Category: Alaric

Putting Socks On (by )

The last two weeks have been amazing, wonderful and awful at the same time - as always with our bad luck field. So yesterday Al was already in pain when he took the kids to Country File Live, they all enjoyed themselves but he was tanked up on pain killers to survive the day - what ever he did it was going to be a tanked up on pain killers day.

By the time he got home he was in considerable pain and we did all the normal - hot baths and massage and his physio - but over the last year his hip has been getting alot worse again including him having to miss Krav and park runs because he can barely walk.

This morning I had to put his socks on for him - this is not the sciatica - this is his hip (which may or may not be part of the cause for the sciatica).

He's been a bit depressed about this - the amount of pain he is in is well... loads. But more than that it means going back to the Dr to talk about hip replacements - something he has desperately been trying to ward off. Just after Mary was born he was in lots of pain and the Dr told him that his options where to pay for physical manipulation to try and slow the wear on the joint down or he would def. be having the hip replacement before he was 40.

Obvs. hip replacements are not something you really want to be getting into before you are 40 so we paid knowing it might not work or would only work for a while but hopefully would get him to past his 40th birthday. The treatment was no longer avalible on the NHS though the hip replacement would be. It worked really well for a few years and made a huge difference. Initially after Mary was born we both had mobility issues which were fortunately slightly different but we would have to co-operate to change the babies bottom!

It was a bit of a nightmare time capped off with him and the baby getting pnumonia and a house move. All that aside we had been hopeful - the manipulation did wonders and for the first time that he could remember - standing still did not hurt him!

Basically up until that point his leg had been rammed up into the hip joint, compressing and wearing it out. This was left over from some child hood accident - we don't know what but the Dr was surprised he did not remember it as it was have been painful. It was possibly falling down the stairs or something.

Anyway the joint is already worn and we were just buying time. He's been doing the strengthening exercises and working on general fitness and posture which need correcting... but then about a year ago it started to occassionally pain him again and has just been getting worse and worse and of course because he was looking after me with my zillions of hospital appointments he didn't really want to say anything as it's going to be a whole ball of medical stuff for him too etc...

Well his now shuffling about increasingly with little let up, yesterday had him walking about on hills so he is quiet frankly in agony :'(

He tends not to say when things are wrong with him but he is actually really struggling at the moment - so please be nice! No one likes it when someone else has to put their socks on for them!

I Suck at Father’s Day (by )

So today is Father's Day - me and the girls kind of forgot - to be fair we kind of forgot about Mother's Day too though I think we squeezed in a meal or something - none of us could really remember it was too busy a day.

On this Father's Day Alaric left early morning to get to his flight for America and my Dad cooked me and the girls pizza to have as our packed lunches on the train - he then drove us to the station and I had completely forgotten :/

I also messaged them both last night demanding we all write a novel together... yeah I fail at Father's Day.

Bristol and Mateys (by )

Facebook has been popping up memories from previous years - at the moment it is kind of the same thing regardless of the year... meeting up with our Friends Becca and Olly and this year is no exception!

So much food!

This year we went to Bristol and walked around the water front, slightly hampered by the outside wheelchair lift being broken but we found other ways around.

Broken lift

Then we went for lunch at Prezzo who had a gluten free menu and was quiet enough and was vegi and wasn't a bank breaker and had toilets and tables on one level and had dairy free options (as a group we quiet hard to cater for but Bristol had us covered!). We ordered a stupid amount of food as we thought the pizzas were individuals but were huge!

Birds in the harbour in bristol

Jean saw to the left overs as she'd had a kids meal and is a teeny-tweeny and now slightly taller than me and growing fast!

Mary was good and managed sitting still for the meal as she a) took daddy outside for run arounds and b) was going to get to play in the fountain - unfortunately she was then so excited about the fountain she splashed straight into it and run out of Alaric's sight and ended up in trouble! But she did then get to race Becca up and down the dock side by the M-shed which was closed by this point. Then she played with Olly going up and down the river - a stylised map set into the tarmac.

She also gave her pocket money to a homeless guy.

We popped into the german beer festival to see if any of the craft stalls etc... were still open but they weren't but there was a photo board 🙂

German Beer Festival Bristol

I'd pretty much run out of room on my camera other wise there would have been alot more photos! Including Jean sitting on John Cabot who sailed from Bristol in 14... something and found North America. A young tourist asked us questioned about him but ended up telling us more than we knew including finding the date the statue was made.

Exploring the John Cabot statue in Bristol

Looking up this (historical figure)[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Cabot] I find the finding of the Americas by Europeans is a long and distended tail and I have a whole lot more to learn including a celtic myth about Hy-Brasil which I think maybe the glass isle myth. This is all good stuff for The Punk Universe novel series I am writing.

I've been researching a lot of stuff for this series lately including discovering a myth that Jesus actually went to India and England in a world tour before returning home and being killed as a political radical. This was interesting as Becca was explaning local historical sites to me including the wells and hotspring and the fact that an ancient (as in 3000 year old) jewish religous site was found in a house basement recently - my brain instantly wondered if that was maybe a site that historical Jesus (Jesus in historical records not as/as well as a holy figure) might have visited.

There is lots of funky stone work in this area of Bristol which I love - I love both the rocks natural history and the people history that laid them there was structures.

Stone arch door bristol

Bristol is a rich city for history as most cities are... as well as modern archetecture and the interaction of society, tech, city and environment. This was highlighted quiet well by the renovated crain that has been turned into a little eco hut and the tumble down ruins becoming little oasises of plants. I never fail to find new things (some quiet old 🙂 ) to take photos of.

Stone and pipes and leaves bristol

The outing was rounded off by the kids watching a film and us rabbiting about everything and nothing and looking at photos from our uni days - Mary's comment on seeing a picture of my by three giant axes in Greece "mummy you were so small!".

Of course I ran out of camera space so missed the giant beetle eating my children - but fortunately Becca was there!

Jean and Mary being eaten by a giant stag beetle in bristol

CampNaNo April 2017 (by )

I love writing challenges - they are a bit trickier these days with my limited time window of working brain but it is still possible. One of the things I like about them is not feeling al on my on 🙂

Alaric all set up for CampNaNo 2017

And so me and Alaric are signed up for one of the Nation Novel Writing Months add ons... CampNaNo. This used to be Script Frenzy and is where I'd work on my comic book/graphic novel stuff. Pretty much I still keep it as a Screnzy and work on my graphic novels and Al's role playing game. There is also a poem a day writing challenge NaPoWriMo in April so I bung things up on the WoPo site and the FB page and things to help others. I myself take it as a time to look over what I am doing with my poetry and spend a little time each day on it.

Catapault pencils for the Stubby Writing Challenge 2017

Both girls are doing their own CampNaNo - but me and Jean are having a writing race - known as The Stubby Challenge!!! This is how I did my first actual written and not voice to text stuff after the head bang (I think but to be honest it's all a little foggy back there!). It doesn't involve screens and I can write as big as I like and Jean loves it and... it works - though obviously it means that at some point there is going to have to be a lot of typing up!

The way it works is that we find funky pencils - this time it is catapaults to go with the camp them, last year I think it was dolphins and bats?

We have the ream of paper and our pencils and we write! Then when you are scratching the paper with wood you sharpen the pencil - the first to end up with a pencil stub wins! We even have a special Octarine pencil sharpener from the Discworld Emporium!

Jean Working on her Foodverse CampNano 2017

I'm slowely lurching my way through a novelisation of my first comic book script about how The Punk ends up being apparently immortal. It is slow progress but that is fine 🙂 Jean is working on her project from last year too - The FoodVerse - we typing up and editing chapter one An Apple Pavlova, now it is about about carrots.

Mary on the other hand is dictating a set of stories about a rainbow jungle and the sparkly creatures within 🙂 When the rest of us are working on our books she sits and colours in the picture she has chosen for the front cover. Interestingly they are quiet Roald Dahl in nature.

Mary Colouring in her Front Cover Campnano 2017

Of course I am still managing some typing so am kind of working on multiple projects - this means that I have to have check lists to keep myself on track especially as the time I can concentrate for is actually so small - I can't do hyper focus and I can't fall through the page - my brain just shuts down and I fall asleep! But I think I am getting there and producing good stuff.

So yeah CampNaNo is go and I am prodding people to write and create!

Shame (by )

I'm at the pub for a meeting, but there's a minor commotion from next door; I hear a glass smash and some amused voices. A regular, a well-known local in his nineties, has had too much to drink. A party is organised to walk him to his nearby home; everyone responds with good-natured smiles. "Aw, bless him."

But I am transfixed with vicarious shame. I feel horribly embarrassed for him, and my stomach churns with stress about it. I find everyone else's reactions jarring; they seem mildly jealous of him if anything, while I find his situation absolutely humiliating. If something like that happened to me - no, let me be clear: if I did that to myself and people saw - I would not be able to look those people in the eye ever again. I don't know if I'd be able to leave my house.

I have a mental model of the world, which gives me expectations about what counts as "normal" behaviour for the people and other objects in the world. When I see things happen that are consistent with my model (objects fall to the floor when released, people are happy with they are given cake, that sort of thing) it is unremarkable; things that are inconsistent attract my attention, as they indicate either that I have incomplete knowledge of the situation or a problem in my mental model. As I've built this mental model over the decades of my existence, I've checked every new thing I incorporate into it for logical inconsistency with something else, so I'm reasonably confident that it's consistent and a correct approximation to some kind of objective reality.

The majority attitude towards inebriation contradicts my mental model, but I can't just incorporate it, because it's inconsistent with other things in my model.

For instance, people are critical of flaws in others. As a child, if I made a mistake, I'd invoke the wrath of my mother. At school, if I made a slip and broke the myriad and shifting social contracts, I'd attract the attention of the bullies. In my career, if I make a mistake it will have consequences for my colleagues, the company I work for, and the users of the products I work on. If I make a mistake in my domestic duties at home, my children won't get to school / their clubs / parties they're invited to, or we won't have food for dinner; and they will be angry with me. If I make a mistake while driving, I will injure or kill myself or others. I often hear people complaining about other people who have made mistakes, even if those mistakes had no actual negative consequences; they are criticised for making mistakes as a matter of principal.

Mistakes are very easy to make; a moment's inattention can result in something important being forgotten. Slip-ups attract ridicule and disapproval.

But the way people react when somebody has deliberately made themselves into an idiot through inebriation starkly contradicts that general trend. Why is there an exemption made for this case?

I had a dream, when I was aged somewhere between eight and ten or so years old. In this dream, I'm on a huge futuristic spacecraft, of a similar scale to a cruise ship, full of passengers, watched over by a team of sinister police robots. I'm in a fancily-decorated room with little tables dotted around, with passengers sitting at them and chatting. In this room, little drinks are available, in tiny glasses the size of my little fingertip; barely a cubic centimetre each. There is something seedy about this; the drinks are handed out covertly, with much glancing around, out of sight of the police robots. I decide to try one, and the effect is instant; my point of view moves backwards slightly, and I become a third-party observer of my own actions, a passive rider in my own body as I circulate in the room and chatter with people, with this big idiot grin on my face. But the idiot grin attracts the attention of the police robots; scowling and disapproving, the corner me and shoot me with a dart gun which dispenses an antidote, meaning I am instantly myself again. But I feign innocence; I claim I was grinning because I was happy, and that their accusation that I had consumed one of the tiny glasses was unfounded, and act all offended. Even remembering that dream now, thirty years later, causes my face to flush with shame. It's taken quite a lot of bravery to publish it here. I had to build up to it in stages. What I'm ashamed of is that I had a dream in which I was affected by some kind of drug, because it acknowledges the concept of me being so affected even exists.

But far worse than my shame-by-proxy is the sense of alienation, because I'm having this strong emotional reaction that's completely absent in the people around me. It's like everyone around me is laughing and cracking jokes while eating babies. I feel like there's something terribly wrong with everyone around me (which is scary), while logic tells me that the problem is clearly with me. Which is even scarier.

I try and avoid situations where I might be reminded of this. Pubs are risky places to go, but only mildly so; there isn't a strong culture of inebriation in most of them, so I just avoid places like student bars. House parties are far riskier, and I dread being invited to them; accepting the invite may lead to pain, but refusing it means sitting at home on my own knowing what's happening anyway (well, not really knowing; my imagination instead provides a stream of worst-case scenaries), and being on my own while everyone else is having fun (in a way I find inexplicable and distressing) hardly makes a sense of alienation any better. It's worse when the party is at my house (I never hold parties, but people I live with do), because it's harder to hide from a party in my house, people will ask awkward questions if I leave, and I have this feeling like my "safe place" is being invaded; I make my way through life by, where possible, shutting all this stuff away, and it being in my own home makes that harder.

But avoiding situations where people might drink alcohol isn't enough, anyway, even if I could do it perfectly. People still talk about it around me, and thus, I am forced to confront the concept. I can think of no way to avoid it without isolating myself from all people and all mass media.

To be honest, I feel pretty angry about it all. Why do I have to hide, and be an outsider, flinching away from this concept? People around me can, just through saying a few words, hurt me. When a group of friends or colleagues organise a group social activity, I have to choose whether I'll suffer for going or suffer for not going. What's more, I've been told that if I don't go to an event I've been invited to, I'll offend the person who invited me. Apparently this is more important than the pain I'll suffer.

My attempts to tell other people how I feel have often ended badly. Responses tend to be either:

"You're weird, that freaks me out, go away"

"Whoa! That's weird. So does related concept X upset you? How about Y? Really? Hahahah! X! Y! That actually makes you feel ill from me just saying those words? X! Y! Z! This is fun!"

"How dare you criticize my actions! It's my choice what I do with my body, and your choice whether you put up with it or go elsewhere."

Most people just seem confused by it, and then seemingly forget I ever mentioned it. A few people have actually tried to avoid saying things that will upset my in my presence, which is heartwarming, but the concepts are deeply embedded in our culture and are impossible to avoid: attempting to avoid them just leaves awkward gaps, and I know what would fill those gaps. The best that can be done, I suppose, is to say what needs to be said, but without the assumption that everyone feels as the majority does, so I don't feel neglected. But that's not an easy thing to ask.

I don't want to be like this. I can't change the world, so I need to change myself, but how do I do that? It's hard to think about the underlying sense of shame, because the feeling of alienation is too painful; and it's hard to think about the feeling of alienation because the anger clouds it, and anger is such a destructive all-consuming emotion. Indeed, it's taken me years of careful reflection to even isolate the other feelings. My emotional response to exposure to inebriation was basically "Confused burst of painful negative emotions then ANGER". Pulling apart that little burst of emotions before the anger wins out has taken a lot of careful detective work, feeling a bit like a physicist deducing the presence of the Higgs Boson by looking at the trajectories of particles streaming out of a hadron collision. But now I'm aware of the shame at the root of it all, I can feel it. I just can't stop the anger coming in and clouding it.

So perhaps I can address the problem indirectly. What else gives me similar feelings of irrational shame, but without the complexities of alienation and anger on top?

One answer comes to mind: Dancing. I'm usually one of those people who professes he can't dance, and only tries to when under duress; at which point I just find an action and repeat it until whoever's forcing me to dance lets me stop. I have no enthusiasm for it, and struggle to understand why people do it.

But occasionlly, if I'm in a really good mood, listening to dancy music that I have happy associations with, I feel a faint glimmer of a strange pulse-quickening excitement that it might be nice to dance to it. The thing is, if I hold that thought, a flash of embarrassment comes and destroys it, so I need to keep it just out of mental reach. Perhaps if I could overcome that, lesser, shame, I would weaken the greater one. The problem is, I don't know how to. It's not like I'm standing there thinking "I want to dance, but don't know how to"; I mean, I want to dance in the sense that I usually feel very lonely and left out and forgotten when everyone is dancing apart from me, but my problem is that I want to want to dance, and I don't know how to want to.

What else is there that's similar? Oddly, there's something I have the anger about without the shame or alienation: and that's coffee. Around the time when Starbucks was really invading the UK I had a girlfriend who thought Starbucks was great, so I was always being dragged into them. The thing is, I don't like hot drinks at all, and I find the taste of coffee absolutely disgusting. At most, Starbucks could offer me over-priced orange juice, and I got sick of that pretty quickly. This touched a bit of a raw nerve: coffee wasn't being presented as something some people like, as an option; the ubiquitous Starbucks (and their competitors), the attitude of people towards them ("Let's meet in Starbucks", "Fill in this quiz and be rewarded with a Starbucks voucher"), and the decor and advertising all seemed to draw on an assumption that everyone liked the foul stuff, while I didn't.

And, of course, I have a massive chip on my shoulder about that from the alcohol thing. So being offered coffee, or having to go to coffee places and get coffee, gives me this little jolt of irritation. I used to just bite my tongue and repress this, but over the past few years I've decided it's probably healthier for me to let a little bit of snark loose. As a Repressed Minority Coffee Disliker, I probably shouldn't feel I have to put up with everyone assuming I don't exist; so I'm trying to actually say that I think coffee tastes awful and that I hate coffee shops when it comes up. It's cathartic, but there's a lot of pent-up bile left; this will take a while to finish... And I don't think that fixing that will do all that much to fix my anger about alcohol.

There's one more thing that I think might be related. I really like funny things; as a kid, I really liked surreal comedy, and could easily end up laughing so hard I could barely breathe. These days, I've lost that; I feel too much shame about the thought of somebody seeing me laughing like that. I've come close, but then I feel a sudden chilling fear that I'm going to irritate people or that they'll think I'm an idiot. But the difference here is that I can remember not having that fear.

If you'll permit me an aside, I've been teaching my daughter how to ride a bike. I did this by holding her upright and pushing her forward as she starts to pedal, so that she can get going on the bike and learn to balance, because she was struggling with getting started at all. I decided to hold her up and skip the getting started part, because learning to keep balancing while the bike's moving and you're already pedalling is a lot easier - but once you've got the feel for that, you know what riding a bike is supposed to feel like. So then you can learn to start, because you know what state you're aiming for when you push off. Trying to ride a bike from nothing is a lot harder, because you push on the pedal and wobble and fall over, because even if you push off right you don't know how to ride a bike so you'll fall over - so you can't tell if you're learning to push off right or not.

So while I can't imagine dancing in front of people (as opposed to going through the motions of pretending to dance, which is different), or even doing that unspeakable thing with alcohol that could never be in any way associated with me, I can actually imagine myself having a really good laugh about something hilarious. And, just like how knowing what riding a bike should feel like helped my daughter to quickly learn how to start from standing, I think that means I have a chance of being able to overcome the shame and recover that ability.

And maybe learning to deal with that shame will be transferrable, and I'll be better able to deal with other kinds of shame.

So, who is willing to help me overcome a crippling phobea that's causing me untold misery, by coming around to my place and watching Monty Python DVDs? Soft drinks only, I'm afraid.

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