Category: Alaric

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.

The Jan Recap… (by )

It's the end of January so what has gone on in the household snell-pym in the first month of 2017?

For a start there was the end of Christmas, I am still making the last few Advent vids ready for Christmas next year. We delivered presents though sadly not all the presents so we still have a back log!

Also mine and Mary's birthdays - mine involved a coffee, meal and shopping with Al before hospital stuff but we have only just done the proper celebration with kids and friends this weekend just gone which was also Mary's birthday. There was also posh vegan/Gluten Free brunch. Mary has so far played in the Waterstones cafe with her friend Lilly as her party is going to be in two weeks time. We've planned the party and got stuff ready for it.

This includes me working out how to make upcycled unicorn head bands and tail belts and little roll and pop up horses for the kids to make.

My mother was hospitalised so there was a trip to Essex and the adventures of getting home on the train which were unexpected.

DIY wise we have fixed several toys, remounted a coat rack which had pulled off the wall, dealt with networking and upgrading Jean's computer.

We got a telescope - an amazing thing which was a pool of Christmas money instead of presents for Al and Jean and part of mine and Mary's birthdays. We've seen binary stars so far. It was an undertaking to assemble and we now need to build a storage/transport box but it is assembled and being looked through though we've only had like three clear nights!

I've had three lots of testing at the hospital which took it's toll and norovirus hit the household. I missed a theatre meeting about performing a monologue and a poetry recording evening but I am being given second chances at those so that's all good.

I also missed my Krav self defence one off class and a poetry book launch which made me sad but on the other hand I was live streamed reading poetry at Food For Thought.

Talking of poetry I have also been typing up and editing poems from the BOOKCASE (Not shelf) of notebooks I have. The shear number is insane obv. not all of it is usable but a lot is so I have been organising Turquoise Monster and have even started submitting work again (as in 2 poems so far). I've written three poems this month predictable all about Trump. Of course I am doing my poetry writing challenges so I've drafted a good few more mostly not about Trump.

Jan has also been me gearing up for the poetry writing challenge that I host over at Wopo.

I have also designed, refined and created mini poetry scrolls, story scrolls, made bookwallets etc... for blank scrolls for others to write poetry on, personalised pencils and made write your own poem kits, made and put together 100 mini zine surprise pouches, story boarded two more zines, drafted half a short story, edited a couple of flash fictions, tried to write daily on this blog and started on the mammoth task of trying to sort out the Salaric Craft blog.

Also Storystorm - what used to be Picture Book Idea Month has rebranded and moved to Jan. so I have been idea generating and expanding on those ideas for kids books.

Alaric has been making a cufflink holder for the cufflinks I made him for Advent, the girls have been making invites and decorations for Mary's party and we have all been working on the cosplay outfits for True Believers Comic Festival which is this weekend coming. This has involved sewing, sticking, painting, metal twisting, papier mache and buying new wellys.

I had to get a third print run of my colouring book Love: A Stranger Dream made and in general have been trying to sort out The WigglyPets Press.

I have been teaching myself origami and have folded lit. hundreds of things from geometric modules to make bigger things from to little stand up foxes to pretty little boxes.

We've organised things for getting back down the allotment, so just sorting out containers for soil etc...

I've knitted four hats, made an Ironman craft kit, taken the kids to two (not us) birthday parties. Three projects are still currently being designed and refined including mending a rocking horse that is older than me. I accidently made a pair of slippers from an old coat whilst trying to make a portal gun (please tell me this happens to other people!).

Alaric made my laptop usable again (for now) and we had a chicken fatality 🙁 and we had to fix the chicken run and stuff and general animal stuff to sort out. We've got our new electric car and there was pie making!

NB pie was not chicken Al is veggi!

Jean is still at Scouts, Jujitsu, and Drama and Mary is doing her Ballet, both girls are missing climbing but for one of the parties we did get to go "caving". Alaric is still doing Krav and Hackspace each week. Oh and of course we had to do my tax (sobs!).

There were also visits from and too various family.

So that was January - it snowed and it rained and there was scary fog.

Failing (by )

I've failed at morning - there is pink tooth paste on our bed and Mary only half dressed in the car for school 🙁 Still I think that is the first proper melt down we have had so far this term with getting ready in the mornings so... getting there - of course Jean has taken the bright turquoise coat to school so I am sure we will be getting a letter or she'll be getting a detention or something about that as she's only allowed black ones :/ To be fair her black one is at the school drying out from yesterday still but she was supposed to take my coat!

My chest is still bad and I've failed to finish decorating the girls rooms. I've now been ill since the 2nd of November and am BORED. Hoping it will sort itself asap.

Yesterday was a System of A Down and Cradle of Filth et al kind of day, Jean came home sans coat and bag as they were too wet and she'd been lent other things in their sted. Which was a relief as I thought she'd gone out in the torrential rain without anything!

Today I wonder if she's remembered her jujitsu bag as she's going straight from school with her friend and I forgot to remind her - I can see the bag from here but that does not mean she hasn't got the trousers and t-shirt with her - the jacket is just too bulky for her to carry in with all her school things.

Maybe I'm letting her down by not sorting it all out, by not driving etc - I hope she is just becoming independent. She's actually pretty epic at organising herself considering she is organising herself and she is mine and Al's daughter and she is only 11.

Rain like this always makes me worry - in 2007 before Gloucester but in Gloucestershire we were flooded and ended up being out of our home for about a year. Rains since have caused issues with the new houses roof etc... and though I know that means it's now a good roof... the fear is there tangled in my brain, if it rains heavy I feel I should go and just check that things aren't flooding - because you know I'd be able to do something about it if it where :/

I'm all mouth ulcery - and run down... thinking it's the aneamia, thinking it's still on running issues of having gotten low levels of gluten etc... over the summer etc... but I don't know.

There are happy things to write about just feeling a little deflated so thought I'd share what was going on. Alaric's new job is great - he's loving it but due to traffic in Cheltenham he is not getting home until gone 7 at night and because he does school run in the mornings he's gone for like 12 hours to do do his 9 hr job. This is the first time I've been on my own on my own in the house everyday since having kids... there has always been a kid about and/or a husband. It's weird because instead of the relief of them having their 2 days in nursery it's like... the house is EMPTY.

I think I'm getting less done but I also think I'm getting more done as I am doing the new rest regime from the doctor to try and get the head bang healing properly.

Tomorrow there is coffee with a friend and at some point I need to go and pick up some bits from another... I have stalls to organise for Salaric Craft and The WigglyPet Press for December and I need to decide weather to shut down my Patreon account due to the fact I think I'm going to end up triple taxed on income that otherwise would be taxed once max.

It's a shame I like the platform... :/

Anyway I will now go and up load pics so I can get back to cutsie blogging and political rants.

Steel Pan Drum Making (by )

Dear Alaric and Jean you asked for ideas for welding projects for presents for me - you know already that I would like a tank drum but I would also like what I call a Calypso Drum - these used to be used at the carnivals when I was a kid and also during the candle light parades and things. I prefer the ones without drilled holes but if they are easier to make then that is fine 🙂

This one looks like a lot of work - from having spent time round industrial workshops as a kid I kind of had it in my head you just bashed empty oil cans - the sort my bro/uncle David makes into BBQ's. And I'm sure there was a drum made from the bonnet of a car or maybe they just let me play with non-sharpe metal and stuff to keep me entertained as a kid!

Also there is this little beaut which is painted and stuff - I didn't know they came painted - it is lovely but about £80 and isn't as many notes I don't think.

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p.s. you might need to enlist the help of musicians in Cheltenham Hackspace for tuning though Jean you are always moaning at my wrong notes so you should be able to do it yourself! Remember Alaric you do have oscillerscopes!

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