Some Ancient History ft. a Dinosaur Front-flipping into a Boat

I was in a good creative flow all day and forgot to have a shower until about 4:30, which is too early for pyjamas but too late for proper clothing so this post is coming to you from someone wearing a dinosaur onesie. With a tail.

gif of a dinosaur front flipping onto a boat

 

I feel bad for not coming to say hi here more often but I’ve been writing a lot of short stories and they always take up a lot more screen time than I expect them to. It’s really satisfying to post a story every week though – I’m tentatively hoping I can keep it up until March at least. That said, there’s a very real chance that I’ll cheat and just share a haiku if I’m stuck. SPEAKING OF POETRY:

Mum and I went to the British Museum yesterday to see the Troy exhibition they’ve got on. Good points: tonnes of ancient artwork of naked people and/or gods; some medieval books that look like they should only exist in fairy tales; at least one statue of a dying Achilles; enough information to fill my brain for years. Bad points: it was quite dark and so busy that I might have to purchase the very large companion book just to understand all of the above, because there was no way to read all the plaques.

Got some pictures of my favourite Valentine’s cards while I was there too:

I Would Fall into Tartarus with You card held in front of dying Achilles statue at British Museum Troy Myth and Reality exhibition

If you follow me on Instagram you can expect more from where that came from, just saying.

I think that’s all from me, except to say that if you like short stories and would like to commission me one, you can do if you join up to my Patreon before the end of February. Story itself can be expected some time before the clocks go forward. Ish.

Go away now please January, you’re that guest that doesn’t get when it’s polite to leave.

I’ve got a heart monitor on this week, and I had to make a note on my little diary that yesterday morning I wasn’t having an episode or doing exercise, I read that Nicholas Parsons had died. Good thing I wasn’t wearing one in 2016 or I’d have been admitted.

How is everyone this week? I’m fine, except for the minor inconvenience of a heart monitor and the potentially major inconvenience of bad results from said monitor. I’ve been having heart palpitations, which are not that big of a deal unless they are. I suppose the results are something to look forward to? Best case scenario, it’s a bit of stress and I have the excuse to book many, many holidays. Worst case scenario, I might be writing to you all using fun medical acronyms and asking for advice on how to wear a hospital gown properly.

Just kidding. There’s no way to wear one of those things with dignity.

Anyway, it is fair to say I am ready for January to finish. I don’t object to 31 day months per se, but January always seems to be double that. It’s been made longer by last Friday’s MCR Ticket Day, which became No MCR Tickets Day. But tomorrow could well be MCR Ticket Day! Say a prayer for those of us who are scraping the ticket barrel, and a curse for those who resell on Viagogo.

I don’t have much else to share, except I hope you’ve all been enjoying my most recent stories. I think in the last four weeks we’ve covered cake, revenge, personal growth, superheroes, depression and magical antiquities. Such versatility! Patrons and non-patrons alike, by the way, have a cool thing coming this weekend. PREPARE TO HEAR FROM ME DURING FEBRUARY. Pledge for early access to stories here, et cetera et cetera.

I’m absolutely knackered (heart? Cold? January blues?) so I might spend the rest of the afternoon scratching away at stories because they’re paid work but don’t require any sort of communication with the outside world.

Wishing you all godspeed to the end of the month.

Mildly Good Things That Are Happening in the World

Evening! I feel like I haven’t spoken to you guys since… last decade…

How are the roaring twenties treating you? I’ve got a cold and my Hugely Cool Christmas Present Boots gave me blisters of legendary proportions on one twenty-minute walk, so it’s been a pretty standard January in that respect. In the spirit of looking on the bright side – and providing some much-needed balance to the apocalypse that is the evening news – I thought I’d do a quick bullet point list of good things I’ve encountered so far this year:

graphic reading 'how dirty is your closet'

  • I couldn’t find my old school certificates and was so sure they were hiding in my bedroom that I accidentally Marie Kondo-d every cupboard, shelf and folder I own. I cannot believe how much paperwork I thought was an acceptable amount of paperwork
  • The certificates turned up in my mum’s shed
  • TV is actually really good in January, it’s like they know we’re all indoors
  • My friend Robyn got a new job
  • Little Women is still showing. Even if you’re not a film nerd/classical book person/raging feminist, Little Women is a banger. The costumes! The beautiful settings! Meryl Streep roasting the entire cinema with an eyebrow! Highly recommend it for soul-warming purposes.

I think I need to go and stick my head in a bowl of steam if I’m going to stay awake long enough to watch Silent Witness. Nothing warms me more than a murder mystery and a nice bit of gruesome forensics.

I quite enjoyed making this – I might do another one in February? Or next week if I have to look at more footage of fires/impeachments/the inside of one of my bloody cupboards…

A Bullet-Point Decade

Inspired by Maggie Steifvater, I have compiled an out-of-order list of things that have happened to me this decade. I’m going out later so I’ll probably get emotionally introspective initially while I’m washing my hair and then while I’m varying degrees of tipsy; I think a list is good for stating unequivocally that things happened, regardless of how we felt about them at the time.

  • Wrote one novel, a dozen or more short stories and a number of fan fictions that we will be leaving in this decade
  • Visited 6 or 9 countries (thereabouts? Does France count if you’re driving through it)
  • Discovered that Pilates is actually a great idea
  • Passed all my GCSEs and about 80% of my A Levels
  • Scrambled up a set of steps at an ancient Cambodian temple using both my arms like a spider and promptly almost fell to my death because a tourist laughed at me and I lost concentration
  • Saw My Chemical Romance play twice; mourned My Chemical Romance; rejoiced at the return of My Chemical Romance
  • Wrote 685 posts on this site
  • Broke at least one toe
  • Met one of my best friends and reconnected with multiple old ones to the extent that this decade feels more friend-y than the previous
  • Met Judith Kerr, an author who illustrated my formative years; she was lovely
  • Meditated for 192 hours, apparently
  • Met Maggie Stiefvater, an author who is illustrating my current years; she was lovely
  • Actually met a tonne of authors (Stephen Chbosky, Adam Silvera, Becky Albertalli), all actual gems
  • Dyed my hair multiple rainbow colours and forgot to take photos almost every time
  • Learnt to drive
  • Burnt the skin off part of my right arm with Tiger Balm
  • Said goodbye to two of my aforementioned best friends and two grandparents
  • Read some Jane Austen
  • Became self employed
  • Learnt to make curry
  • Did more physio sessions than I can count
  • Got 3 ear piercings
  • Tried to read The Iliad twice, twice put it down for another day because god Homer have you heard of a line break
  • Figured out how the London Underground maps work
  • Learnt what tarot cards are
  • Diagnosed with IBS; found a fix for IBS that I’m tentatively excited about
  • Learnt to hula hoop

I started this decade at 14 and am ending it at 24, which seems like more years than actually fit into a decade. The next one will be incomparable in a lot of ways, although I fully plan to increase the novel count and would quite like to hula hoop more.

Let me know your bullet points – we should all have at least 10 when you think about it – and look after yourselves in the next decade. Happy new year!

An early new year’s resolution ft. mental health and mobile phones

I feel a bit dumb even writing this post, but it’s about something that we should probably talk about more: I have hair on my toes. Kidding, although I do (hoping it might thin out as I age, though). What I want to talk about today is the fact that yesterday evening, I switched off my phone before I went to sleep.

You either read that and thought ‘isn’t that an obvious thing to do?’ or you thought ‘YOU SWITCHED OFF YOUR PHONE?’ I’m talking to both groups here, because it’s important to bridge gaps between communities. A couple of things prompted the Great Phone Switch Off. First of all, I used to switch off my phone before bed and recall, somewhat fondly, that my mild insomnia was less irritating when I did. Secondly, I’ve been getting brain fog and numb, tingly fingers recently, and because I’ve been thinking about the NHS lately, I want to do everything I can to improve my mental and physical health before I see my GP. I’d need a double appointment, too, because ten minutes is not long enough to talk about two issues, and a double appointment would cost the taxpayer, like, eighty million pounds.

So, the insomnia: it’s probably never going away because my brain has 567 tabs open at all times. Cool, whatever, it makes me a good writer. The worse it gets, though, the longer I spend looking at memes on Instagram after I’ve gone to bed, trapped somewhere between being awake enough to scroll but too tired to do anything else. The brain fog: happens this time of year, every year. Once I’ve actually fallen asleep I sleep like the dead, I wake up three hours later than I do in the summer and can’t organise my 567 tabs even a little bit. Because pre-Christmas is my busiest time for my stationery business, the first thing I do once I’m out of bed is check my email and the Sell on Etsy app to see how many pencils I have to ship to northern Illinois. It’s also the last thing I do before bed and the Instagram scrolling. The finger tingling and numbness: I first noticed it when I was doing my GCSEs and assumed it’s part of the repetitive-strain-injury-carpool-tunnel-tennis-elbow-bad-posture thing I’ve had since my GCSEs. My wrists and hands have been infinitely better since I left school and can set my own timetable but everything plays up when I’ve had a long week or been on my phone too much.

You see a pattern emerging, huh. Last night the finger tingling made me panic because I’m only 24 and there isn’t actually such a thing as a Luke Skywalker arm unless you’ve been in the military and lost a limb and they give you a high-end prosthetic, and actually I’m quite attached to my current arms and would like them to last my whole life and isn’t it bullshit and entitled to just assume I should be given a replacement limb and also I’m a writer and also and also and also

Once I stopped panicking, several other things occurred to me. I’ve been getting ridiculously dry skin on my face and scalp, to the extent that I’m going to stop dying my hair for a bit because there’s no point when I just wash it with Head & Shoulders every five minutes. My fingernails are really brittle, I keep seeing things out of the corner of my eye that aren’t there and I turned my car around just after I’d left the driveway the other day because I was so tired I didn’t trust myself to drive.

FRANCESCA, my body is saying, CHILL THE FUCK OUT.

Something else I’ve been thinking about lately is that I don’t really eat meat any more but I’ve been to foggy to cook properly, so it’s safe to assume I’ve been eating way too much selection box confectionery and way too little vitamin B. Is it vitamin B you have to be careful of when you’re a vegetarian? Iron? I’m scared to Google it in case I come across a good case for abandoning peanut butter on ethical grounds. Anyway, on the off chance my body is also saying, FRANCESCA, LEARN TO COOK MORE NUTRITIOUS MEALS, the other day I bought spinach.

Alice curtsying

I’m digressing.

I can’t be alone in feeling like I’m in a mental washing machine; everyone I know is run down, irritated and overworked. I’ve seen, heard and had so many conversations recently about mental health and social media and about burning out. It feels like so many of us switched on all the time, but the wiring is starting to wear out. Eventually we’re all going to become fire hazards.

What a metaphor.

I’ve been thinking about it, and I don’t want to wait until new year to ‘resolve’ to do something about the brain fog and the tingling and the dandruff. New year is the absolute worst time to decide to do anything (except The Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, the second draft of which I began on new year’s day 2018 but does that even count when I was clearly always going to write weird YA novels as a hobby). Also, new year is ages away. I am foggy now. I want to start forming better habits now. I don’t want my morning routine to be up-loo-contraceptive-pill-70-emails-check-Instagram-feel-bad-about-my-life-compared-to-other-people-on-Instagram until my right thumb stops moving. I don’t want my evening routine to be shower-bed-read-a-book-scroll-feel-bad-mild-crisis-scroll-try-sleeping-radio-on-radio-off-scrollololol until I have a nervous breakdown. Typing all that nearly induced a nervous breakdown.

If I want to do anything in 2020, it’s do more of what I want on my own terms. I’d like to  reduce the finger numbness without compromising the quality of my work; I want to keep my customers happy without putting them before my sanity. It’s on me to decide how to proceed. Switching off my phone before bed won’t by itself improve my skin/sleeping/fingers. Deleting the Sell on Etsy app won’t. Installing a battery-intensive phone usage tracker won’t. But they might all help a little bit, so I’m willing to try them. Telling you all this might help too, because now I’m accountable to a tiny corner of the internet which now knows to look out for my flaky face. I’ll know I’m being judged if I post to Insta stories at 11pm.

So, my non-new-year’s-resolution is to try to be more mindful about my tech use, and to make the tech I do use work for me. At the moment I feel like I’m just a pair of eyeballs that belong to Mark Zuckerberg. What I suppose that boils down to is being more mindful: of my diet seriously need to Google vitamin B, of my time management, of what I actually want to spend my time doing.

This is the longest post I’ve written for ages. Let me know in the comments if you, too, feel like you’re in a washing machine. I’ll keep you updated on the mindfulness thing. Ironically, I thought I’d be done with this post two hours ago and planned to spend the evening washing my hair. C’est la whatever. Happy Wednesday!

In which my attitude to this election is the word ‘fuck’ whispered softly while cradling a strong alcoholic beverage

I didn’t think this election was bothering me until this evening, when I picked up a box of Heroes I bought to take to work tomorrow and ate half of them while I was watching the news. So it’s possibly time to admit I’m experiencing internal conflict. (I’m also really annoyed I’m furring up my arteries for something that isn’t Christmas.) For the first time ever, I don’t know who I’m going to vote for.

I live in Southend, which is Very Conservative and usually, I don’t care. It’s been Tory since, like, 800 BCE, so I don’t loose sleep, you know? I think I voted Green then Lib Dem in the last two elections, or possibly Lib Dem then Green. Mostly they were protest votes against the inevitable re-election of a middle aged white bloke. I went with those two because I’ve never held either of the main parties in anything other than contempt, and because if I have to pick a team, I’m maybe somewhere near the Lib Dems or the Greens. Ish. This is an accurate depiction of how I generally feel about politicians and the division of people into specific parties:

Frank Iero fuck off gif
from Tumblr

This election, the Lib Dem guy lives in Surrey (seriously) and the Greens aren’t standing. That leaves the Psychedelic Future Party (fun idea, waste of a vote), and independent (my spiritual home I think). The independent candidate is a GP, and we need more of those in parliament. He’s also South Asian, and we need fewer white people in Parliament. So independent it is! But. Buuuut. Because we have the first past the post system, and because the Labour candidate was very popular last time and is standing again, my constituency is a marginal. So I could vote tactically to remove the middle aged white guy.

Our Labour candidate is a younger woman, and we need more women in Parliament. We need a younger Parliament. She’s LGBT, and we need a queerer Parliament. But. Buuuut. I have about as much faith in Jeremy Corbyn’s ability to command a government as I did in Boris’s, and Theresa’s. I don’t think a Labour government is going to fix or solve Brexit, because Brexit is a black hole of fuckery whose outcome will please precisely nobody. I don’t think Corbyn has any more support amongst his party, or control over it, than Theresa did with hers. I’m appalled by the complete lack of action over anti-Semitism. But. Buuut. A vote for the independent GP is just a vote for the incumbent.

Does it even matter? The number of people who spoil their votes or don’t vote at all are going to dwarf the number of people who vote, regardless who they vote for. My constituency will likely return the incumbent regardless of whether I vote Labour, independent or Psychedelic Future. The government will be a shit government regardless of which party wins, Brexit will be a mess regardless, the Scottish independence issue won’t go away regardless. The only thing it comes down to is my instincts and a decision I can live with until the next election. Which could be in five years or could be in March. Fuck knows.

I thought writing this might help me decide. It has not. I also now have indigestion. I want a drink. I want a more representative voting system. I don’t want to distrust every  politician. I want a clear cut choice. I want to live in a town with a better funded hospital and no knife crime. I want to feel like my vote actually counts. I want to write ‘a plague on all your houses’ on the ballot. I don’t want to waste a vote that people died for.

Fuck’s sake. I’m going for a bath. See you on the other side.

Tim Minchin at the Cliffs ft. Indie Friday

Afternoon! I am fed up with organising envelopes and mythology-inspired greetings cards, so I thought I’d pop in. Happy Black Friday! Wait, that’s not what I mean. I mean, please buy from independent retailers this Christmassy season (and especially today, which many smart people are calling Indie Friday in a bid to cut through the Black Friday shite). I don’t want people to feel like they can only buy from independent retailers (yes, hello, Aldi’s gift and alcohol sections, I have been pillaging you since October), but I guarantee that the bosses in Aldi don’t feel a sense of personal achievement and glow both internally and externally when you buy a tote bag. Have I ever mentioned you can purchase reasonably priced tote bags, along with reasonably priced prints, pencils and the aforementioned cards from my Folksy shop?

I am still on Etsy, but I promote my Folksy shop more because a) it’s based in Sheffield and run by about three people, b) it’s a very friendly site with seriously high quality arts and crafts, and c) as it is a British company, the fees I pay actually go back into the British economy. So everyone wins when you buy something on Folksy!

I really ought to get to the post box while it’s still light so, as I cannot remember if there was supposed to be a point to this post alongside the SHOP SMAAALLLLL messaging, I’d better go and find my scarf.

Oh, wait, yes there is: I got to see Tim Minchin perform last night – in my actual town, nonetheless – and am pleased to report that, like a good cheese, Tim has improved with age. So has the Cheese song. Honestly can’t remember the last time I could feel my face from smiling. If the world needs anything at the moment – other than you lot buying from indie retailers hint hint – it is a good laugh and a rant on algorithms and confirmation bias. Like all good shows, I have a singular, shitty picture:

empty stage Tim Minchin Cliffs Pavilion

Side note: this man sold out the Cliffs Pavilion three nights running. Southend-on-Sea’s Cliffs Pavilion. Southend-on-Sea, where residents enjoyed Brexit campaign leaflets about how pro-leave they all were. Southend-on-Sea, where I did not really think LGBT people were allowed to live until I finally saw some when I was in my teens. Southend-on-Sea, that hub of lefty liberalism. Maybe the times are changing, or maybe people are more willing than I thought to travel to places that aren’t London for their south east-based atheism-tinged-fuck-Trump-sciencey-sprinkling of West-End-hit-Matlida-musical comedy.

Either way, I have a lovely post-show hangover. Right, post box!

Monday Musings: MOT Your Used Vehicle Please

I’m sitting in bed wearing a Christmas tree-shaped woolly hat and a fleece hoodie over my pyjamas, thinking about what I thought my twenties would look like (late night car drives, whimsical conversations in arty coffee shops, etc.) and what it actually looks like. I can’t really remember what my head looks like without a hat attached to it.

Speaking of cars, I still haven’t found one. It’s almost tempting to sell the Mini and not replace it, but I have no easy way to get to clients otherwise. It’s tempting to run the maths to see if it’s cheaper to use public transport and the odd cab (I don’t know if Uber’s quite made it to Southend) but given I’m wearing a woolly hat in bed, it’s possible I’m not cut out for standing at bus stops in the dead of winter. I’ve also watched a lot of episodes of Luther and have an overactive imagination. The planet, though. Ugh.

I just had a nose at used car listings and god it is dire. Not sure why people think they’re going to sell their 2003 KA when its MOT is almost up and its clutch needs fixing. That isn’t a £300 car, my dude. If I weren’t shit at riding a bike and terrified of riding a bike on roads, I’d get a bicycle. Nice and clean, free exercise, cheers.

Send help or I’m going to keep the Mini until my left hip falls out of its socket.