A note on the last week or so, ish (ft. BLM in case you were expecting, I dunno, a chat about the changeable weather)

I almost didn’t finish this post, although I started it days ago, as I’ve been mulling over both what to say and how to say it. The last thing the world needs is another white person saying, ‘I’ve been educating myself this week,’ or ‘I have signed X petition,’ or ‘I have quite a few BAME characters in my last book,’ as that implies I’m off the hook. I’m not. I also don’t want to tell readers which funds to support – we don’t know each other’s financial situations.

That said, I started Indifferent Ignorance to discuss just that. Little Me saw a lot of ambivalence in society and couldn’t figure it out. I didn’t understand why no one was throwing tables and screaming their lungs out about topics and issues that were so obviously dodgy or horrible and relevant to the lives of millions of people, if not all of us. How did anyone manage to learn about these things and just shrug? So I like to think I’m mindful of the notion that if I don’t speak up about something I perceive as wrong, I’m complicit in allowing it.

So, for the record, although I suspect I will have to say this a great number more times: to my BAME readers and customers, I am so sorry that our realities are so different in so many subtle and not-so-subtle ways. I hope to spend several more decades on this planet, and I’ll do my best to spend them learning how to be a better person than the individuals previously and currently in charge of so many of our governmental and societal systems. I’ll do my best to understand the privilege I was born into. I don’t expect your patience (I’m from a country that’s spent 400 years pretending the slave trade didn’t have any impact on modern-day America; I wouldn’t tend toward patience in your shoes, either) but I hope you’ll let me listen and ask questions where I can, and allow me to learn from any fuck ups as opposed to announcing my ‘cancellation’ on Twitter.

I was going to list some of the ways I’ve been trying to actively help out and educate myself this week, but I sort of feel that implies, once again, that once the protests have ended and the news cycle has moved on, that I will be off the hook because I made a bit of effort for a few days. Anyway, you can all find the relevant petitions and media in about five minutes.

That said, as a novelist I’m never going to stop shouting about how important ‘fictional’ stories are for education-disguised-as-entertainment. So if you’re looking to expand your horizons but also have a break from straight-up news, please consider looking up the following. They are all fantastically interesting, thought provoking insights into someone else’s life even before you consider the race-related commentary:

  • Dean Atta’s The Black Flamingo
  • Malorie Blackman’s Noughts & Crosses series (the TV show is also *chef’s kiss*)
  • Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give
  • Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird

I very much plan to decolonise my bookshelf and expand that list. There’s another book I can’t remember the name of that I read in primary school and stuck with me. It may have been by Malorie Blackman but I’m not sure. I’ll have to do some serious Googling because I think I read it circa 2004.

Another note on reading: I looked up a lot of non-fiction books I’m planning to read in my local library catalogue, but they aren’t stocked. It took about 15 minutes to look up half a dozen ISBNs and request them, because they should be available to all of us (I’m fully planning to buy my own copies anyway, but I am limited on money and space, as I suspect we all are). Even if you own a copy of a book you think is really important – and you can do this with any old book, really – it’s worth searching it up on your local library site or shop wish lists, and requesting it if it’s not there. The powers-that-be might then stock it, and will at least know which topics their customers care for, thus helping them improve their displays, marketing, etc.

Finally, a photo of an electricity box (is that what they’re called?). I live in a mostly white, mostly middle class, mostly well-it’s-not-in-our-bubble neighbourhood. I hadn’t seen most of my neighbours before the Thursday night NHS clapping, and I’ve lived here on and off since 2005. But someone thought it worth pasting these posters over every available bollard and box at the local row of shops/cultural-epicentre-even-if-it’s-mostly-coffee-shops-and-estate-agents:

Black Lives Matter posters on electricity box in Southend-on-Sea, Essex, June 2020

I never thought I’d see a civil rights poster in my neighbourhood. I didn’t notice last time I was there if they’d been taken down. I suspect someone will have considered them out of place. But I looked up those books, you might look up those books and my neighbours might have too. That someone took the time to put them up, knowing that they might be completely dismissed as unnecessary or inappropriate, deserves immortalising. I also love that they used FRAGILE tape.

I am off to bed… I can’t believe I thought it’d take me half an hour to finish this. When will I learn that posts always take double the time I expected? Blogs are like building work.

Look after yourselves and see you soon!

Mildly Good Things That Are Happening in the World 2

The time is ripe for another of these.

  • Remember when the main source of conversation was ‘Poor Caroline Flack. We should all take steps to be kinder, right?’ Now it seems to be ‘Fuck you I want 8,000 toilet rolls.’ BUT. Hairdressers have stopped stocking those bullshit gossip magazines. Ironically, we could probably use them for toilet paper in a pinch.
  • Electronic planes are on the cusp of becoming a reality. Fast, convenient travel without polluting the planet? Sign me up mate. Okay so perhaps it’s not quite on the cusp of reality… more like the cusp of the cusp. But I am confident that with funding (anyone know a billionaire? Someone who invested in loo roll stocks and shares? Or just invested in loo roll?) it will happen.
  • A white, statistically straight millionaire took a pay cut in order to give his employees a raise. The employees were happier. He was happier.
  • Right, I’m mentioning the C word for a minute. There’s a website called Covid Mutual Aid, which helps you find a local groups of people volunteering to help others during these batshit mad times. The groups organise shopping runs for those in isolation and help link people up with goods and resources if they need them (been stockpiling loo roll since 1982? It’s your time to shine, my friend). I’ve joined my local one because if you can’t volunteer to get someone’s shopping when they’re in isolation, then a) you’re a dick and b) seriously what do you do with your life.
  • Following on from that, a lady named Becky has made coronavirus postcards. Pop them through your neighbours’ front doors and let them know you’re there if they need you!

postcard with information for people to fill in in order to offer help during coronavirus outbreak

I may use some of this distancing time to finish up some blog posts I’ve been sitting on. I’ve been thinking of a post about working from home, since I am a seasoned pro at spending the day indoors? Let me know if you’d like my accumulated wisdom. In the mean time, look after yourselves and make sure your grandparents stay at home!

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…

I’m never washing again and you shouldn’t either.

I just read an article about vagina steaming and I cannot unread it, so here you go. I understand the theory – I am a big fan of sticking my face over a bowl of hot water when I’ve got a cold – but I feel like a lot of people need to have a conversation with themselves about differing areas of skin on the human body. As in, one of those things is not like the other so don’t fucking steam it.

I had something to actually write about earlier, and I can’t even remember what it was. Climate change, I think. But I can’t form coherent thoughts any more because what on earth possesses people to steam their vaginas???

I have to think about something else. Um. I have an mild infection in one of my wisdom teeth. If left alone, I imagine the infected tooth probably looks a lot like a scalded vagina. GOD I CAN’T STOP.

It’s now been 15 minutes.

Send help.

I mean how do you even go to A&E with that sort of complaint? ‘Um yeah hi I decided to indulge in alternative medicine and I appear to have caused such severe damage I couldn’t sit down properly to drive here.’ ‘Yes ma’am don’t worry, take a seat.’ ‘No I really can’t.’

Honestly. People.

Cinderella uggghhh GIF

I’m going to have a bath. Oh god. Maybe not.

The Six O’Clock News: The Environment’s Not Totally Doomed, But UKIP Might Be

Professor McGonagall Harry Potter applause gif

It’s been several weeks since I shared good news and as it’s the first day of spring, I thought I’d share a few headlines that have cheered me up lately.

More than 100 cities get most of their energy from renewable sources

I don’t think I’ve seen a news segment that doesn’t involve plastic, the Paris Agreement or plastic and the Paris Agreement since last year, but it’s not 100% bad news for the environment (just, er, 99.9%). According to the latest statistics, 101 cities now get over 70% of their energy from renewable sources – that’s more than double the number of cities in 2015. What’s more, 40 cities are operating on 100% renewable electricity. None of those cities are in Britain, but it’s a start.

Girl eats cotton candy and the world is transfixed

No, seriously, watch it, she deserves to be on Newsnight discussing her skills.

How… how?

UKIP might collapse in a couple of weeks

This has been in the works since the referendum results, when even my most right-leaning family members started to ask why Nigel Farage was still on TV, but UKIP as a party might be about to implode due to bankruptcy. The party owes £175,000 in legal fees after it was sued by three Labour MPs over a libellous speech, so this could be the actual end of UKIP as opposed to the spiritual end. HAPPY FIRST DAY OF SPRING YOU GUYS!

Professor McGonagall Harry Potter applause gif
from giphy.com

See, there is good news out there if you look for it. I want to try to do one of these every month or so, so send me good news as you see it!

There’s a Metaphor About Burning Yourself Here Somewhere

I feel like Calamity Jane this week. Is Calamity Jane the one who’s really clumsy? I might be thinking of someone else. Calamity Jane’s the one in the musical? Anyway, the watchword is ‘calamity’. I burnt my wrist on a oven tray last Friday and it bubbled up into one of those blisters that you really want to touch, then I wore a pair of Doc Martens that I’ve only half worn in and shredded the backs of my ankles. We’ve been moving things in and out of different rooms because we’re getting new carpets, so everything I own is in the wrong place, and every time I tread on a cushion or a stray CD, I think I’ve trodden on a dog. I have also trodden on a dog.

So, Calamity Jane. I test-drove a new car the other day (well, an old car. And old new car) and I haven’t driven in weeks and everything felt different and god that’s reverse gear please don’t let me hit a curb or a person. I can’t remember if I’ve ever told the Saga of Me Learning to Drive – it’s going to take an entire blog and possibly a gin and tonic – but the long and short of it is, I recently decided that I required a vehicular fresh start. I probably also require CBT, but that’s for the Saga. In the way these things usually go, I went from ‘casually looking at cars that would suit me’ last week to ‘signing off on a car I think suits me’ yesterday. It took me approximately six weeks to decide to go to Asia, and three months to settle on which hair colour I wanted, so I feel slightly shell shocked. What if I didn’t ask all the questions I should have at the dealer? What if I didn’t need a new car and just needed CBT? Where do you get CBT? Why is this all happening before I have a guaranteed annual income?

Realistically I could be interning for the next six months, so that last question is more a philosophical one I ponder in the shower. I’m also really fortunate that I have time to look for a car and move things out of different rooms and nurse my bubbly blister – if I had to be out of the house by eight am every weekday, I wouldn’t even have been cooking something that required an oven tray. All I have to do to get the most out of my unemployment is not look at my bank balance. Or leave the house for any activity that might result in a change to my bank balance.

Tom and Jerry cartoon fishbowl
Seen here: a portrait of me after I’ve made a list of what I need to buy, checked my bank statement then decided not to leave the house after all. The fishbowl is a metephor, geddit. [from Twitter]
I really ought to get on with something on my to do list… options include writing a bunch of emails, organising everything that’s currently in a desk and will have to be in a box, sorting out car insurance and checking my social media plan for Etsy.

Oh, and ‘not engaging with idiots on Facebook who keep posting passive aggressive anti-Islam bullshit next to a bad graphic of a poppy’. I need to be out of the house by eight am every day if I’m ever going to be exhausted enough to completely ignore those fuckers.

Grasping at Straws (okay, leaflets)

Today I spent four hours in a virtual queue waiting for tickets for The Cursed Child, only to spend my allotted twenty minutes of browsing time searching fruitlessly for the right number of tickets on the right number of days in the correct type of seats.

So ‘miffed’ doesn’t really cover it.

Frank Iero gif
from Tumblr

Anyway, the good news: I made some things to help you survive – and, dare I say it, thrive – during the upcoming general election.

Here’s something to encourage the youth in your family to vote:

Students' Guide to Voting General Election 2017

Here’s something to help you all decide how to vote:

Ho Do I Hate Least Political Party Comparison

My constituency hasn’t announced its candidates yet (something tells me the Conservatives will win) but I’m considering the Women’s Independence Party. Or signing up for that Mars mission. You can buy and print those designs here if you want (actual prints are coming this week, hopefully) so you can spread the democracy and all that. I suppose if someone decides to vote after seeing them, or if the shop makes some money on them, the current state of British politics won’t be entirely a waste of human intelligence…