. This guy was the one who wanted to get everyone back together too, and I think I know why.

Of course now, I will never know for certain.

I am really very angry right now. This guy absolutely did not deserve to die. Nobody with COVID should have been a casualty, but an entire generation will be scarred by loss, in ways too numerous to adequately record. For me, it is the reminder that life remains incredibly precious as a commodity, and taking it for granted is the most foolish thing you will ever do. Wear a fucking mask, wash your hands and don’t be a dick, because the person you could kill will be someone’s friend, and that loss need never have taken place.

Rest Well Stevie P <3

2000 Miles

A lot has happened in the last week. One thing that has become apparent, and obvious, is that my ability to art is back. It’s not just the abstract, either: a desire to line draw is emerging too. We’ll see if that sticks over the next few months, but what is apparent is that the tyranny of content needs a do-over. I’m not sure how it gets fixed, but this has been a problem for a lot longer than just Lockdown. I think a lot of it is responsibility and the feeling that if I’m not doing *something* I’m not being productive, which is clearly not the case.

Right now, we’re starting small and working from there.

Alone Again, Or

Yesterday was a watershed.

It began because I am no longer in the position to afford things that other people consider as essentials. The fact remains, FOMO is real, but largely pointless once you rationalise the expense. Sure there are alternatives too, but the larger truth is that when you know something is a distraction, it is better to walk away than towards.

This then sent me into an anxiety ‘loop’ which effectively curtailed my ability to be rational. However, instead of noticing this inside the moment, I saw it at the fringes and knew that if I just walked away from the things that were causing issue, that anxiety was manageable. So, that was yesterday afternoon: stress management and relaxation.

Then, amazing things began to happen.

When life runs without you noticing, things just look different. Slow down those moments, control their effects and you can see what looks terrible at the time is just an implosion and some fire that’s easily put-outable. Last night I fixed a problem that’s existed for about three years, I found solutions to writing cul-de-sacs but crucially, cooked dinner alone and amazingly.

Allowing myself permission to step back is a really new concept for me. Knowing I can fix the issues, without assuming there needs to be someone else to assist me, is also pretty virgin territory. That confidence that you are enough, that it isn’t about that you HAVE to do more than justification that this is the case. Stopping is the most difficult thing I ever do. Making myself do it yesterday was the absolute solution to my problem.

The change in me this morning is… well, significant.

Sometimes, you are the change that needs to happen. It isn’t other people’s jobs to help you. Occasionally, you do actually need to do the things that scare you to make progress.

Most importantly of all, knowing when to ‘fail’ is really a game changer.

Monday, Monday

My hairdresser and I have formed a relationship away from work. It means that she feels comfortable to share little titbits of data with me: one that was a particular surprise is that she had trouble with depth perception. That means, if someone was to hit a tennis ball at her from distance, she’d be unable to judge where it landed. I’ve tried to imagine what this must be like to have to cope with mentally, and suspect it is a bit stressful.

Occasionally, when online, people will share memes that make me realise a) just how young they must be and b) just how old I am. It’s not a problem insofar as gauging how far into the past or future other people are related to me. I like to not judge at all, if I can help it, rather assess each person met on merit. It is up to them to show me who they are.

Grasping how people operate online however can be a little more difficult.

There have always been people who think that ‘online’ is the real danger, ever since Usenet allowed people to communicate without external regulation. There will always be outliers, and despite what Malcolm Gladwell might want to tell you their success is often defined by not being the person who is easy to profile, quantify or indeed locate.

Ironically, in these days when enemies are in plain sight and have no need to hide, highlighting those pedalling the low level dopamine hits to the masses is very easy. You don’t need to see either in front or behind to grasp the dangers: one could argue it is why government won’t regulate institutions it knows have at least some nominal value to them in keeping control.

The bigger enemy to freedom right now, ironically, is information.

My family love to mock my paranoia over tracking: yesterday, the world will know I did a virtual bike ride in my shed and then a real life one down the Thames Estuary. In the latter case, it will be obvious I navigated a portion of sea wall that has been ‘nominally’ closed due to being unsafe. There were no laws broken, but there’s enough private property in that area that had I strayed into it, Strava would have recorded it.

The ignorance most people hold over exactly what they wear and how it tracks them remains eye-wateringly painful. Seasoned protestors know how to disappear, which is why facial recognition software has become as big a topic of discussion as it undoubtedly is. The irony of having to wear masks in a place such as shopping centres where retailers employ such devices to prevent theft will not have passed many people by.

How far you can see entirely depends on what you’re capable of focussing on at any one time.

The longer COVID goes on (and no, Boris, this won’t be over in time for your no-Deal Brexit) the easier it is to see those people who are adapting, and those who face extinction. The latter won’t go quietly, or without a lot of noise and mess. Letting them go would be a lot easier if influencers stop pointing and laughing at the death throes.

Real cancel culture ought to mean silence: you just stop talking about people, ignore their desperate pleas to be relevant, and then watch them tank off their metaphorical cliffs without any more need for propulsion. That’s my plan going forward: lift up the voices that I feel matter, amplify the people who deserve to be heard. Seeing everything is sometimes disadvantageous, but not right now.

Accurate depth perception has become a part of my arsenal.

Change

Day Three of having a piece of exercise equipment that can support my weight. I could have gone and found a tree in the woods over there [/points] and really would have. The benefits of lifting my own body weight have already been shown with press-up practice. Now, however, I can do this after a brief walk outside and honestly, it’s a game changer.

My shoulders have always been the weak link in my chain of arm muscles. However, this morning I can feel improvement everywhere. Resistance bands will build muscle and sculpt, but I need some beef in my arms. Legs are getting a daily workout, and that needs to happen with both arms and core. The pull up bar gives most to one and some to the other.

Therefore I need to put together some daily core ‘maintenance’ which will allow me to keep everything in a comparable state, because your core is the key to making everything operate effectively. Fortunately, there’s been a bit of that floating around the curated feeds this week. This means planks, bird-dogs, squats and lunges, plus what my Trainer calls ‘happy knees’ as a daily sub for the push ups.

This is not going to be pleasant, nor should it be.

Yes, I’m also thinking about making walks into jogs, but this is early days and yes they will be baby steps and it will be what lungs dictate first and nothing else, because experience now tells me it’s those muscle groups that need the most work. Core will help with that too. I am also thinking that perhaps I need to relearn how I breathe, if that’s not a massively ridiculous statement in the first place.

There’s definitely some work that needs doing: slow is possible, controlled is doable but finding a way to be active and still keep going is the next step forward. This might explain why swimming is such a had ask when it’s going underwater where I struggle most. Knowing your shortcomings is good, kids. It helps iron out so many other kinks in the lifestyle.

Fear is part of the journey.

Decks Dark

It’s been a depressing couple of days, all told. Yesterday’s collective amazement at just how much right wing vitriol exists in this country should not be nearly as substantive as it is. Hearing this morning that trans rights are about to be attacked is exactly as David says above, an easy swipe at a target many ‘normal’ people will agree with. After all, if that lovely writer doesn’t like them, we can agree with her without fear.

This is going to be a long fight. Time to choose your allies.

I was up early, for a Sunday, walking this morning, realising that the only way things genuinely improve is if I push myself. Sure, I can’t change certain stuff but the things I can are well within reach now. It needs a concerted effort to start educating others, and myself. There are books on race to buy, and trans history. These things matter, and will be done.

On top of that I feel I have worked out a way to maintain a work/life balance that will operate successfully going forward. That means doing exercise before anything else, starting today. Fortunately on that front I have a new toy that I’ve been after for about four years, about to go up on the wall outside the house. It is time to finally move out of this part of my life and pull my way up to the next crossroads.

Everybody needs to be stronger for the fight ahead. I know a lot of people are tired, utterly get that feeling. To survive, we will become better, and smarter, and these people will NEVER be allowed to win because if life is to be worth living, it will include everybody around the table and not just the people a select few decide are worth their time.

When the time comes, we will be ready.

Revolution

It’s good to know I’m not the only person who is angry. There are lots of reasons for it, not just the Wizard Thing. I get annoyed at stupidity, in all of its forms, and this week has been absolutely staggering for white, middle-class people wandering into shit and trying to pretend they care. They won’t right up to the point they get adversely affected, then it’ll all kick off.

I know how this works. It’s the same way it always does: it couldn’t possibly be ME at fault. I give to charities. I recycle religiously. It’s those ignorant, stupid people over there doing the criminal damage and causing the civil disobedience. Oh please do fuck off with the sanctimony and realise that your life is not supposed to be easy. That’s the point of being alive.

You have to work at it.

I can point at a number of people I intentionally no longer follow whose ridiculous pontification on their own views was enough to finally send me running screaming from the rambling. I like authenticity in my work, which means a very healthy dose of ‘you have to THINK to read this’ because if all I’m getting from someone is their pomposity, what do I learn?

Well, that’s easy. Waffle makes it look like the world’s got nothing to do with them. It might well be the case too, all the care they seem to give for such things. You can still love video games, and talk about them objectively, and even be critical of design choices without looking like you don’t give a fuck about anything else. However, it isn’t easy.

It is time to do the fucking work, people.

Dignity

Once upon a time, history was made by the people who were destined to become statues. The problem, over time, is their success nearly always involved some form of subjugation in the process, so heroism becomes less about being a good person and more about how you made people rich. Many interesting points emerged yesterday, the main one over why anyone would stick a racist on a plinth in the first place.

This is not commemoration. It is idolization, and to understand why you just have to look at the nutters who popped up with suggestions of who could now be erected in Colston’s place. Statues are the remembrance of a past other people feel needs to be recalled for centuries to come, except after a while the population will forget who that person was if history refuses to teach why they were put there.

The fact so few people know who Colston is outside Bristol remains significant.

The gaps in this country’s history are shocking: one might say they are intentional because if you don’t teach people their hands are covered in the blood of their ancestors, it is far easier to keep them subservient and willing to work. Reality for most of us sits between what history chooses to remember and what our families decide to forget.

What continues to be glaringly apparent however is the language that is used by those in power shows that their assertions this country is not racist is a lie. It remains a lie, and is perpetuated still from an early age. It is a very stupid leader indeed who chooses to consider those who desecrated the public property in Bristol yesterday as ‘thugs.’

I am utterly confident this man knows EXACTLY how that term is defined.

Suppression is still a thing, guys. We walked over the entire planet and destroyed a great many things. Giving land back to those we occupied does not absolve our blame. We still have a PHENOMENAL amount of work to do on that front, and eventually, if we’re lucky, these people might forgive those who held them down. However, don’t bet on it.

That’s right, we should be grateful that this isn’t about revenge, because if it was… white people would be extinct by now. What was built by others’ hands, and not our own, kept safe through decades of ignorance and wilful unseeing. If you ascribe to the concept of karma… this might be a pivotal moment.

That all depends on the guilty’s response to their culpability.

Think About Things

I think we all need Eurovision right now, even if it is a virtual version. I really feel that this year, more than any other year, Graham Norton snarking his way through a glitter-covered car crash is indeed what this country requires more than standing outside hitting pans with wooden spoons. Having heard what’s in store I am here for this, more than I have been for anything else that’s been apparently produced in the National Interest… because, we are best when in Europe.

We’ve not forgotten about Brexit, those of us with long memories and the realization that being a nation isle’s great and everything until you properly accept history has rolled on from 70 years ago.Β Eurovision is the event we can’t win, and won’t ever win again until we work out that to do that, you need to accept this wonderland of diversity for what it is: different, special, brilliant, moving, balls-achingly funny (one for the lads there) and a thousand other points in between.

We’ll never win until we stop taking ourselves so fucking seriously.

If you ascribe to the idea that Russia’s sole task in the modern world is to destabilise World governments and to totally pwn the opposition with organised precision in a MMO PvP battleground, they get how this ought to work. They’ve done a cracking job of infiltrating almost seamlessly into Eurovision for at least a decade, this year’s entry being absolutely no exception. The writer in me has already considered interesting scenarios should they ever be allowed to win…

However, this year should have been Iceland’s. I think we can all agree on this, and if you get HOT CHIP FFS to remix your song even before the Contest would have taken place… it’s a crying shame that a lot of these songs will never be allowed to compete against each other. The rules are very clear: once you’ve ‘performed’ in any capacity, that song cannot be entered again. It means this year’s offerings will be remembered longer in memory, I suspect, because of the backdrop on which they were set.

I for one am already looking forward to a top quality evening of mass Twitterbation (that’s totally a word now) over all the stuff that could have happened, and how the BBC’s used it’s already well-used abilities to create mass participation from the internet into entertainment. This will undoubtedly be a triumph for the organization who FINALLY gets how online works and got their act together a couple of months ago to source all the material required.

I’ll see you this evening :D

White Noise White Heat

Might be Thursday, feels like about a month since Sunday.Β I’ve rearranged the Patreon schedule a bit because frankly, there is very little of value in my brain right now. About 80% of the stuff that needs doing’s ready to go, but that 20% which remains encompasses all the thorny, hard stuff and nope, brain just wants to stare into the middle distance and ignore most efforts to engage.

It does not help that yesterday became incredibly stressful in a very concentrated, two hour burst. The outcome however was major: I’ll talk about that on Patreon today, and not here, in the hope that I might tempt some of you to come and join me. It’s only $4 a month to access all the blogs there, but appreciate that even that is a stretch for many people right now. Your definition of paltry is relative.

shun the prole

I’m at the stage where subbing to anything new is impossible, so am totally with you if the rush by so many creatives to ‘go digital’ is leaving you cold. However, this is my life now, like it or not, and I am determined to push the Patreon and Gumroad quite hard as the year goes on. However, there needs to be some other stuff done too, so today instead of stressing about how I make new things, we’ll recycle some old.

There’s at least one submission window in which older work can be repurposed, but it will require quite a bit more tea than has been currently consumed just to negotiate the online process. This is often more stressful than writing the actual work, if truth be told. However, it’s worthwhile if I can find another publication inroad: that’s the key, in all of this. Everything is publicity.

If people don’t know you exist, how will you ever be discovered?

Illsithee

Progress is hard, and if you’re carrying emotional baggage, extremely tiring.Β However, there was a period of about ninety minutes yesterday when I was on a high the likes of which has not been experienced for… well, decades.Β Achievement really is its’ own reward if done well, and yesterday was the first time since before my kids were born that I’ve been able to stand up, say what I wanted to say in the manner that mattered and solve a problem.

That, it has to be said, is a MASSIVE step forward.