Proud Blog-Father

My daughter has been in lockdown in Oxford Brookes University since everything kicked off, and like so many of us has been trying new things out on the cooking front.

Today I had a quick note and link to an article she just had published on the Oxford Brookes Student Union website about her “student-approved” baking recipes.

Being a proud father to a fellow writer, I of course have to share this with you all. Go have a look at https://www.brookesunion.org.uk/articles/student-approved-quarantine-baking-student-blog and enjoy both the quality of writing and the baked goods.

Writing Stuff

A quick update on the long-gestating novel. Barring a few little linking passages I’ve typed up most of the first draft of the novel. and have the rest in various notebooks, including some alternative takes on scenes. Hooray, but now begins the big edit and reworking of major bits because my focus and tone has shifted as the characters have evolved, and some of the stuff that I’ve come back to read now has me noticing all kinds of plot holes.

So. The current plan now is to streamline some scenes, remove some others, add another couple of viewpoints to see if they work, and try not to throw my laptop across the room. Well, at least more than a couple of times.

This is actually a big deal given I started this with a Nanowrimo in 2011 (I think) and then have wandered all over the place between copywriting as a freelancer, then deciding I needed some regular income and becoming a library person again. I just need to knuckle down and carry on doing this slog. I’ve learned a lot about the sheer grind needed to write long-form stories – and every short story and fiction fragment here and in other places have been learning steps along that road. Nothing is wasted effort. If I say that often enough then I’m sure I’ll believe it at some point.

Now to do battle with Amazon again and see if they’ll accept my bank details for self-publishing at any point.

Fiction Fragment: Street Scene

They eased their way out of the tavern’s door in ones and twos so as not to wake anyone sleeping in the common area. Bustling noises from the kitchen area suggested a breakfast would be forthcoming soon, but the prospect of fresh air untainted by sleeping body odours was a strong lure, at least until windows could be opened and more wholesome aromas allowed to circulate. There were benches and tables outside on the pavement, so at least they wouldn’t have to sit on the floor or lounge against walls like louche street thugs.

The bells were ringing in the morning in the distance – from Guildhalls and churches, libraries and public buildings the carillions blended and merged to form snatches of recognisable tunes obscured by distance and the mundane domestic sounds of the start of a new day. Carts were already beginning to make their way to market, or to deliver to any one of the many shops in this metropolis. A half-elf was brushing the road clear outside the bakery next door, his blue apron stained with flour from his early start. A dwarf in the livery of a courier service was directing envelopes from his wheeled case to doorways with a flick of a wand – messages and small parcels flying to letterboxes with quiet efficiency.

A gentle breeze scented with the smell of frying bacon wafted past and lifted the additional warmth of fresh bread from the bakery, and in that moment the travellers knew it was going to be a good day.

Fiction Fragment: A Taste for Wonder

“The world is a place of wonder that doesn’t care if it is observed or not. Rivers flow and trees fall in woods whether or not anyone is there to witness. Sunrises don’t mind if anyone is awake; and clouds just get on with being part of the water cycle. It’s only when soppy humans get involved that the value judgements start: ‘Oh wow, that rainbow is beautiful’ carries as much weight as how icky it is to see that decomposing animal, or be uncomfortable about the rain trickling down my neck, or ‘how dare that virus kill all my herds and hit my profit margins?’

All of these things may be felt simultaneously by the same farmer in one field in the most breathtaking hillside view – and none of them are mutually exclusive or any more or less valid a manifestation of the complexity and wonder of this world. Wonders don’t have to be, and frequently are not, intrinsically beneficial or pleasant.


Do I sound jaded? A little distant perhaps? I don’t think I am, but I do get tired of hearing the same old exclamations and crying.” The dragon paused to take a sip of his martini and glanced around the bar. Nobody was paying any attention to us. That said, it was a Friday evening in Canary Wharf so not only was the bar packed but it was full of conversations about money and expensive toys. As far as anyone else was concerned we were just a couple more folks in the bar lucky enough to have grabbed seats and a table; and that probably meant we’d been there all afternoon.


I’d better explain. There was a distinct lack of scales, teeth, and fire breathing on view. Craddoc found they got in the way of running a Fortune 500 company, so only let his wings out at the weekend when he flew home to the valleys, or if he’d decided to work from home while moulting. He’d never revealed where home was exactly and I suspect it wasn’t exactly a converted farmhouse. We both left it as something not to be discussed and were both the happier for it.


“Anyway, my dear Dorian, what I’m trying to say to you is that it is a pleasure to see you again, for you are as wonderful to me as the sunlight on the Thames and the shadows beneath Tower Bridge.” His amber eyes seemed to twinkle with reflections of the sun off the skyscrapers outside but I’d long ago learnt to not look him directly in the eye. Just because he wasn’t trying to eat anyone right now, didn’t mean I had to tempt fate more than I usually do.


“Well, thank you Craddoc for putting me in my cosmic place. Shall I compare thee to a summer’s morn or the dew on a rose or would an avalanche seen from afar be a better analogy?” You do have to have a certain lack of regard for your own skin to tease a dragon, but I’d learnt that he did enjoy barbs that showed an appreciation of his wordplay.

Audio Reading Version:

The Invitation

I recorded this reading of The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer last weekend for the DDC. It came after a number of conversations where, basically, everyone was being nice about everyone else’s voices. Its a poem that has featured heavily in my mental health journey, and we had it read in 2012 at our wedding by one of my brothers. Its a story of owning your own responsibilities and worth, and of accepting your partner in whatever context for who they are just as they accept you. Its always been a beautiful piece. Personally I always feel like I sound like I’m speaking ronud a mouthful of rocks when I talk – but I keep being challenged on that, so here goes outside my comfort zone:

My reading of The Invitation

The Invitation by Oriah
It doesn’t interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.
I want to know
if you will risk
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me
what planets are
squaring your moon…
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.

It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,
“Yes.”

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know
if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.

By Oriah © Mountain Dreaming,
from the book The Invitation
published by HarperONE, San Francisco,
1999 All rights reserved

Spoons Management

Yesterday wasn’t a fantastic day – one of being low in energy and mood, and it wasn’t helped by diabetes starting my day with an upset stomach that led to copious vomiting mid-morning. Still, at least when that was done I wasn’t as bloated and queasy and merely had a headache, lethargy, and a general feeling of worthlessness – so a reasonable trade-off I guess.

Part of the low energy and dip in self-esteem came from the enforced distancing and general ill health between us all. A big part of my love language is physical touch with those I’m close with – not necessarily intimately, but just the brush of hands or quick hugs or joking pokes in the ribs that cross the gaps between us and at least in my head remind and reassure of acceptance and comfort. So with Lady M having a bad fibromyalgia day and physical distance from myr s, it was a bad day to be having my brain throw a tantrum on that front.

Then there was just the part where I was physically tired as well as emotionally exhausted. I’ve been doing a lot between preparation for the D&D game, cleaning the house/decluttering, and generally being a supportive and positive person for everyone – and I just needed to collapse for a bit. Being typically introverted however, I’m generally not fantastic at communicating this coherently, which can lead to a bit of a spiral of my own making.

But that was yesterday – and today the sun is out, and we’ve spoken at appropriate distances with neighbours. They’ve all asked how we are doing now from when we’ve posted on local facebook groups about going into isolation. There’s been the affirmation that our experiences are not so different, and that generally people are choosing the positive view of how to deal with these weird times.

I have the game tonight, so I’me doing some minor tweaks and preparation for that, and I’ve started recording some odds and ends for a channel on our discord, telling stories. I’ve even written an experimental new beginning for the book and recorded that:

I think what I may start doing as I transcribe more of my short stories is also do recordings of them too as an ongoing process – partly to get practice in, but also to offer another form of accessibility to people who can’t read easily for whatever reason. It’s another creative form, and one that I hope people enjoy.

Stop Breaking Her!

I’ve been asked to stop breaking Lady M. The comment came from our metamour, the inimitable Lady J, in response to pictures and video I posted earlier this evening of Lady M after we watched the finale of The Good Place.

Side note: If you haven’t watched The Good Place, I highly recommend it to you as an intelligent and witty story that hides behind a facade of goofiness.

There were tears, and blocked nostrils from a light cold, and snot, and laughter in frustration, and giggles from teasing. All at once. Which of course I had to share with lady s, and then with permission on social media – and now here, because I think you’ll all join me in laughing with her, and commiserating if you’ve seen it too.

Just… How..?

The V On The Roof

One of my libraries has a building site next door – as in, just the other side of the wall of my office – and it has been a noisy year as they demolished the old buildings and then started to build the development from scratch. One of the big complaints from people in the area was that it was removing an architectural feature from the area – specifically the imposing front of what had been a college, complete with an impressive facade – even though the site had been closed and falling apart for quite some time.

As I was walking in to work the other day though, I could start to see the final shape of some of the buildings in the development coming together as the peaked roofs are added to the bare bones of concrete and metal. The shape and colour of the tiles is reminiscent of the older building that had been there before – and I thought it a nice touch. Then I noticed on one of the roofs a lighter coloured V shape, which looked familiar but I couldn’t quite place it. I mentioned it to a member of staff whose family has been in the area for generations and she got excited enough to jump out and go round to take a picture.

Apparently it exactly replicates signs of bomb damage from World War Two, where a device hit the road a short way away from the school (as it was at the time), and lightly damaged the tiles of its roof where it faced the explosion. Builders rapidly replaced the tiles from bombed out buildings nearby so that the school could keep running but the colour didn’t quite match. This left a distinct lighter coloured V shape that was never repaired or replaced until the building was demolished last year to make way for the new buildings. It had become part of the fabric of the local community – a sign of it pulling together in war and adversity to help its members – and so the reappearance of this V in the tiles on the same alignment and location of the original has been grudgingly admired as a nice nod to the past and the continuity of that spirit.

Little things go a long way

Things Lady M Says: Why Am I Mathing?

So I’m curled up this morning, listening to the lack of school-run traffic as it’s the start of half-term and the sleeping Lady M is on her side, and for lack of a better word, cuddling her ample bosom.

Then she stirs, opens her eyes and says “Pi r squared..? Why am I mathing? Literally why have I woken with a head full of maths equations?”

I suggested she’d realised she was cuddling something and started working out the size of what she was embracing in her sleep. This led to the telling of an anecdote from her childhood about how her maths teachers had always been exasperated that she could handle expressing algebraic and geometric answers and ratios rationalising fractions and yet have a blind spot actually dealing with fractions.

I suggested that this was something of a recurring theme – getting the hang of complicated things but stumbling on the simpler building blocks: like negotiating through complex contracts but forgetting how large a door was so she broke her toe trying to walk through a wall.

The conversation may have deteriorated from there into a tickling competition…

Inktober 2019 Days 1 and 2

It’s that time of year where my doodles and scratchings become a bit more purposeful. Inktober has a series of prompts, but is open to any interpretation or variance along the way. The key is to produce something every day and just have fun.

Some days will be easier than others, and some pictures will be more complex than others, certainly if last year is anything to go by. My interpretation of the challenge is to do it by the seat of my pants – ie no forward planning, and one done each day.

Prompt One is ‘Ring’, which led immediately to consideration of all things circular and circulating. I did this with two pens: a light grey fineliner at 0.5mm and a black fineliner at 0.3mm.

I wanted to create a spinning vortex, some kind of rotating storm, which prompted the lightning discharges, but the doodling eye then wanted to surround it. Whether this was a generator or a boundary I’m still not sure. Looking at it now, I’m minded of a fisheye camera view of a city below.

Prompt Two is ‘Mindless’ – and my head went wandering all over the place before settling on a monster. I love creating grotesques, and the thought of making something literally mindless sparked this beastie.

It’s inspired by any number of zombie and demon creatures from films and other media, with a particular nod to the feral demons in the Constantine movie.

A truncated and vacant brainpan fills the brief for mindless, and then it was just a matter of building the anatomy into something that looks both in the realm of the possible and at the same time predatory and wrong.

The decision to throw a pen on a string in front of it came at the last moment to balance the picture and have it as something for the creature to be reaching for.

There’s a lot of sparks on some of the online forums about what constitutes the “right” way to do this challenge – and the creator of the challenge has just told people to do what they want with whatever they want because it’s all a bit of fun. The pen therefore is a bit of a tongue in cheek reference to that, with the creature shaking and twitching as to whether to grasp it.

So there’s day one and two done.