Thursday, 31 December 2015

This year in review

It's been fucking awesome.

I can't even remember the vast majority, but there have been opportunities that I have really gone for and were worth it. More than worth it!

I spent a weekend in California. Who does that? Lots of jet lag, more money than I could afford, but I got to be with a really good group of friends at a really exciting time.

I walked almost the whole Cotswold Way. 20 miles to go, and it's been great!

I got very fit. It was brief, but it was great. And now I know I can do it, I'm going to do it again. And this time it will last longer.

I broke up with my boyfriend, but we remained friends. I did that twice in 2015 - once right at the start and once at the end (ish). This is worth doing because the men I met these days are wonderful, even if we are incompatible.

I tried rock climbing. I now know I love it and abseiling.

I lost a little creativity to stress and work, and my health took a knock, but overall it's been a wonderful year and I'm very happy.

Next year is going to be pretty awesome too. My to do list looks very exciting!

A

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Good news... I think

I know my posts lately have been a bit heavy, it's just been an incredibly tough month (or two, or three!) but there is a light.


Among the other stuff I've been worrying about, how I feel about an ex of mine is one of them. I've written a few pieces over the last year about this that are scheduled to appear early 2016, but the basic gist is that I've cared far too much about this one guy.


Today I saw a Facebook post of his. It heavily implies he has a girlfriend. I felt a twinge of jealousy, but no gut wrenching, stabbing fear, envy, despair, etc.


I think, at the very least, I've accepted there is nothing there, even if I've not yet fully moved on. I'm going to be happy for him, while I'm a tiny bit jealous for me.


Of course, for the last month I've become gradually more obsessed with the potential negative outcomes of my hospital visit (it's looming ever closer) and trying to figure out why they could possibly want more blood after reviewing my results from the previous one. It may be that I've run out of space in my head for things to really care about.


By the way; I'm getting physically sick again. I'm afraid this will mean I have problems for the next few days. What a way to spend a holiday.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

You don't see

You don't see. You think you do, I can see it in your self satisfied smugness. You have experienced all life has to offer and you know all about everything worth knowing about. And yet you are blind.


Oh dear, you think, she's being dramatic again. I wonder if I should point out...


Yes I'm getting dramatic. Right here, right now, I feel great. I feel safe, relaxed and comfortable and I am being dramatic. I am so comfortable, secure and happy that I'm telling you the truth about a feeling that has passed.


The feeling is frustration. The source is you.


You pay attention to the things I show, sure. But, and here's the important part, you filter it through the assumption that I am always happy, safe and comfortable enough to expose my deepest pain to you at the point I'm feeling it.


You never stop to think when I tell you matters as much as what I tell you.


Here is the truth. I am dramatic when it can't hurt me to be. Some things are dramatic. And they hurt. Do you know how I deal with them? Did you figure it out yet?


Denial.


Outright denial. I was traumatised by seeing the true impact of carnivores in nature. I became vegetarian for years until that memory stopped hurting. I didn't tell my parents that my husband and I separated for over a month after it happened. I didn't tell my best friend for much longer. I just didn't acknowledge it, despite the real evidence I dealt with daily.


I'm not good at confrontation. I know that. I do it, I'm not afraid of it, but every fibre of my being is geared to flight. That's who I am.


So ask yourself this: Why did I need to be dramatic? Was it because I was safe with you? Or because I recovered from my fear and became independent?


Follow up question: Which would you prefer to be true?

Friday, 4 December 2015

For those days

For those days when you've just had enough of the stupid.

A while back I saw a post on some form of social media bemoaning the fact that once upon a time age and wisdom were respected while now youth and beauty are revered.

Now don't get me wrong, I understand the sentiment. Certainly age and wisdom are worth more than youth and beauty. If I had to choose between being stuck on a desert island with an immature hottie, or with a mature individual with common sense, practical experience and a sense of social responsibility it wouldn't take even the tiniest of slices of a second to make the choice.

However, let's not kid ourselves that being stuck on a desert island is the only way to quantify the value of something. The principle way of determining value is, in our society, through quantifying its rarity. This can be evidenced through history by the interest we've had in art work and craftsmanship, jewellery, rare metals, stamps etc. We, as a species, like rare things.

And guess what used to be rare, but is increasingly common? Age.

Once, living past forty was rare, past sixty was astonishing and past eighty was unheard of. Even in the last century living to 100 seemed to be about as far as we could get, but look up the oldest person in the world. Before you do, have a guess at how old they are. I bet you underestimated.

Once, to live beyond forty years old gave you a wealth of life experience that was hard to earn and was respected for its rarity. As aging becomes common and we can all reach that, we don't see the knowledge as rare. Instead we see that as we get old, we start to break down, mentally as well as physically. Aging lasts forever.

What is transient is youth.

We are young, and extremely stupid, for a short while. As we grow older and begin to break, we think back to our missed opportunities. We want to relive some part of our youth and do it right. We want to quit smoking, or never to have started. We want to have learned to dance, taken that chance to skydive, tried to hike across China, written that novel.

The people who control our media see young, beautiful people and see their own missed opportunities. They want to capture it before it passes and over the decades this becomes what it is now.

Yes, it's foolish, but don't kid yourself into thinking the reverence we used to feel for age and wisdom was any better informed than our current delight in youth. Christ, do you think the elders who were admired over the centuries were actually all that wise? Or did they get lucky? Did they happen to be immune to that bug, or were they wise enough to eat the right stuff to heal quickly? Did they survive childbirth because they were smart, or just lucky? Were they right about the big man in the sky sending lightening when he was angry, or was it coincidence that they found a cave to hide in instead of under a tree?

Alicia

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

No one knows

I sit on the sofa and I rock back and forth, over and over. It's soothing somehow. I don't understand how. But you know it doesn't make it stop. I don't know why it makes it better but it does.

Every now and then I can stop and I can watch the TV and cry just a little bit and it makes it better. I can look around my flat and I can not hate myself.

I can see dirty dishes that need to be washed. I can see all of the cat hair. I can see that I have a problem; I know that I can fix it. Right now I choose not to but that doesn't mean that I can't. That doesn't mean that I can't. I can. I'm in control, but I will put it all to one side because that means I have freedom and I can choose.

I can choose to be happy and clean and tidy or I can choose to live with it for now. Not for long, just for now.

It will all go away in the end.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

You, you and I

You tell me you hurt
That you've had enough
You're on the edge
You need a helping hand to hold
A hug for you
For once

I hear you
I'm here

You cry in the night
And in the day time
You're crushed by expectations
You're afraid not to meet
You need some time
For you

I hear you
I'm here

But you're there
And I can't take it away
I can't give you time
I can't give you space
I don't have a Tardis even
For you

You're there
And all I can do
Is give you words

I love you
You are not alone
If you need to talk
If I can make you feel better
Tell me
I'm here

I hear you
I hold you in my heart

I hope it helps

Sunday, 8 November 2015

I am not

It is autumn, a leaf has been discarded by its parent tree. Combined, the rain and sun have worn down its flesh and left only the skeleton, deceptively fragile. I am not the leaf, disintegrating under natural forces.

A moth lands, delicately fluttering, disguised by the mottled pattern of leaves. Another leaf, heavy with rain, brushes past its wing casting up a smear of golden powder as the delicate instrument of flight is battered irreparably. I am not the wing, operative but still broken to those who know where to look.

A hedgehog burrows, nuzzling out unfortunate grubs, chewing on each tasty morsel as it catches them. I am not the grub, to be eaten and crushed by the weight of its predator's jaw.

I am none of these parts of the great cycle of life and rebirth.

I have my own place. It has natural forces of its own which I can feel wearing me down day by day. It grants me scar tissue and tear tracks that I disguise for my own sake. It comes with a weight, an oppression which I can feel bearing down on me day by day.

This place is unrelenting. I feel it continuously grinding at my soul and I cannot escape.

Above all I feel the isolation and it is more acute because my isolation has a shape. It comes in a form I recognise; the shadow of your absence. When you are here I can forget, for a tiny moment, that it's me against reality. For a moment I can feel a part of a team. For a moment I can feel my heart beat and I am not afraid of it.

But you are gone forever and I have to learn to live with it. I have to hold on to my hopes that one day your shape will dissipate and my loneliness will become an amorphous blob to be filled by anyone that I allow to come close enough.

I have to let you go.

Alicia

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Late October PreNano

It's October and the temperature is plummeting fast. The daylight saving seems to have done nothing to lighten the morning, instead I am waking bright and early to a gloomy darkness in my bedroom. Waking up has never been a skill of mine and the fact that I'm so perky at 6:00 am is both astonishing and oddly delightful.

I have this week off work and it's giving me a much needed break from all the stresses and strains. The relief is unlikely to last long, but the break is doing me a world of good and soon enough I'll be back there and can only hope that there were no disasters incurred in my absence.

As to my blog - I have neglected it shamefully for the last few months and I can only apologise. November starts soon though and with it #Nanowrimo. Of course I will participate and attempt to write a 50,000 word story; the plot is sort of in my head, the main character is sort of fleshed out, and the world feels real to me. 1 out of three is not conducive to the sort of story which will work for you guys, but remember my priority here is the word count! They don't have to be good words, they just need spaces between them.

Preparations are in order of course, I need to dig out my warmest, snuggliest jumpers, biggest slippers and largest mug in order to ensure I am warm and snug in order to get this wordcount under my command.

Wish me luck :)

A

Monday, 7 September 2015

I am a woman who writes

I am a woman who writes. I have imaginary friends that I carry with me. We share adventures, we chat, we build a rapport until, one day, they tell me their story. I do not always recognise this is what they are doing immediately and, when I do, I sometimes have to write frantically for days to pin down their words before they drift away.

Often times my focus becomes centered on the writing and they become bored and leave me. They do not want it to be about the writing – they want the telling of the story and the response of the audience. They want it to be about them, but I am a woman who writes and I care about the writing too much. And so I am alone with a half written tale of a hero.

The tale lies before me and I know I must finish, but what happens next? I am a woman who writes and I have the words. I have so many words. None of them are the right ones. A scattering of broken sentences and false starts lies before me and I am disheartened. I am a woman who writes and I need my storyteller. I revisit his tale so far. I had become so engrossed in my word craft that I had forgotten the tale he wove for me. I take delight in his adventures and I see the shape of what is to come. In the absence of his guidance I begin to slowly, clumsily, craft the next few stages. My hero has laid waste to an army and now enters a new confrontation when I feel his presence behind me. How would you escape this? I muse aloud. I am a woman who writes. Tell me, would you fight?

Oh, no, murmurs my hero. I am a pacifist and have been for my whole adult life. I freeze solid inside as I realise weeks of work are wasted. How did I miss it? I wonder, reflecting on how clearly this was depicted in his character throughout his telling of the story. I am a woman who writes. I grit my teeth and casually ask if there is anything else I should know. I have never loved, came the sad response, and I will not kill to survive if there is any other way. Mentally striking out the scene where he met the lady at a hog roast, I ask; What is your story?

The words flow and I, the woman who writes, am subject to them. I plough forwards with disjointed paragraphs and multiple attempts to perfectly describe how this happened, or that failed to happen. I have learned my lesson and I am a woman who writes his story. That is all. It unfolds before me. Eventually he is bored again and leaves, but the story is mostly complete. I know him now and I know how he ended, so when I finished his story the events are correct. My hero is a healer, not a warrior.
I read through my work. It has been so long in the making that I forget where I lost him first time round. The tale is woven and some is clearly wrong but the truth, the real truth is hard to find among the multiple perspectives and hidden agendas.

I am a woman who writes. I take the rough scope of the tale and begin to hammer and shape it. It begins comedic and ends maudlin. I destroy the self, self, self that my storyteller brought and exchange it for a certain wry acceptance that the world is what it is. He becomes cold. This is wrong. I reinstate the selfishness and add a sense of fatality, destiny, desire. All these things tumble before me and never does it tell the right tale. Finally, I give him despair. He becomes a warrior after all. He heals others, he fights himself. He is broken, he is despairing, he is lost.

I am a woman who writes and I have written his tale.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Parasite

I feel like  a parasite in my own body, being rejected by an unwilling host who wants to cry and scream and curl up somewhere dark and warm and safe. It wants me out. It wants to tear into its guts and destroy it, disrupt the source of pain and distress, crush that swollen, tender flesh into submission.

It fights sleep. It won't let me rest and recuperate. It cries out in the night and tells me over and over of its unhappiness. It hates me. It hates this. It fights, endlessly, futilely.

Sometimes it's as if we're on the same team. There's a job to be done and we get it out of the way. We work well those days. At other times the conflict and anguish just makes the whole process worse. In punishing me for being here, it torments itself.

It resents every mouthful of wholesome nutrition I allow and demands sugar, grease, salt and calories like a baby shrieking for a cookie. I look at a cup of decaff and it hollers for alcohol. I think of wine and it sulks. I contemplate a salad and it conjures images of fish and chips. It wants meat. So do I. Together we eat steak until suddenly it realises it has been tricked and once again takes a stance, clenching the stomach, grinding the vertebrae, pouring water into the the already inflamed spaces in the gut.

Water is too little, cola is too sweet, tea is too thin, coffee is too bitter, ale is too fizzy, wine is too cold, cordial is insubstantial; it wants to chew and claw and rage. It wants to return to its prehistoric roots. That time before me. That time when it had nothing to care for except its offspring, its food, its warmth and comfort.

It hates me for tearing it away from bed in the morning. It hates me for going to bed at night. It hates me for walking and jarring it with every pace. It hates me for being seated and crushing it. It hates me for contorting it to suit my life instead of letting it rule me. It hates me. It hates me.

And I hate it.

Period.

Take your time

Surely there are only so many mistakes you can make. Like, everyone has their allotted amount and at some point you run out of "mistakes" and start doing stuff right.

Maybe your mistake allowance isn't a number of individual mistakes but a quantity of mistake material that you work through. Maybe your big mistakes use up more, so you can have a good life with a few really huge terrible mistakes or a less good life with lots of little to middling mistakes cropping up constantly.

And is your mistake allowance proportional to your lifetime? Does everyone get the same?

What I'm wondering is if there is any point in my life when I can say: "OK, this is it! All my fuck-ups are behind me and from here on in I'm getting it right!"

Because if so that would be  awesome. 

I wonder if your mistakes count as mistakes if you do them deliberately to hurry your way to the end of your allowance.

-A-

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Time

The clock ticks.

The passage of time has never frightened her. She doesn't feel herself growing old in the way her peers complain of. She doesn't feel her body breaking down or her mind slowing. She watches the passage of time through the same veil of abstraction as she wore during her school holidays.

Her whole life she has lived for the moment. Loved the moment. Never regretting or mourning what she leaves behind and never pressuring what is ahead with any kind of expectation.

The clock ticks.

It has always ticked. Time has always passed. She has reached the age of 38 and has lived, loved and laughed through all the minor heartbreaks that have come her way. Her career has been stressful and enormous, but she has loved it and excelled after every learning experience. She has never considered the danger of tomorrow being different.

She has never feared that she would be in a place where her own strength and abilities might not be enough. She has never wondered how she would handle life with a dependent tagging along behind her. 

The clock ticks.

He smiles at her. They have been in love now for five years. They have been together through hardship and happiness. They have been each others' strength and weakness. They are happy. They have always been so happy that he imagined she would say yes with her usual carefree abandon. 

The clock ticks.

The future looms ahead, mocking her. One day she will be old; will he be there through obligation or sincerity? One day she will be poor. Will she be able to feed him? One day she will be dependent. Who will take care of him then?

Did he even think about it?

In sickness and health. Richer or poorer. Better or worse. 

To agree is to make a promise. A commitment.

The clock ticks on.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Goodbye

How fortunate I am to be able to mourn your loss, even though you are not yet wholly gone.

I wrote, some time back, but didn't dare post about how conflicted I was. To trust or not to trust. To take that leap, despite the fact that when I asked you told me of your own uncertainty.

I'm still too scared to tell you that I have never been uncertain of myself.

To tell you would be to scare you and I don't want to lose you that way.

By my silence I lost you in every other conceivable way.

You gave me hope. You asked for time.

Then you took it away when you asked for other avenues. I felt that I had truly lost you.

Now I'm waiting for sand to run out, the clockwork to wind down. Moment by moment the time passes in silence.

Perhaps when you tell me it is the end I will be out of tears and I can find the courage to tell you all of the truth.

Or perhaps I will find the strength to stay silent, and watch you walk away knowing that my words will only make you unhappy.

I will do anything I can to avoid making you unhappy.

I love you. I will miss you.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

A visible depiction of invisible desire

A kiss. A feather soft touch, warm and tingly, caressing the point where her neck meets her shoulder. The delicacy of the contact is only emphasised by the coarse roughness of his stubble, scraping and scratching slightly higher on her neck where his jawline presses against her. He is not quick - the moment lasts as he inhales the scent of her hair and moves slightly away before he exhales. His breath is hot against her exposed skin now made hyper sensitive by his ministrations.

She shivers with delight and turns into his arms. They are thicker than hers and liberally coated with hair. They fit nicely into the small of her back as he pulls her towards him. She arches, her hips tilting into his as she leans her shoulders and head back to look up into his eyes. His eyes are shadowed and sunken, his stubble unkempt and his hair wildly tousled but he carries an air of triumph and relief.

She smiles, reaches a hand up to his jaw and strokes along the line of it. His eyes close and he tilts his face to lie as though it were resting in her palm. She holds still for a few seconds until his eyes open and his lips quiver slightly as he peeps mischievously at her. Her head tilts in response and she casts him the age old expression of a loving woman who knows she is expected to pass reprimand or encourage bad behaviour.

His smile widens and he adjusts his grip to pull her flush against him before resting his head alongside hers and holding still for almost a minute. She waits for him to speak, on occasion gently running her fingers through his hair until he is ready.

"It's finished." His words are mumbled on an exhale, signifying the unconscious depths of his relief and exhaustion.

She smiles, knowing how important this is to him. He has been working for days and before that had been worried for weeks, enough that once he could work on it she immediately knew she wouldn't see him much that evening. The evening had turned into the weekend and now here they were. Glad that completion of the project signals the end of his stress she decides to reclaim him and presses her mouth up to his jawline. It's long been a signal of hers and he immediately responds, turning to meet her lips with his. Although they begin softly, she drives him to passion rapidly and their actions are soon intense and urgent. At some point they lay entwined in their bed and afterwards she waits for him to sleep and quietly leaves to return to her studio.

There she pulls a new canvas and begins to paint, layers of colours entwining without mingling. It begins formless, but as she progresses the impression of petals and brambles evolve. She continues, layering idea over invisible idea. By the time he awakens and seeks her out, the painting evokes the image of a woman, eyes closed, head tilted down. Cascading down upon her are innumerable formless objects which she is painting over, removing, adding additional one in search of that one object that will describe the feelings of their intimacy.

He doesn't speak but takes a seat in a deep soft armchair arranged for precisely this purpose and watches her. In the background the radio is playing and the two of them remain in restful silence as her painting develops.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Tiredness

At 3:00 this morning I had insomnia.

Technically speaking I had it the evening before as well but managed to trick myself into a very restless, dream-littered, brief sleep. The dreams were incredibly disturbing - so much so that I don't want to relay them here. Suffice to say it involved discovering I had spent months being an  unwitting assault victim of someone who I do not trust in reality.

Trust me, it was unpleasant.

Anyway, on the days that I give up my option of sleep I typically "imagine". I write stories in my head that I like and as often as not they blossom into posts here. Since I started exercising more intensively I haven't had much opportunity to imagine, so nothing much happens here!

Last night, or this morning,  not only was I undergoing seriously stressful thoughts about work, etc, but I was still feeling vulnerable from my dreams. I couldn't imagine. I tried and I was completely incapable of it.

So I did work. It was not good for me because it guaranteed that I wouldn't sleep, but it was good for me in that I completed required tasks and felt less stressed (albeit more tired) this morning.

Then I snoozed from 5:30 to 7:10 and felt alarmingly groggy when I got up.

I still don't have any stories within me and it makes me feel hollow.

Alicia

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Ticking away

Another year older and another birthday where I wonder how I got this far without actually becoming an adult.

I'm constantly surprised by how many people treat me like I'm a mature, responsible adult with the respect that goes alongside it. I know I'm still a kid inside. Want to know how I know?

Don't care, I'm telling you anyway.

I still smile when I see bubbles (adult). Then I run and jump at them to catch them.
I think deep philosophical thoughts about the transient nature of everything whenever autumn rolls around (adult). Then I kick piles of leaves as high as I possibly can.
I watch my diet and think nutrition is as important as all other aspects of eating (adult). Whenever I go somewhere with a dessert stand I choose my pudding before I find a seat.
I'm conscious of my failings as a singer (adult). I belt out tunes (sometimes at top volume) wherever and whenever I feel like it.1
I love dancing and when at a nightclub or similar will restrain myself to boogie-ing only on the floor (boring adult). Outside of a nightclub I will dance the second I hear a tune I want to shake my stuff along with.2
I often need time to myself to recover after a particularly busy day (adult). The moment I'm alone I start playing with my imaginary friends.

I'm not looking forward to the day I do grow up. Adults sound a lot less fun.

Alicia

1 Not just the shower. Also parks, shopping centres, swimming pools, sauna, steam room. Rarely feel like singing in the gym, but have been known to mumble vaguely alongside a tune while resting between reps.

2 Seriously - I got some odd looks in the supermarket until they switched away from fun music.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Staff engagement mini rant

I don't know if it's a failure of communication or a failure of an individual to get a point, but I got quite upset over something a week or so ago.

We've been looking a lot at employee engagement and I absolutely agree it is vital to have a cohesive team who are in it together, buy into the overarching goals of their employer etc. However, there is a part of me that wonders if some people aren't too focussed on the bottom line. Our head of HR made a point of sharing with us that staff engagement has to be real. It can't be cynical, manipulative attempt to get more "profit" out of your team.

Great, OK. On board with that.

Later I heard someone talking about staff engagement1 and their phrase was as follows:

Sometimes your team will tell you they're giving it all they've got, that they're working as hard as they can. But then you've got to think of Wikipedia. [here they diverted to talk about the story behind Wikipedia - to whit a group of people volunteering their time to produce, well, Wikipedia. They concluded their speech with] and if people with a full time job can use their personal time to develop Wikipedia, you can't tell me that our staff are really giving it all they've got! We aren't getting their discretionary time.

I was so upset about this. Firstly, that's clearly a cynical attempt to use staff engagement principles for your own profit, using a measure that *exclusively* states that you, as an employer, have the right to determine if your employees are working hard enough by saying that not taking the job home with them is evidence that they aren't committed.

I'm pretty sure that's illegal.

Secondly, people need to stop referring to Wikipedia as their benchmark. Sure, there were and are some people who have spent hours every week contributing to the overall project for years. But the *vast* *overwhelming* majority of the site was built by thousands (possibly millions) of people who are passionate about one small tiny thing (or Star Trek) and they have been contributing in small chunks periodically since then. Or they logged on once, wrote an article and never went back. Or they fixate on one article and review it every time they learn something new.

There is no fixed model. There is no one way to contribute. There is no commitment required.

You take all of that away from your employees and you will see much more clearly who is engaged.

Of course, what you're missing is that you can't run your business on Wikipedia's principles because all Wikipedia's average customer needs is their servers and an internet connection.

Alicia

1 It's a bit like buses. You never hear it then you hear nothing else for three weeks.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Blooming

Overthinking. It's kind of her thing. She doesn't really take risks in life and every step is analysed, considered and translated from her own perspective and through the imagined eyes of a million others.

She worries what others think, don't think, care about or want. She worries if people will misinterpret. She closes herself so far down that she cannot see any constraints. She is sad. She is lonely. She is unaware of this.

Then one day she is thinking as she always does and for a moment she considers who she would be if she was unhappy.

The realisation is blinding.

She is beautiful, successful, confident, free and desperately, desperately unhappy.

She sees herself as a flower. While before she assumed she was a flamboyantly colourful bloom, blasting out scent she now looks and sees that she has withered. Her aroma is all but gone. Her colours were garish and false; created by a filter which could no longer be supported.

Now she is so small, fragile and delicate. It isn't enough. She deserves better. She leaves, intent on herself and her health. She cares more for herself than for the external disapprobation for the first time.

Unobserved, the petals of her soul quiver; sensing an opportunity.

She begins to rebuild herself, one tiny step at a time. It is months before she returns to her flower bed to apologise to herself for her neglect.

When she does, she is astonished. It is fragile still and terrifyingly small, yet her bloom is returning. The petals are tiny, plain, and nestled in among the withered leaves of her former self. Crouching down, she submits herself to a terrifying, wondrously awful inspection. Tendrils that were tentatively peeking out into the light begin to grow in confidence and take a firmer root. The leaves that form the sustenance are darker, richer and stronger than she can recall ever seeing them and, in the center of this frame, lies her one tiny, significant flower.

At first it seems simple, small and white. Something to be improved. But she has learned and is patient. She looks closer.

The petals at first glance appear to be a pure white but this does not extend to the center. At the core, a delicate network of ribboning colours winds through - golds, oranges, reds, turquoise and royal blue - beginning to bleed out into the white which steadily absorbs the kaleidescope. This close, she can catch the scent - elusive, delicate, mature. No longer is she spewing forth the sweet overpowering perfumes of youth. She now produces a slower, deeper odour - tinged with pain and sorrow perhaps, but heady and strong. The kind of scent that permeates and stays with your memory long after the reality has passed.

She has learned, she has grown and with her new sustenance, her soul is rising once again to form a new self. Her new self.

At her heart she is the same, chaos and flamboyance mixed; outwardly she may seem delicate and easily broken but the truth lies somewhere between. The truth lies in her scent, the smell that will not let you go.

Monday, 6 April 2015

So Very UnBritish

This is the story of the least British thing I have ever done. It happened a little over a decade ago and only now has the trauma faded to the point that I am willing to acknowledge the event ever occurred, let alone share it publicly. All events described below are true to the best of my recollection. The stereotypes may be less factual.

In order for you to appreciate the gravity of the momentous occasion, you first need to know what is a British thing and why deviating is so horrendous. We Brits are a fortunate race in that we have a range of stereotypes and thus a variety of pigeonholes into which we endeavour to squeeze ourselves. Three of the best known are:

  • The Brit Abroad - a drunken, slothful group who tend to travel in packs. They have a two week period during which they commit to a "summer holiday" endeavour: to whit, simultaneously destroying their liver function, developing carcinomas of the skin and sometimes lung, and offering access to their genitalia to anyone who expresses an interest.
  • The Elite Brit - an overbred, excitable creature with an inclination to whinny. Typically wealthy, this group have been educated to the extent that they exude a permanent air of vague helplessness and no indication that they consider survival to require any effort.
  • The post-war repressed Brit - characterised by understatement, stoicism and intelligence, this group is typically found to be getting on with things. In the face of every disaster short of the custard cream crumbling into their tea, this group will soldier on, uncomplaining. Confronted with anti-social behaviour of any order this Brit will tut mildly and, in extreme scenarios, look significantly at the perpetrator of said crime. Hollywood villains are drawn from this type because the boiling rage felt by one of these Brits when offered a "biscuit selection" made up only of shortbread with their tea can never be understood by an outsider, and the transition from a quiet tut or profuse apology to a hammer of fury laying waste to the world around comes as a slight surprise to those uninitiated in the true depths of the British psyche. For a comprehensive guide to this Brit you can do worse than refer to the manual produced by @SoVeryBritish and accordingly I henceforth dub this group the "So Very British".

I myself have been a Brit abroad1, I can even pass as a member of the Elite Brits (to all except those born and bred into it) but I am indisputably So Very British at my core.

I do not complain when I am bumped into, I apologise for being in the way. I join queues without knowing their purpose. I am constitutionally incapable of striking up a conversation with a stranger on public transport. If there is some overwhelming external pressure which necessitates some discourse, it is strictly confined to the weather. If we enter a dire situation where meteorological observations have been exhausted and neither party appears to be leaving the vehicle any time soon, there is the option of passing mild complaint about work or some other neutral subject. Should the conversation ever pass into the field of family or any particular information about that one individual you have the option to continue in the full knowledge that next time you meet them you must continue this conversation, or change your commute to avoid them.2

One who is So Very British is non-confrontational. We get on with things. We're all in the same boat and while yes, it is disappointing that the meal you purchased isn't properly cooked, to send it back would be very rude and would seriously inconvenience the chef. Food poisoning will only last a few hours after all.3 Similarly, an item of clothing that is the wrong size can only be returned in that two week period after Christmas. If necessary, you hoard your mistaken purchases and claim they were all gifts. The person on checkout will be very understanding.

Public displays of emotion are to be avoided. Embracing, hand holding and mild indications of partnership are fine, but passion? No, the So Very British do not publicly acknowledge that sex is a pastime, much less one they might indulge in. Similarly we do not fight in public, cry in public or do anything in any way that might cause inconvenience to anyone.

All of these things are true for the general So Very British public. There are a few additional factors that you need to be aware of specific to myself.

As a child my mother taught me to read. It was an accident, actually. She was trying to teach my older brother to read using large cards on the floor and asking him to pick up the ones with specific words on. Apparently I became irritated by his slow responses and starting doing it myself. Once I could read fluently I was voracious. My local library extended my loan limit from 3 books to 6. With hindsight this may have been an attempt to reduce my visits to two a week. It failed. By the time I was a teen I'd read all I wanted to from the kids and YA section, as well as a large part of my parents' personal library (mostly sci-fi and fantasy). The library let me start borrowing from the adult section and increased my book limit to 12. It was at this point in my life I discovered thrillers, murder mysteries and the plot twist. I also discovered that a distressing number of blurb writers included sentences like: "And who is the mysterious Mr Smith?" when there was no damn mystery about the man until after the plot twist.

After several books had been ruined this way for me, I stopped reading blurbs and took my chances with attractive cover art and intriguing titles. This generally worked out well for me. I read a lot of Mills and Boon, a range of Sci-Fi and Fantasy and a lot of classics. I will concede that after my fifth "Award winning generic fiction best seller" to contain paedophilia and other forms of abuse I decided I was happy to read purely for entertainment and not in an attempt to discover any great literary works of art, which terminated my interest in exploring much in the way of new genres.

So let's fast forward slightly. I am nearly 20. My outlook on life is drawn strongly from my reading experience, I've had most of my sex education from Mills and Boon and one (incredibly vanilla) boyfriend and I am startlingly innocent. This is when I discover Black Lace.

Mills and Boon have been quite raunchy at times, so it took a while for me to realise that the Black Lace books weren't really about the plot.They were very educational though. Certain purchases have taken me through a bell-curve of interest and awareness over time. First, the introduction of an idea (pain, control, humiliation, questionable hygiene, etc) into sex. Then, the understanding that some people are really very into this stuff. Finally the realisation that I am not. My awareness and open mindedness are developing apace while my level of experience remains the same. I have reached a fairly blase stage where I genuinely believe that I can read anything.

So one day I am at Waterstones. I select two random books off the shelf and hastily purchase them, feeling already that I have disgraced my Britishness. On the way out of the shop I open the bag to drop a receipt in and a glimpse of the back of one book sears a sentence into my mind. I close the bag and walk for a few steps before my brain catches up and translates what it saw.

No.

No way.

I pause, briefly contemplate the potential harm of breaking my "no blurb" rule, sneer at my own silliness and read the whole thing.

Oh.

Oh that is weird.

Yeah, no.

So there I stand on the steps of Waterstones with a book in my hand that I absolutely know I will never read. Do I walk away with it? The points went on my card and there is a permanent record now that I have purchased this book. They might refer me to other books based on the content of this one! I look at the other book - that one is fine. I'll read that. But this? What do I do? Keep it? Give it to charity?

Maybe.... Maybe I could possibly take it back? Surely if I swap it they won't mind too much?

I had to make my decision fast - I was in the way of anyone wanting to use the stairs4. Walking off and coming back later would just be silly.

I went back in.

I went to the shelf and flicked through the books again, this time carefully studying the blurbs until I selected one I wanted. There were three people standing at the till, all Waterstones' employees. I've built up my bravado. I'm going for it.

"Hi. I just bought this book. I haven't read it yet, but I'd like to swap it for this one."

Silence.

It stretches.

The person behind the till stares at me for a very long time. I can only think how much more awkward this is going to get when they look at the books in question. I pull out my receipt and lay it significantly on the book I already purchased.

The cashier breaks eye contact to pick up the book and almost immediately returns their gaze to mine. I am made of steel and neither flinch nor look discomforted. We are both carefully ignoring the books now as the cashier processes the transaction.

Never having returned anything before, I am unprepared for the next question:

"And why do you want to return this book?"

Dear reader, have you ever had the pleasure of describing to a complete stranger that despite the widely publicised interest of men in activities between two consenting adult ladies, it is less common (and certainly not my kink) for women to be interested in the romantic activities of gay men? Further, that as this particular example of the adult genre promised to reveal the sexual awakening of a woman who joined a club specifically geared towards watching such activities after inadvertently witnessing a couple in an alleyway I was wholly disinclined to read it.

I feel I handled it well.

The cashier nodded (sympathetically, I think) and processed the rest of the transaction.

I left the building and have not returned since.

Alicia

1 Albeit with factor 50 sunscreen, a minimum of disorderly conduct and without any opportunity to share my genitalia. Apparently I lack whatever pheromones the other British women can emit.
2 Alternative options include inventing an appointment to justify leaving the vehicle at the earliest opportunity.
3 The same does not hold true for a badly made cup of tea. The So Very British have been known to sigh regretfully when handed a cup of tea that does not meet their personal requirements. I have terminated meetings early on the slightest pretext rather than drink a milky cup of tea.
4 They were only about 6 foot wide, and people coming up one side would have to deliberately deviate their path around me.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Falling in love

It's like a song that doesn't seem to start
but past the quiet gentleness
An anthem will arise
Let the melody unfurl
Let it build
Find the triumphant chorus
declare with passion
your true heart
make your statement
stnad your ground
don't lose your chance by bending now

It might be a mistake
It might be painful after all
But it isn't wrong
To wait
is not the bad thing to do

For now the bass is thrumming
the drummer stills his hands
the singer croons
the audience shift restless in their stands
now is not the time
not the moment
you can't make it be
let it come

It might be a mistake
It might be painful after all
But it isn't wrong
To wait
is not the bad thing to do

don't take your stand too early
don't choose before the chord is played
take this time
join the dance
learn the steps
and find your place
then as the chord builds
you will turn
you will step
you will toss your head
and the right partner
will have been there all along

On that note
with that chord
as all the power is released
in the right time

The real moment will be worth waiting for
There will be no compromise
For one moment
There will be no doubt
There will be other dancers
In the mediocrity of the chorus
in the impulse of the bridge
in the lull of the breathless pause
between notes
anticipating that this might be it

But the real song is playing onwards
it carries the moment
The crescendo is coming

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Martian years

Let me take you back a decade to my halcyon youth. Picture a girl sat on an old sofa cushion on the floor, with her back to a wall. Ahead of her is a young man using a desktop PC, in a large desk chair and two other similarly aged youths, using laptops perched on their knees as they earnestly discuss some aspect of Artificial Intelligence for a project due in a week or two.

The girl contributes, but is clearly somewhat distracted and after an hour the two laptops are packed away and she is left alone with the desktop user. She continues giggling through several website pages for the next few hours as the young man plays World of Warcraft.

That was me the week I discovered Casey and Andy.1 It's a webcomic named after the author and his best friend full of dark humour, physics and (it has to be said) dreadful art work. I loved it. I read through the entire thing. Then I revisited a few strips to read the attached blog/ news posts and realised that the author of this webcomic was my kind of person. I trotted over to the forums to lay down praise and adulation whereupon I discovered (shockingly) that this author - this super awesome, funny, crazy cat man - was actually active on his own forum!2

Anyway. I was starstruck and promptly became very shy and when you're in a community of nerds that works very well. So for some years I mingled with this group - reading Andy's continually developing work as we went along. I even went out to the States to visit the main cast: Casey, Andy, Mary and Cujo.3

You should by now have a picture of how biased I am towards Andy's work and it will therefore come as no surprise that when he began releasing The Martian I was instantly addicted. The first few chapters were released on a monthly(ish) basis and I waited eagerly each month for the next instalment. I have never before been abusive to an author but I must confess that when the gaps between chapters became longer I began to harangue him. I emailed him demands, threats, ransom notes; I cajoled, demanded, begged and harrassed until he eventually sent out the next chapter. On occasion I sent him a thank-you for doing so.4

Therefore I take full credit for completion of the novel. 

The Martian became massively successful. Ridley Scott is currently in post-production of the film version and I'm expecting it to be fabulous. What I really want to hear now is that it's the biggest Oscar winner of all time.

I dream big.

But while we're on the Oscar bandwagon: since I have a feeling you wouldn't object to there being a shiny man on your mantlepiece, I have a new request to make of you.

Josh, please would you write and perform the 2016 Oscar winning "Best Original Song" for The Martian? You have until October to get it done.

Given your successful completion of my previous request, I have very high hopes for this now.

Alicia


1My understanding of AI seriously suffered as a result. 

2I didn't understand "fame" back then. As far as I was concerned, all famous people were superstars. All people whose work I liked were famous and therefore superstars.

3It was well worth the trip.

4I'm British, after all.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Trousers

Today I tried on two pairs of trousers. One pair was grey and the other red.

My history with these trousers is complicated. The red pair I purchased when I was losing weight as an incentive to continue dieting. I got home, tried them on, and the tightness of the waistband created such an unpleasant appearance I comfort ate for days. The grey pair I purchased long before. When I originally had them they fit in the leg, and created a significant belly bulge/ muffin top. Nevertheless I wore them with baggy jumpers and occasionally a corset. What can I say, I'm committed. Or I need to be. It's 50:50 at this point.

So then I put on weight and couldn't pull the grey trousers above my knees. I comfort ate and became too scared to try again (hence the purchase of the red pair - which are the same size so lord only knows what I was thinking).

Those trousers have resided in a drawer in my wardrobe. Lurking, waiting for their day in the sun. Right now I'm in the middle of a process. I have banned myself from the scales more than once a month and I am eating healthily and exercising regularly and above all talking incessantly about it.

This morning I needed a reward and the scales were not an option. So I pulled both pairs of trousers out of the wardrobe. I checked the sizes to make sure I wasn't going to torture myself by trying to squeeze into a skinny fit size 10, but sure enough they are both size 12.

I wasn't expecting much. I hoped I could pull them all the way onto my legs, but I know I really let myself go recently and this might not happen. I also know that my leg muscles are bigger, more visible and defined and while the fat could have been squished into submission the muscle would not allow that.

So on went the grey pair. Almost to the top of the leg, maybe a cm off. This is great! They were so close to fitting me on the leg that I thought "I really need to check the waist, and they're sort of on." So I wrestled with the fastening. And it was wrestling. I mean there was twisting, grunting, stretching, the works. But it fastened. I braved myself to face the horror.

There was no need.

Those trousers do not fit. There is no denying that. But the exercise I have been doing lately appears to have redistributed my squishy bits. Instead of the majority of it being around the belly, it must be dispersed across my back, chest and legs because there was barely any muffin top in those trousers. Even being hyper critical, I can honestly say that those trousers fit me far better than they ever have before.

So then I tried on the red pair which have a lower waist. Again I was worried because of the belly hang potential. And there was definitely some over spill there, but the truth is that those trousers will fit me very, very soon.

And the best part about all of this for me is that the only issue I have had with my body in my life is that I dislike my belly. I will never have a six pack, I'm just not that committed. But the fact that re-sculpting my body appears to be addressing the one thing that has upset me in the past is blinking marvelous.

Alicia

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Relationships

I really like relationships.

I love being loved, and being known that well by one other person who stands out from the rest.

I like knowing there is someone I can turn to in times of need, who will hold me in the night and kiss me despite morning breath.

I look forward to cuddles and to the smiles of the people who love me when they see that I'm happy.

But that's not why.

Those things are nice, but they aren't what I really like in relationships.

I really like trusting someone to the extent that they can tear my life apart.

To make myself that vulnerable is hard, and I will only do it with the people that I love most.

I really like being grumpy every day because he snores and I want to beat him to death every night but I still choose to sleep next to him.

Because I choose to sleep next to him.

I really like knowing that at any moment this could stop and my world come crumbling down because one of us isn't happy.

Because it means we have the freedom to come and go as we please, but we stay.

I really like relationships because they make you freer than any other experience in the world.

Free to be you.

Free to be happy.

Free to leave.

And every choice you make has the potential to destroy you.

And every single second you spend together is worth it.

I really like relationships.

-A-

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

I wish I'd finished this!

Last year, after my holiday to Mallorca, I began writing a blog post (below) in which sentence the important word is "began". I never finished and have just stumbled across it in my drafts folder - I enjoyed it enough to justify posting this meagre part and I hope it entertains you enough to forgive my sloth.

Also, it may remind you that I wrote about my holiday experience the previous year - also involving a swimming pool - and I was good enough to finish that one. It was highly entertaining, though I say so myself.

----------------------------------------------------

Approx July 2nd 2014

I know, I know. For the last week you have sat, forlorn and empty, but not altogether certain why. Then yesterday, I reappeared on twitter and a little sparkle returned to your world. Although you have since been aglow with quiet happiness, there has still been something lacking and it is only now, as you rejoice in discovering this post that everything finally falls into place.

Yeah, baby. I'm back.

So what did I do while you mourned my absence? Allow me to tell you about Swoosh and Sway.

On one day, I was feeling rather warm beneath the somewhat aggressive rays of the Mallorcan sun and so decamped from my sunbed to the pool with one of my two friends. Initially we were very mature and responsible and trod water and swam in the deeply deep end, but after a few minutes I became exhausted and mi amiga kindly kept me company in the shallow end. 

There we rested and I angled myself so I could more easily ogle the hunk of a man that was playing some kind of watersport1. After a period of time that I will leave undefined, mon amie et moi entered upon the Swoosh era. It started innocently enough. A comment about how we weren't really swimming from the deep end to the shallow end - it was more like swooshing. Then, after a race back into the deep end we hovered for a bit, agreed to return to the shallow end and cried out simultaneously "Swoosh!" as we leaped forwards. 

I immediately laughed, spluttered and fought to stay afloat. Amica mea, being a much stronger swimmer, was able to continue gliding inexorably to the shallow end without her giggling impeding her. Upon arrival we swooshed to a stop, then swooshed gently around, then further swooshed in a more rhythmic fashion which rapidly became a can-can. From there it was only a minor detour through Irish dancing, Russian, Salsa and a little tango. However, we then discovered (by way of Austria) that the best dance when in a pool is by far and away the pasa doble as one can swoosh and spray easily with one's hands when pretending to flap a cape and pirouetting around a partner. 




1 It is entirely possible that the hunk was a different day. But he seems to wiggle his way into every memory. Odd, that.


----------------------------------------------

Update January 27th 2015

I recall the next incredibly obvious step was to break forth into oral musical accompaniment (in which sentence the word "musical" is horrifically abused). It is too late to say precisely which arias we belted forth as one bikini clad maiden gracefully circled another for the best part of ten minutes before we realised we had an audience, but I'm sure they were all deserving of a much better fate.

Therefore, when next you enter a Mediterranean swimming pool, take a moment to recall those noble verses which so heroically fought to be recognised and now lay beneath the rippling waters, sacrificed to the entertainment of drunken fools and prancing maids.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Poppy

It was such a little thing. Such a tiny insignificant part of the decor; an almost invisible accessory to your home. I almost missed it. Initially I had come here to ask a few questions, to find answers for someone else and when I first discovered that your door was broken and your home invaded I felt frustration that I wouldn't get my answers. I sighed and entered the building with my partner behind me. 

We found you quickly and called it in. You had clearly lain there a short while and so there was no urgent chase to catch up with your killer. Instead we had to stay. I thought about how this meant I would probably be working late again and how I never seemed to catch a break recently.

My partner had taken on the role of guarding the entrance to the property - it was likely our presence would garner local interest and we couldn't afford visitors contaminating the scene. I looked around for any obvious indicators of what might have happened here.

There was a knife, some blood, generally the room was tidy. The TV wasn't on and there were no super sleuth type clues to instantly solve the questions of what exactly happened here but I still built up a narrative. I hoped it was connected to my earlier set of questions, because if it wan't I had a nightmare amount of paperwork coming up.

I glared at you. I already knew a lot of the basic points about you - your name, age and obviously residence, as well as a few more facts but right then you were nothing more than an inconvenience. 

The knife had impaled your stomach and was angled up through your sternum. Lots of blood on your clothes, some one the floor, but it seemed the carpet had absorbed it rather than letting it spread. Why couldn't you have fought? I bitterly reflected that if you had struggled and broken any of the many bits of glass lying around we'd have a blood sample and potentially an easier way to identify the perpetrator than hours and hours of interviews, research and loss of my own life which I hold infinitely valuable.

I resented you too much to carry on at that moment so I glanced over your shelves - your book selection, the picture frames and the occasional knick knack and there it was.

A ceramic bracelet made crudely in the shape of a poppy and with a tiny ribbon threaded through tiny holes which tied together at the back. We'd made them, you and I, when we were at school. You were three days younger than me and we were both army brats. Every year, although we didn't understand it, we all wore poppies in November. One year we decided we didn't like wearing pins any more and asked for necklaces instead. My Mum was furious but your Dad was home and understood. He was the one who suggested bracelets and he was the one who found the clay we could bake in the oven at home.

It took several attempts, lots of splashed paint and a whole lot of ribbon, but we finally had our bracelets. We wore them with pride every year until we suddenly were old enough to understand and we went back to the pins.

My parents were redeployed and I was taken in by my aunt. We lost touch and I buried my bracelet with my mum. 

I'm so sorry.

I loved you so much back then. You deserve better from me than this. Anyone would deserve better.

I wish this hadn't happened. And since it did, I wish I had asked you my questions first.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Nerds

I am a nerd. I'm a romantic, a lover of all things vibrant and good. I listen to music for the stories it tells me and I read books for their ability to let me live a new life for a brief moment.

When I'm alone I talk to myself. The thing I say more than any other is "I love my life." Sometimes it's happy, sometimes it's sad. I love my life. Sometimes it's defensive - I recall a stupid thing I did and I shake my shoulders and insist I love my life.

Thoughts, ideas and dreams chase themselves through my mind in an endless whirl. I can't sleep because I imagine a world where something bad has happened and I can't relax. When I meditate I see my meditating self suspended in a droplet of air surrounded by a vacuum which nothing can reach and every stray thought that breaches the barrier is like an arching bolt tearing through the space and clawing at my droplet. The space lights up spectacularly, over and over, with a kaleidoscope of rainbows destroying the stillness.

I imagine all things with physical sensations. When I think about sex the thing I think of most is the feeling of being held. I think about dancing and I can feel my clothes shifting over my skin as I move. 

I throw myself into things with gusto and determination. I get my own way an unreasonable amount of the time and I like listening to the rain fall.

I don't like to be trapped.

I'm incredibly defensive about my nerdiness, unlike my intelligence, my sensuality or my happiness. The difference was very hard for me to identify for a long time but now I know why.

Everything about me is something that can only be felt by me. Some things can be seen by others but those - height, weight, IQ - they all have agreed measuring devices so one can be ranked according to every other taker of the test.

Nerdiness? Nerdiness is visible and wholly subjective. And where everyone who wants to be the smartest has to live or die by the rule of IQ and everyone who wants to be 6 feet tall has to submit to the measuring tape, anyone who wants to be the biggest nerd just has to tell everyone else they are less nerdy.

I'm a nerd. I'm used to being a high-performer so I sort of expect in the bell curve I'm in the top 20%. I am definitely not out on the trailing end, but I'm high enough to qualify. Now I just need to devise a measure to prove it and no one can argue.

Alicia

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Tonight

I'm too old to make wishes
If I could I would make a wish
for you to sit with me tonight

You don't have to care for me
You're not the foundation of my world
I won't lay my strains on you
If the alternative is isolation
Please sit with me tonight

You don't have to fear
That you might be pressured
This is not about sex
If you have no one you hold onto
Please sit with me tonight

You aren't my entertainment
I may talk
I do that
Follow the sound of my voice
It will lead to this place
Please sit with me tonight

I'm too young to give up on dreams
We can't always be happy
Or well fed
I dream we need never be lonely
You are welcome
To sit with me tonight

Alicia