Sunday, 23 November 2014

No man is an island. Except, I suppose, the Isle of Man. Why writers need friends...

Now, it's a matter of record that I spend most of my waking hours being curmudgeonly but, at the same time, very enthusiastic and outgoing.  It's probably best if you think of me as a sort of Golden Retriever with a thorn in its paw. 
My approximate face
Also, I spend an enormous amount of time on my own, talking to people who don't exist and yet have very firm and definite views on things and who, in some extreme cases, talk back.

I think you will agree that neither of these states is ideal and that, left to myself, I would wear my pants on my head even more than I do.  I would like the pencils up the nose and the hopping to be taken into consideration in this.  So, you may ask, but probably from a safe distance, what keeps me hanging on to the tiny little bit of sanity that is left to me, by my fingernails and a short, but snappy, amount of knicker-elastic?

Friends, basically.  Work friends, writing friends, old friends that I have known for more years than any of us like to count, but we remember the days before photocopiers, when school handed out Roneo'd sheets that were purple and smelled of alcohol.  RNA friends. New friends.  People whose names I am not certain of, (actually, given my tendency to forget almost anything that isn't written down on the back of my hand, these also occur in the aforementioned groups too...) but whose dogs I know.  People who see me in the street and ask after my writing, or the most recent book and whose faces I vaguely recognise, but cannot remember whether they are friends of friends who I might have met at a party, or someone who serves me in the Post Office.
These are some of my children.  I include this picture to remind myself what they look like in case one of them asks after my writing.  One of them is also a writer.  See if you can guess which one...
Writers need friends.  We need people who will sit and listen while we recount our latest plot ideas in great...great detail, and will occasionally ask pertinent questions.  People who will smile gently at us when we are wandering around talking to ourselves, and wave (again, usually from a distance, it's safer).  We need people we can e-mail, phone or text when life deals us  a hand so disgusting that you wouldn't want to shake it with thick gloves on, people who will give quiet sympathy and not mention that it's two thirty in the morning and they have to be up for work in three hours.  We need people who will discuss man-titty cover designs over wine, people who will sympathise with our general impecuniosity and give us biscuits.

I know I am lucky, because I have all these things.  Friends, I mean, not the biscuits and disgusting hands.  And being friends with a writer is not an easy task (see above, re curmudgeonly, pants on head, talking to self, etc), so if you find yourself inadvertently being friends with a writer, just remember the following points:

Speak slowly (and sometimes fairly loudly)

Make no sudden movements

Carry chocolate at all times

Be prepared to listen to long, long....long and sometimes rambling discourses about the behaviour of people you have never met and may not exist.

If you ask how the writing is going, be prepared to run very fast.  Chocolate is a handy distraction here, a writer cannot pursue you whilst stopping to pick up a large bar of Dairy Milk

Never ask why they haven't given up the day job yet.

And to my friends, thank you.  You know who you are.  Even if I don't.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Kittens. No, really, a whole post about kittens. With PICTURES! Also, how I accidentally came to have five cats.

I am neither a cat person, nor a dog person.  I've done all those on-line tests that pretend to tell you which side you come down on, and they've had to invent a whole new category for me, I think it was called 'Curmudgeonly Bugger', now I come to think of it. 
A Dog, picture courtesy of DD1 Vienna.  He's actually very intelligent, not that you'd know from this.
Despite this, I am the loving owner of two dogs, three hens and, accidentally, five cats.  We never meant to have five cats, five is a number dangerously close to 'insanity' when it comes to cats.  One cat is a cute lap-ornament.  Two cats are company for one another even if they spend all their down-time either glowering or fighting.  Three cats and your neighbours start looking at you in a funny way and any more than that and you spend all your time trying to keep them out of the butter dish and you can never put your laptop down without coming back to find all your documents deleted and 'fahtwohjdnjadsngio#' typed across your screen.

We had three cats, you see.  Well, we did have four, but we lost our little black and white Maggie-cat two years ago, of old age.  Now we were left with three boys, big, burly things, two of them that look like fists wrapped in fur and one huge, orange cat who's afraid of the other two and who eats broccoli and cucumbers if they are left unattended.  My daughter wanted a kitten.  Something cute and loveable and cuddly.

So we went to a farm and brought home this little bundle.

Who instantly hid behind a cupboard, coming out only to cry piteously between the hours of 7pm and 4 am.  My daughter, after experimenting with names that would fit and disregarding my suggestions of 'Invisible Entity' and 'Untouchable Noise Machine', called him Corvo.  Honestly, it was like having a teenager in the house; we never saw him. he emerged only to eat enormous quantities of food and he made an indescribable amount of noise during the hours of darkness.

So, what did we do?  Yes, people, we got another kitten.  Ostensibly to keep Corvo company.  In reality, so that we actually knew we had a kitten on the premises and weren't just being haunted by something that filled the litter tray.  So now we also have

cat number five.  Also known as Zac.  And, despite being a litter-mate of the unseeable Corvo, he is the complete opposite.  Zac, you see, is a People Cat.  He is also a Dog Cat, a Cat Cat and will, once he is allowed outside, no doubt prove to be a Chicken Cat.
I am sure you can see the drawbacks here. 

Corvo continues to be elusive, but has now emerged from the cupboard and is known, occasionally, to wind around my daughter's legs, purring.  He still won't come out of the room, but he and Zac are great friends and sleep together on the bed.  He must wonder where it is that Zac goes to when he leaves the room for long stretches of time, only to return smelling of cooked chicken and tuna and burping slightly, dragging a mouse on an elastic string, but he shows no sign of wanting to join these epic journeys.  So, I suppose you could say that we're less of a five cat household and more of a four and a half cat household.

Just never show us a Cats' Protection League leaflet. There's only so much the dogs can take...

Sunday, 9 November 2014

I discover that Peter Capaldi is thicker than he appeared before. I mean three-dimensionally thicker, not stupid. He's not stupid at all, I don't think.

I want to know if this is A Thing, right...

Yesterday morning, up I jolly well woke from a pleasant dream of one of my workmates burying bodies in my garden (and me saying 'you'll have to bury them deeper, I've got dogs, they dig', which was realistic if not very helpful.  I could have got a shovel and helped dig) to thoughts of furniture.

My living room and dining room are, let's face it and not beat around the bush, just one big space.  My house is, basically, a corridor.  It's virtually impossible to put furniture anywhere without it being in the way of the fireplace, a door, the dog, other furniture, etc.  So we've been living with two sofas facing one another and the TV on one wall, the fireplace opposite. Imagine, if you will, something like a doctor's waiting room, only with a proper TV and a fire that's sometimes lit.  Which has meant that only two people at any one time could actually watch the TV (those two at the furthest end of the sofas from the TV).  Anyone else was sitting sideways on and had to sort of watch over their shoulders.  Add the fact that there was nearly always a dog sitting on one or more sofa cushions, and you have a recipe for disaster, or, at the very least, sore necks.
This is more or less all you can see.
So yesterday we had a grand rearrangement.  Honestly, we moved everything, including the dogs.  In consequence, last night I could watch Doctor Who face-on (I always thought Peter Capaldi was very very thin, turns out it was the way the screen bent.  He's normal sized if you watch him from the front), with a satisfactory fire burning, also in front.  Dusting was also perpetrated but don't worry, this won't happen again, it was only because we had to move a cabinet full of DVDs, most of which we can't remember a) buying or b) ever watching.
Much better than the thin black line I'd been watching.

So, is it an age thing?  Rearranging the furniture?  Like when you're pregnant and start nesting?  Or was I just properly sick and tired of only seeing half of Peter Capaldi?  Anyway.  We now have one three seater sofa, one four seater and one two seater, all in the same room and, by some fluke, they are all green!

If anyone knows how I can stop the five cats we now possess from occupying every single cushion, I'd be grateful.  By the time the cats and dogs are all sitting down, there's only two seats left...

And I have to sit on the floor.