2016 Rang, It Wants Its ‘Shittest Year of the Decade’ Crown Back

Right, 2019, you need to get your act together. We’re approaching 2016 levels of fuckery and I’m starting to get suspicious and slightly paranoid. Fred had a seizure and died last week. When I stop having horrible flashbacks and feeling guilty for not doing more for him, I’ll probably feel philosophical about the circle of life and reflect on how he enjoyed 13 years of stealing food, leaping from second story windows and unwrapping Christmas presents… but I’m still in shock and I can’t believe two of my best friends died within six weeks of each other, so at present I want to run away to an island somewhere for several months.

This is definitely one of those years where a lot goes on, and we’re only half way through. I know people who are dealing with illnesses in the family, or illnesses of their own, or who generally have A Lot Going On. Don’t even get me started on how you switch on the news and it’s a barrage of the-UK-is-falling-apart-nuclear-war-might-happen-next-week-the-planet-is-dying-and-it’s-to-late-to-stop-it-by-the-way-Trump-might-get-a-second-term. I’m getting a bit paranoid that my grandmother’s going to have a fall, or an earthquake’s going to hit Zante when my family’s out there, or nuclear war might actually happen but the planet is actually dying so does it matter. I know this is a black hole way of thinking, so I also keep thinking, ‘let’s find an excuse for a huge party! Let’s go backpacking! Let’s put the whole of The Princess and the Dragon on the Internet for free! Let’s retrain in something useful like ecological management! Is ecological management even a thing?’

I don’t think ecological management is a thing. I think I’m thinking of those people who look after forests and lobby Parliament to ban single use plastic. Eco warrior? It’s too early for compound phrases. You know what I mean. Sometimes life forces you to put things into perspective.

What a cheerful post this was. Here are photos of Fred from a few years ago. He was  quite hard to photograph until he got elderly, because when he was younger he only had two modes: asleep and Doing Stuff. You’d aim for the picture on the left and get the picture on the right.

Legitimately the nosiest dog who has ever lived. I think I’m going to Google ‘ecological management’ now.

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A Shitty Week ft. the Coolest Illustration I’ve Seen All Year and Probably Ever

Morning. Or, Morning! if you’re feeling perky. I was until I sat down and now it’s just like an earlier version of the two o’clock slump which is not how I was planning my day off.

I’m not sure how many regular/committed readers there are still here, but if you’ve been following my posts as they go out, I suppose there’s an elephant in the room. Well, small dog. Well, small dog no longer in the room. We had Donnie put to sleep the week before last. I know that not everyone is particularly bothered about their pets, but I am not one of those people. Not having him around is strange and horrible and I keep forgetting and looking for a second dog and I’m paranoid Fred is pining and it’s odd only feeding one dog and I miss how he used to bark at literally everything and snore with his eyes open. I don’t miss the last couple of days of his life when it became abundantly clear that he had had enough. A lot of people say they fell guilty for making the decision to end their pet’s life, but I think I couldn’t have lived with myself if we’d made him hang on any longer when he couldn’t really walk and didn’t want to eat anything.

But I’m more interested in remembering the snoring and the ridiculous woofing, so maybe animal euthanasia is a subject for another day.

A non-sequitur that’s actually absolutely relevant if you live inside my head (a non-non-sequitur?): the next chapter of The Prince in the Tower, from The Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes is available to patrons today. It’s relevant because a) there’s a dog called Bean in The Prince in the Tower, named after Donnie. He used to do this dancing, jumping thing every time he was about to go for a walk or get fed, so I used to call him a jumping bean. Which became Bean and then Bean Sprout, then Sprout and honestly what is up with pet owners and nicknames. Anyway. Point b) is that I got to hang out with my friend Tatchiana the day before Donnie died and she gave me a very cool illustration from The Princess and the Dragon that was a huge bright spot in an appalling week. Spoiler alert there’s a dragon:

girl facing giant blue dragon in cave

So you guys who aren’t patrons need to become patrons so we can make an ebook from this story and I can commission more artwork because it is seriously the coolest, coolest thing seeing your story interpreted in someone else’s art! It’s very nice knowing that I can support someone else’s work at the same time as doing something fun and promotional for my own work. It feels very eco-system-y. (I am paying Tatchiana for the piece, although she wasn’t convinced I needed to which is very friend-y. When I am feeling less bereaved and more awake we should have a conversation about paying friends for work. It’s a lot like euthanasia in that no one wants to talk about it but we’d probably all be better off if we did. God what a sentence). Oh, I’m also paying Tatchiana using money from Patreon. From your investment in my fairytale. How cool is that? We’re starting to accrue enough to pay my proofreader, Maria, as well. THE PLAN IS WORKING.

You can find links to Tatchiana’s other work here and buy her coffee (please do!) here.

Right, I’ve got patron letters to write and some Etsy orders to package. See you soon.

Let me introduce you to a friend

I want to tell you all about a friend of mine. He moved to England a few years ago for a better life, but he speaks very little English, hasn’t yet found a job and has never, as far as I’m aware, paid any tax. He sits around a lot and his efforts to integrate with neighbours have been sub par; he’s quite antisocial to be honest, which I’ve always put down to trauma experienced in childhood.

dav

I’ve been meaning to make that joke for about 4 years. Originally it was going to be a YouTube video where I lift him up to the camera, but it’s hard to make a fuss of one dog without making a fuss of the other and although  Adonis has always been easy to pick up, trying to get too close to Fred is like trying to wrestle with an octopus.

Anyway, the reason I’ve finally got my arse into gear is that Donnie no longer looks remotely as happy about life as he did in that photo, which I think was taken last summer. He’s got prostate cancer (ironically given that I was writing a similar post about 6 years ago about leishmania) and the prognosis, a few months ago, was a few months. And I hate it when people make a fuss of friends and loved ones after they’ve died but not before, so. HAIL DON THE WHEEZE. One time he was so intent on killing a fly that he almost knocked himself out on a wall. Occasionally he falls off a bed and has to get up before anybody can see him. If you’re playing with Fred and he wants your attention, which is every time you’re playing with Fred, he sticks his head under your arm so you look down and see a nose sticking out of your armpit. It is a source of some regret that I’ve never managed to capture the phenomenon on camera.

blurry dog with very happy human
I was going through photos the other day and I can conclusively say that this image is probably the one that best sums up my relationship with my pets. I think I must have ambushed him while he was doing something, unless I was going through a phase of doing squats at every opportunity.

One day I might write both my dogs into a set of short stories or something, and fully retell the legendary tale of the time Donnie nicked a carrot from Fred while it was sticking out of Fred’s mouth, but I was cleaning up canine vomit at 6:30 this morning and at the vet at 8:30 listening to options regarding dehydration treatment and using phrases like ‘keep him comfortable’ so today is not that day. Have I ever mentioned that Donnie really likes the vet? He actually slipped his harness when we were in there once and escaped out the back to say hi to the nurses. It’s only because he makes a beeline for anyone who might make a fuss of him. What an embarrassment.

Anyway. Say hi to your pets from me. Say hi to your pets from you while you’re at it. Next time I write here I will almost definitely be one dog short of a pair, which is shit. They’re both my best mates, excepting those two or three epic fights they’ve had over the years, and Fred has leishmania (the irony of this entire year is starting to itch) and the thought of being entirely dogless by Christmas is completely appalling and look just say hi to your friends. I saw this bullshit Twitter post once that said something like ‘a dog might only be part of your life, but you are their entire life’ and terrible graphics aside the phrase has stayed with me. I’m aware this post has become kind of a downer and not the joyous celebration I was aiming for, so here is Fred wearing a Pilates mat. I was in the process of practising Pilates when he decided that he might like to take up the exercise as well. Spoiler alert I put up with him for a bit then gave up.

dog wearing a pilates mat

I think he was probably judging me on my downward dog.

Phuket & the Soi Dog Foundation, Thailand, ft. DOGS

I’ve been eating a lot of curry lately, because there is almost no limit to what you can put in a curry except perhaps cabbage, and between that and that one part of The Umbrella Academy that’s set in Vietnam, I feel like South East Asia is calling to me. My bank account isn’t on my side, so I might as well share pictures of dogs at the Soi Dog Foundation in Phuket, which I highly recommend to the whole of humanity because DOGS.

So I virtually live blogged the 40-odd hour journey out of Laos into Thailand. We took such a weird route out of Vientiane because one of the places on my list to see in Asia was the Soi Dog Foundation. Originally established by Dutch expatriate Margot Homburg, in 2003 she joined forces with British expats Gill and John Daley, who wanted to do something about the estimated 70,000 stray cats and dogs on Phuket. It’s grown into an internationally-renown shelter dedicated to sterilising and re-homing strays and, if I remember correctly, helped eradicate rabies from the island of Phuket completely. It was also instrumental in helping the abandoned pets and strays left over from the Boxing Day tsunami and is campaigning against Asia’s dog meat trade – I first heard of it from an online petition.

Phuket is a lot bigger than it looks, and the Soi Dog Foundation was way further from our hostel at Karon Beach than I realised. It took the entire morning to get there by bus – but Phuket is a lot like Spain in that it’s virtually set up for tourists, so the roads were fabulous, especially compared to Lao and Vietnamese roads. Also, Thai motorists drive on the right. So do the Maltese. Sensible people. Anyway, the shelter is a bit hidden from the bus stop, so I got a lift on a motorbike from a volunteer, which was useful as a local dog, ironically, was doing a great job of nipping the back of my legs when the bike pulled up (get your vaccinations, kids, rabies eradication or not!).

 

If you’re going to Soi Dog hoping to get your fix of dog cuddles, you’ll be disappointed (I was). These dogs see humans all day, every day, they do not give a shit when another one walks into their home, although most were more than happy to come and say hello. The shelter is separated into sections: old dogs, puppies, cattery, specially-designed dog hospital (they play the dogs music!), non-human-friendly dogs, etc. The staff, who are mostly volunteers, take you on a tour and do a fantastic job of explaining how everything works.

 

Can we have these posters in England too please?

 

I visited not long after Gill Daley died (her husband John is still involved full time) and really got a sense that this is the sort of place people come to volunteer at time after time, because it’s a lovely place to work. I wish I could have spent more time there – I didn’t realise how long the journey would be – and really recommend you take the time to visit if you’re on Phuket on holiday, or if you’re thinking of getting involved with stray dogs or opening a shelter (hint hint Zakynthos).

There wasn’t a lot else on Phuket that we wanted to see – there were, like, children with their parents and forks instead of chopsticks and I was in Peak Shitty Backpacker Mode at this point – so after saying hi to Big Buddha, Maxim and I headed to the islands, where we split up to look for clues see different parts of Thailand.

 

I think they are planning to paint Buddha eventually?

 

Sort of can’t believe how good my tan is in that photo. Also can’t remember if the statues were especially large of if I’ve just got to get used to the fact I’m smaller than I think I am…

I’m going to make another curry. Come back in 6-8 months to hear about Koh Tao and Koh Samui, and then one of my favourite parts of the trip: Chiang Mai and Pai.

RIP 2018 Etc

So. Farewell, then, 2018. I’m on the sofa rewatching Luther before my friend’s New Year’s Eve party. I never know if I can be bothered with anything later than 7pm these days, but my friend’s NYE parties are always excellent, as most events are once I’m there, which is what I’m hoping will be the case with 2019.

I didn’t do the Indifferent Ignorance Awards this year, because I’ve had more pressing things to do, but I think we can sum this year up as not as bad as 2016 but 2007 was probably less stressful? I finished dragonnovel, got a bit of sun, played with my dogs (one is leaning on me right this very moment and I clearly can’t get up until he does so bye party I’ve been blessed). No one in my immediate family or friendship group has died, been critically ill or pledged allegiance to the Republican Party, so let’s count 2018 as one of the good ones.

Last year I wrote ‘new year’s intentions’ which are supposedly more realistic and better for your mental health than new year’s resolutions. Goal 1 was to learn to do my hair. I mean, I’ve grown my hair. I brush and wash it occasionally. It’s difficult to plait, okay, there are a lot of layers. I consistently forgot to take good pictures, but it’s looked ace this year regardless. Lots of purple. I’ll change it up soon because you can’t bleach the same bit of hair too much but possibly in 2019 I should take more pictures for proof of Cool Dyed Hair? Unlikely, I bloody hate taking my picture.

Goal 2 was to look after myself a bit more. I did not bother with a running club, but the blue light blocker is on and I miss my Pilates class when I don’t do it, which must mean it’s good for my brain so CHECK CHECK.

The third goal, basically, was Get Money. And, check again. I got a weekend job, found another client, smashed my stationery business goals over Christmas and learnt that geeky mythological pencils are really, really popular. Onwards.

blue pencils reading STUDY LIKE ATHENA, purple pencils reading ARTEMIS WAS RIGHT

Luther’s getting tense so I will leave this here. Also, Donnie’s ear is on my keyboard. Hit me up with the fun things you did this year, or want to do next year, or heard of someone else doing something nice. Happy new year!

Christmas is Calling, Help

I had a quick glance at my calendar and it’s been nearly three whole weeks since I sat down to write here so I made myself a beverage, cracked my neck and sat down to tell you all… um. It’s been a busy three weeks? But everything in it was too nondescript to blog about? I mean, I read about four books. (I’m on GoodReads, by the way. I never read other people’s reviews but I enjoy writing my own, like blogging.) I had a cold – one of those snotty, coughing, can-feel-your-eyeballs-rattle-in-your-skull colds and swallowed my pride to buy medicine over the counter. My newest job is going well, and I am getting better at parking on the first attempt. I scratched the Mini’s front bumper on someone else’s front bumper. The other person’s bumper was so scratched already that I didn’t feel bad, because they clearly made a habit of parking far too close to other vehicles. I bought my first Christmas present.

I’m not proud of that, but you gotta do what you gotta do to avoid payday loaning your way through January. Since I’ve also been preparing for Christmas on Etsy – do not get me started on the finer details of Secret Santa tags – I’m curious to know: when do you guys start buying presents? Do you set a strict budget? I’m being extra careful this year because last year I got overexcited and bought things for people who didn’t seem bothered that I’d got them anything, so this Christmas is close family-only plus a couple of Secret Santas and realistically something ridiculous for the dogs. Like this:

Look at that balcony.

So yeah, let me know your thoughts on Christmas. Is it too much hassle? Are you a wee Scrooge? Do you buy your cousin’s dog’s groomer a bottle of malbec and some shortbread? I need to know so I can strike an acceptable balance between Scrooginess and extravagance.

Here’s a Cat Reclining Next to a Desk Fan. You’re Welcome. (Happy Summer!)

Today is the longest day of the year, and goddamn, England, you’re doing a good job. My glasses are sliding down my face and both dogs have been hairy, panting puddles of exhaustion for days but SUMMER IS HEERRRRREEEE! A bunch of my friends are back from uni – they’re even graduating and getting firsts and things, it’s very grown up – I am naturally awake before eight am, which never happens in winter, and I’m ready for my summer holiday.

Britain in Summer cat fan gif
Actual visual representation of the British public. From giphy.com

Wait, not that last bit. I had my summer holiday in January. According to my mental maths, I will have the money for my next holiday in several summers’ time. But with the weather this glorious, who even needs other cultures. I mean, I can’t afford to explore England either, but let’s overlook that in the spirit of summer.

Operation Instagrammable Bedroom is creeping along; I have some art on the walls, which are painted brilliant white specifically so I can display as much art as will fit, and I’ve wired up my stereo. I can’t find the radio aerial, so I am Today Programme-less for a while, but my neighbours are having their roof done so I can listen to that instead. I’ve colour-coordinated my wardrobe and banished my blankets and winter PJs to a box under the bed, so I am feeling incredibly smug organised. My order for 100 tote bags arrived this morning, and they are also going to live under the bed – I was slightly nonplussed when I realised that unlike notebooks and postcards, bags take up space – so it’s possible the blankets will have to find somewhere else to live. Still, as long as they’re somewhere other than my bed, and as long as I don’t need winceyette jammies until September, WHO CARES.

I suppose I’d be doing myself a disservice if I didn’t link you the tote bags in question (free UK postage until the end of the month and a free print with the next 10 orders, UK and international, you’re welcome) and show you all what they look like so tah dahhhh:

I can’t even remember when I first had the idea for them, and I’m very pleased with the design and the quality (I mean, you can really carry a lot of textbooks). So storage aside, I’m quite proud and I hope you guys like them! (All profits will go into my holiday fund, HINT HINT.)

I have to go and reapply my deodorant – maybe I should just have another shower – so I will see you on Saturday for another Read, If You Like… in the mean time, if anyone has any tips for locating aerials, let me know.

The Sneezing Hour

Normally I would not consider turning my phone on when I’ve been in bed three hours, especially since I already have a very questionable relationship with it, but I have a cold. I think it’s been a while since I waxed lyrical about the imperfections of my immune system and it’s too late to start, but can I just say that I hope whoever gave me this cold ends up in hell. 

I’m snotty enough to not be sleeping and the one tablet I took has given me a stomachache, but the book I’m reading is mediocre and one of the dogs has been woofing at nothing (I checked and we weren’t being burgled) so I thought I’d come and say hello. Make something useful at 1am instead of pretending to count backwards from 1000. I’m not sure if this qualifies as useful but it has distracted me from the stomachache, so that’s one-nil in Francesca vs Phone Addiction. Phone Wastage. 

At least I’m not scrolling through the popular page on Instagram, basically.

I might put the world service on the radio. I might reattempt the book. I might even get to sleep before sunrise, which would be nice because my shifts in the shop are getting longer in the run up to Sunday, I have vaccinations tomorrow and I have to go out to dinner sometime. Friday? God, Friday’s tomorrow.

I think foxes are waking the dogs up. I can hear both Donnie and foxes yapping. Unless one of the neighbours’ dogs escaped. Weirder shit has happened on my street. I almost wish my ears were even more bunged up because if they keep it up (Don or the foxes) I will have to get up to observe (foxes) and subdue (Donnie). And I have gotten comfortable in the space of this paragraph. Haven’t even sneezed for five minutes.

I think I will chance the book again. I really do need to get some sleep at some point. As I am on my phone I do not have a fun gif to share to emphasise that, but I guess retro/vintage is in fashion. And I have missed popping in to chat whenever I fancy it, not that anything’s really been stopping me lately. Too bad ‘whenever’ has become ‘the witching hour when I’m sharing a bed with a dozen snot-soaked tissues’. Whatever.

See you when it’s light out.