Where I’ve been

So this is the first post I’ve put on the site in nine months.

I probably have a lot of explaining to do.

Life got away from me, real bad. I didn’t have any time to blog – I was so busy setting up a life with my partner and putting my life back on track. My father’s death hit me big time and I had to remake myself from scratch again. I didn’t want to go into Anita Blake again because it puts me in an incredibly negative headspace. My mental health has to be my priority, always. I’ve been far too down in the pit to drop myself back in there again.

I started my teaching degree, which was very stressful, and I had a very tough experience at my first placement school. And I ended back up in the pit again; I caught a very serious illness in January and became really run down with Post Vital Fatigue Syndrome. And then I had a few problems with my health connected to that and spent most of February and March going back to doctors and hospitals again and again. I’m not going back to university until September or October.

My luck does officially suck.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever return to Anita Blake. I still have the books and I still like to laugh about them, but give me time. I have an idea for a project to take up my time, and I’m hoping to work on some actual writing stuff. I pretty much gave up writing while I was looking after Dad and after his death, so I want to get back to how I was.

Dottie x

Personal update

Hey guys,

My update schedule has been terrible since last September. I’ve dropped from posting mostly everyday to barely posting at all, and most of you know why. I told you all that a relative developed a serious illness last year and I was too distracted to focus on the blog as well.

At the beginning of this month, I learnt that my father’s cancer is terminal. It is very likely that he will die in a few months. I had no desire to talk about it publicly before now because my father has always been private and because I hoped that his cancer would go into remission, and I could just forget all about this. It would be just this thing that had happened to my family once, and it wouldn’t have to be something I’d ever have to think about again.

But now it’s something that will always be part of our family’s history. It will have to be something that I think about with each passing day, with each passing moment. Whenever and wherever I go in my life, whether I marry, whether I have children, whether I ever live the dream and become the totes bigshot author with the book deal and the film rights and the huge cult following, I will have to do this all without my father supporting me and getting to see me grow and be happy. Contemplating a life without my dad is impossible, unthinkable – if you were to ever meet my Dad, you would understand exactly why I am the way I am. We have the same sense of humour, the same need to critique and pull things apart, the same stubbornness; in our own way, we have the same seam of melancholy inside us and the same way of seeing the world around us. (Apart from evolution, surprisingly. We always fight about that!)

I am coping as well as can be expected. We are all coping as well as can be expected. I guess I just need to try and talk about it more. My mental state is not great, but I’m trying to keep as strong as I can. It’s not something you ever get prepared for, really. It’s something that happens to us all, but you never expect it until the worst happens.

I’ll try and get to trashing Anita Blake soon. I find it therapeutic and a lot of fun, which is something I do need right now. I’m trying to get more productive (because I haven’t done anything since I found out) and try to get some sleep (which, again, I haven’t really done since I found out).

Until then, go and educate yourselves on bowel cancer. It’s the third most common cancer, and it doesn’t get much attention. It can be very aggressive in the under fifties. Help raise awareness. Donate if you can to any local charities. That’s all I am going to say for now. Anything else and this will descend into a blubbery mess of not-words.

Dottie x

Story on Sunday; Part One

Hi all! I haven’t posted a short story in a while, mainly because I’ve been feeling quite drained inspirationally. But now I’m on a course for developing my creative skills, I’m planning to post another part of an ongoing story every Sunday as a challenge to myself. It’ll involve some characters from my short stories, and other characters I’ve developed but never mentioned before. I’d like everyone to feel involved in this journey into mystery, and as I’ve no real plan and no idea where I’m going with it all, please feel free to say anything or add anything to the tale. Suggestions and criticisms are most welcome.

The constant prickling inside his veins was making him irritable and edgy, the sensation keeping sense and good reason far away. His throat ached with a painful desperation that robbed him of his mind. He felt more like a beast than a man, trying to run through the undergrowth, stumbling along on his belly, following the coach as it worked its way through the night. The travellers must be insane, or just anxious for the sanctuary of home. They had no idea he was waiting for them, belly in the dirt, hidden in the scrub of bushes for the right moment…

He could hear the frantic heartbeats of the horses as they sped closer and the panicked screams of the animals as they were forced onwards. They could smell him lying in wait, he could swear. They could sense predators. The roar of the wheels flying over the uneven road was growing louder and louder, filling his head with the prospect of fresh meat, an end to his hunger. He forced himself up the scrubby mess of a drooping tree, the branches overhanging above the road.  He crouched there, watching the dim, swinging light of the lantern as the pinprick of light came ever closer. He could taste their fear already, feel the hot warmth of it burst upon the tip of his tongue, the taste exploding across his tongue with a warmth that was never quite the same. It would drip down his chin, splattering across his chest and body, taking the cold and the pain and the numbness for a short while, a short while that grew less and less each time he fed.  He needed it now.  It wasn’t about life or staying alive.  It kept the nightmares away.

As the coach inched closer, he tried to sharpen his mind. If he was sloppy or careless, they’d get away and he’d be left with the cold agony in his stomach and another night sucking the life out of wood pigeons. That did nothing except fill his mouth with feathers and make him vomit old blood. He bit down on his thumb, the pain making him focus, as the coach drew beneath his branch.

He leapt down, dropping himself from the branch and on top of the coach. It was a trick his maker had taught him. If people went missing in the night, who was going to notice? Or care? Anything might have happened to them. Coach drivers don’t often expect monsters to drop out the night sky. How can you protect yourself against that? It was simple. A simple feast.

Then why did the driver not react to his sudden attack? The man simply watched him drop on top of the coach, and pulled against the reins.  The horses screamed again, as they came to an unexpected stop, and as he lunged for the driver, he found himself hurtling through the air and landing on the hard road. He was stunned, defenceless, unable to protect himself against the actions of the driver, who simply removed his hat and flung himself on top of the attemptive attacker. An elbow was buried in his stomach, so hard and so forcefully, he felt the bile begin to rise up this throat. He felt his nose shatter under a blow, the blood flowing into the back of his throat and making him choke. His body was forced upwards, the driver holding an arm about his neck to force him to walk. He couldn’t see, he couldn’t talk.  He wanted to crawl away shamefacedly and vomit somewhere.

“Funar, what has been going on? Ah. I see. We have gained ourselves a stowaway.” The voice floated from the inside of the coach, an unseeable figure illuminated from behind. He could see nothing, but the glint of something golden.

“What would you like me to do with him, Your Eminence?” The driver, Funar, had a thick accent he could not recognise. It felt thick to hear, almost soupy, a thick verbal slush that blurred the vowels and dulled the consonants.

“I think…” The figure paused, clicking his tongue against his teeth. He had the same accent, but it had been thinned over time, taking on a more refined pronunciation and enunciation. This voice was tinged with wealth. “Oh, why don’t we take this young man with us? There is not much longer to go until we are home, and I should like to talk to him, I think.”

The conversation was apparently over. He was dragged to the back of the coach. His extended hands, useless to him now, were lashed to the back axel of the wheels. He was going to be dragged behind the coach, whether he liked it or not. He was going to have to keep up, or have his skin ripped off by the surface of the road.

Whoever was inside the coach rapped upon the roof. They were going to move on, to wherever home might lie.

The hateful thing about stomachs is that stomachs are hateful things.

An oddly personal ramble from me today.

I have a very odd relationship with food. Always have. I was a very finicky child, for the longest time.  There was a huge list of foods I would never, ever touch under any circumstance and I would spend weeks or months eating only a few foods; when my parents separated, I spent a whole year eating nothing but tuna sandwiches. When I was really small, I only ate ham and cucumber sandwiches, accompanied with a glass of ribena. As I grew older, I got over my fish phobia and my dislike of sauces – even if I maintain a hearty irrational dislike of any purple foods or foods deemed too ‘sloppy’ – but I still have some difficulties.  On random days (a day such as today) I refuse to eat.  Not for any particular reasons – there have been people who believe that I have a self-inflicted eating disorder and I don’t blame them for thinking that – other than on some days the thought of food repels me entirely. I look down on food, any kind of food, and it makes me feel physically sick and nauseous. The idea of eating, chewing and swallowing makes me want to vomit copiously into the nearest sink. This can go on for weeks at a time; I once spent a summer eating mainly ice lollies and crackers because I couldn’t bear to eat anything else.

And then the IBS kicked in, two years ago.

With IBS, I have to eat regularly and maintain a steady weight. Roughly speaking, I have to eat about every four hours or I get the most horrendous stomach cramps. Which is problematic, to say the least, when I’m having a ‘nauseous day’ like today. I had to sit and force forkful after forkful down my throat, wishing with each bite that I could be well and whole again. This is not great for my recovery. My recovery has been going very well otherwise. There will never be a time when I am completely well, I know that. IBS is not something that can be cured, only controlled. I take four tablets a day to make sure I can physically eat and so far, they are beautiful little things of sunshine. They take the pain away.

The thing with my stomach is that it’s quite over sensitive. In a circular way of thought, it always has been. I think that’s why I was so difficult with my food as a child because I had a near constant stomach-ache, and I had such a fear of being in pain that I subconsciously regulated what I ate. An attack of worry or nerves was quite capable of rendering me immobile (still does, I have a terrible tendency to anxiety). I was always going to be at risk of having something wrong with my stomach, and unfortunately for me I had a double whammy of things that trigger IBS – I had the winter vomiting bug and severe food poisoning within the space of two months. It was utterly miserable. I would never wish that on my darkest enemy. I lost about half my body weight in about a week, going down from ten stone to about five. It disrupted my school work and happened in the middle of exam time which completely and totally sucked. The effect those two months had on my health is so entire that it has changed my body for ever.

IBS is a disability, just not one I like to shout out about because it’s rather embarrassing. The basic physicality of it is that my bowel has gone into a state of spasm; it squeezes and squeezes and squeezes until it’s squeezing itself into knots. This is incredibly painful and stops me from eating. If it’s really bad, my entire abdomen convulses as if I’m growing some abnormal alien baby. My abdomen is incredibly weak; if I walk or move too fast, I do run the risk of very unpleasant accidents. That is not fun. At all. The illness itself is utterly exhausting; a full day saps all my energy in a way I’ve only had when I had a very serious case of the flu.  It feels like wading through thick and warm bathwater, the world seems far away and not entirely real… and if I nap, my stomach kicks in a complaint and makes me feel so awful I have to force myself awake again. And the food. I have a large list of foods I’m forbidden from eating because they irritate the stomach and make it worse. Although I don’t entirely follow the rules – I refuse to give up my ice cream. A’int no one taking my ice cream.

For the past six months, I have felt a lot better though. It just after university I’m dreading. I have no idea if I can operate in the workplace, realistically. Stress and movement make me ill. So while I’m all right at the moment, the minute I start worrying, the minute my stomach will U turn on the whole ‘not feeling as if some awful mutant creature is clawing around inside me’.

Do they do stomach transplants?

A dog owner’s thoughts on dangerous dogs

This morning I woke up to a heated debate on the news’n’chat programme on channel five; a family in Ireland are being denied the right to say goodbye to their dog who is due to be executed any day now. With no prior evidence of violence, their Labrador-American bulldog cross was branded as being part Pitbull and was taken away from them to be executed.  It’s been waiting to die for two years now, condemned because the council measured the size of it’s head as an indication of breed. Which is very stupid as the dog had a license and they fully knew about it’s breeding already, but that’s beside the point apparently.

I am a girl who absolutely adores animals, especially dogs.  The thought of a dog in pain or upset makes me start to cry uncontrollably, and I cannot even sit through a film that implies animal cruelty (hence why I have never seen Old Yeller, as I’m pretty sure it would traumatise me). This is a picture of my dog, and perhaps this prevents me from being someone qualified about making a blog about dangerous dogs.

This is my dog; the same size and shape as a loaf of bread.

We got ours when I was fourteen.  I’d begged my mother for a puppy my entire childhood; each year I would spend hours trying to talk her into it, to blackmail her, or to outright strop about it. I could get anything else I wanted – why not a dog? The thing is my mother is absolutely terrified of dogs. It seems strange, seeing as this fluffy white thing is her precious little baby, but my mother cannot stand dogs. When she was a child, my mother was bitten very badly by a dog and ever since she has had the strongest phobia of dogs. It was entirely her fault, that’s the thing. It wasn’t a dog going crazy and running around mauling children. The family was visiting a friend who owned three Labradors, one of whom, Tiny, had a cancerous nose that made her very irritable. What was the first thing my mother did? Ran right up and touched the nose. So of course she was bitten. What else would you expect a pissed off dying dog to do?

And that’s my point. A lot of dangerous dog cases result from the fact that well, dogs are animals.  It’s something people seem to forget, and I can see why; a loving family pet is more than a pet, it is a member of the family, a small hairy smelly child that runs on four legs. I have read countless cases of dangerous dogs where negligent family members left their dog in charge of their children, and were surprised when something bad happened.  A dog is not a babysitter. A dog is an animal. No matter how well you know an animal, you can never predict just what it might decide to do, especially around children. I would never leave my dog alone with a child. She’s the sweetest thing but children are little shits around animals. I know that from experience! I put a biro up my cat’s anus when I was a toddler and it did not react well to this. How else was it supposed to react, other than scratching me? My mother told me I deserved it and she was right. A dog is a dog. They have been bred for specific purposes by humans and now, as humans no longer need them for those jobs, we are punishing them for what we made them into.

Do I deny that there are dangerous dogs out here? No, of course not. Just as with humans, some dogs are born nasty and violent. There’s a Rottweiler near us that has a tendency for attacking small dogs that has made a grab for my mother. The owner can’t or won’t control it.  And that’s what makes dangerous dogs dangerous – the owner. The dangerousness of a dog shouldn’t be judged by breed (a practice I find abominable) but by owner. A dog owner needs to be responsible. Training must be rigorous and strict; you cannot allow a dog to run wild and think itself on a equal level as the owner. Dogs are a pack animal, so an owner must be firmly placed at the top of the pack – no questions. If an owner is sensible, than any dog, even the most rampant wild Pitbull ought to be able to be controlled. If needs be, keep the dog away from parks and strangers. And human beings writing blogs, as my dog is next to be as I write, letting off the most noxious farts in her sleep.

I truly think that no dog breed is dangerous in itself. I love all dogs. I just wish owners weren’t so dangerous with them.

To prove that owners are dangerous, here is a picture of my step-sister and I dressing our dog in a dress.

Lessons from three generations of mothers

It’s Mothering Sunday here in the UK so I thought I’d write an over-emotional blog post about what I’ve learnt from the women in my family.  My family is pretty unique in the sense that we are essentially a matriarchy; aside from partners and husbands, there hasn’t been any men born into my family for what, four generations?  We’re a close knit bunch of gals.

The women in my family are as hard as nails, they’re as tough as old boots.  Seriously.  I cannot overestimate how amazingly resilient the women in my family are.  I think it’s probably fifty percent genetic and fifty percent lesson passed on from mother to daughter.  The women in my family live a long time, and I think that’s why we’re tough on the inside.  You have to become tough to cope with the loss around you – because if we’re tough, it’s through personal tragedy damn it.  We’re the women who could look at the world being destroyed around them and weep on the inside, closing in all the hurt, while rolling up our sleeves and getting the job that we have to do done.  We’re women who can bake a cake, nurse a sick child, have a fight with a bureaucrat or two, and carry a pig around under one arm.  When things are hard, that’s what you become inside.

We’re not the type of women who ever back down.

I’ll start my talk with my great-grandmother, Nan, the one girl born to the (last so far!) family of boys.  My family at this point lived out in the sticks of Lincolnshire, and were incredibly poor.  My great-grandmother’s toy as a child was a brick wrapped up in a shawl.  I cannot imagine being that poor; sure, my parents didn’t have that much money, but I always got everything I needed, and a lot more.  I cannot imagine how she must have felt, living in a small conservative village, with a father descended from Sicilian gypsies, and the comments she must have gotten for that.  She rose from this to be a fine lady’s maid in Nottingham for a while, before the Second World War, where she worked on the Iron Way.  The Iron Way, to the best of my half remembered knowledge, was the road that took iron from the mines, and carried it, and cleaned it, for the war effort.  It would have been back-breaking labour, and she did it without complaint.  She then went on to work in catering at an Air Base in the grounds of Belton House, where she met my great-grandfather.  Who was already married and had a daughter.  Yup, my Nan was a bit of a minx, and ended up having a child with a married man.  She had my grandmother in an unmarried mother’s home, a place that would have carried a hefty amount of social stigma, and married her lover after the war, after his divorce.  My great-grandfather died young, in the nineteen seventies, and left my Nan on her own.  She carried it with her, and never dropped face.  She was always proper and neatly turned out, and was a tremendously strong and loving woman.  I’m sorry to say that I have few memories of this side of her; she began to develop Alzheimer’s when I was eight, and I regret that I only seem to have memories of this side of her.  I cannot write how much we all loved her, and how much I admire her as a person.

My grandmother, Mumar, was brought up as the apple of her father’s eye; she was adored, truly and utterly, which I can relate to, as we’re pretty much exactly the same in that respect (beloved only child and all that).  This didn’t stop her from working hard however; she was a talented skater until a serious injury permanently stopped her potential athletic career (a skate cut through the nerves of her leg, and she was one of the first in Britain to have her nerves grown back inside her leg) but she began to work in the fashion industry, as a pattern cutter and then as a pattern designer for Vogue.  Then she got married and gave up her career for my grandfather.  They had two children, The Mother, and My Aunt.  Then my grandfather divorced her for his girlfriend.  She was left, jobless with two small children, and with the considerable social stigma of being a divorcee.  Bless my Mumar; she’s not as strong as some of the other women in my family, but she got on with what she had to do.  She worked her arse off to support her children.  She made some bad decisions along the way, and they continue to affect my family in ways you cannot imagine, but I have an infinite amount of respect for the fact she managed to stay the person she was, and to not be damaged in spirit.  I am so glad she’s happy now.  I love her so much.

The Mother comes next.  You cannot imagine how her childhood was.  I don’t want to imagine it.  I know how difficult it was and I find it remarkable that she isn’t more fucked up, that she is balanced and grounded.  I don’t want to go into great detail about her childhood, only that she was escaped from it in her late teens.  She didn’t do too well at school or college; not from unintelligence, but from following bands around the country!  (Nan told her that was what happened from not doing work, some of the best words of advice The Mother has ever gotten she says!) She repeated college, and got the grades she needed to get into university, all the while working her arse off to get the money she needed for her car and to pay for student life.  She met The Father at work, and they were getting on great together, until her second year of university.  When she made a rather big mistake by getting pregnant with me.  The best mistake she ever made, she tells me.  When I was a child, I always wanted to live my life exactly the same as The Mother.  I wanted to go to university, I wanted to get engaged at nineteen, I wanted to have a baby at twenty two.  Now I am in university, and only two years younger than she was when she had me, I really can’t imagine how she did it!  Essay work, research, bringing up a baby, working… I’d never be able to do that! I couldn’t cope.  But The Mother did cope, and did more than that.  She brought me up with no money, working twelve hour days, moving from house to house to house… she has fought depression and heartbreak to raise me up and raise me up well.  She has suffered personal tragedy, but never stopped or failed in her duties as a mother.  She is my best friend, and one of the most admirable women I know.

Honourable mention goes out to The Aunt, who is fierce, strong and tenacious – as well as being a little scary.

What have I learnt from these women?  That nothing can stop you from achieving anything in life – and you should let nothing stop you.  That being a woman is a hard, life long job, but that as a woman, you’re strong and proud and nothing can stand in your way.  The bad times hurt, really hurt, but you use the pain of it to power yourself – use the pain as a driving agent towards happiness again.  I know there is nothing I can’t do because of these women.  There is nothing more important than the value of hard work.  No one is going to let you swim by on credit.  If you want something, you damn well go out and do it yourself.  If you are determined to do it, let nothing stand in your way until you get your goals.  Cherish those around you and love your family.  Never let someone else dictate your life to you, and certainly never let them destroy you.  Smile, be polite, and turn the tables on them when you have the chance.

I can only hope to be as strong as the women in my family some day.  I want to have a daughter that is as proud of me as I am of them.

Reflections on self-hatred

Two posts from me in one day? You lucky, lucky things – apart from the fact this is a more personal post, rather than my usual snarky goodness.

I have hated myself since I was ten years old.  I feel such a deep seated hatred of my self-perceived repugnance that it feels like some creature gnawing at my stomach.  It makes me feel like Atlas sometimes; I have this great weight on my shoulders that I carry around, and I’m never able to just let it go.  It’s going to be with me always, and there’s not much I can do about it.

Roughly a third of it is tied into my looks.  Most of it is linked to my intellect and the belief that I have none, and the fact that I cannot make mistakes.  This is not saying that I’m some über perfect creature, but that the mere thought of making a mistake makes me physically uncomfortable and begin to panic.  I do not know why I’m like this, only that I have been this way roughly since the onset of puberty. I hit puberty with a thump rather earlier than most girls, at about the age of seven/eight.  I got hit with sudden and extreme mood swings that I could not control and which used to generate some very unpleasant ideas.

Things that coincided with this time; Or, the worst timing of events for the healthy development of a girl’s mental state

  • The Father getting serious depression.  He basically locked himself in his room for a few months.
  • The family moving county, so The Mother and The Father could be closer to their respective families for support.
  • Moving school, from my small place where I knew everyone to a Church of England one.
  • Getting very seriously bullied at my C of E; this started with children mocking me because of my lack of belief and the fact that my parents weren’t married. Eventually reached the point where I refused to leave the house except under extreme protest. The school did nothing, by the way. Didn’t help matters.
  • The Mother getting serious depression and starving herself.
  • The Mother and The Father’s relationship dissolving.
  • Me not being told any of that.

These were not happy years for me.  My parents split up eventually, and as cliché as it has become, I immediately began to blame myself.  If I were a little older, or hadn’t been going through such extreme emotional turbulence as I had been experiencing, I might have taken the whole situation a lot better. Instead, I internalized all my anger and my rage and my pain, and I’ve never been able to fully release them.  They’re like stones in my gut; I can feel them always, no matter how happy or confident I seem.  They spread misery and sadness throughout me, and my head full of the worst, most negative bullshit I can choose to unleash on myself.

When I was a child, I used to bang my head against a wall for hours to try and force the thoughts out.  When I was a teenager, I used to pull my hair out until my scalp was sore.  As an adult, I share them. It’s very difficult to look at yourself and cope with the fact that there is nothing that you don’t despise about yourself. I’m finally beginning to accept that I need help with them.  The thoughts shall never go, but I don’t break down and hide in the floor of my warderobe as much anymore.