Monday, January 4, 2021

Happy New Lockdown Year.

Happy New Year.

And for those of us in the UK, we're back in lockdown. The virus seems to be running rampant, and we're confined to the house for the foreseeable future. Not that it changes much for me. I've been working from home since March, have been quite reluctant to got out unless I need to, and generally avoid people where I can. In fact, we even stayed at home for Christmas this year - just the two of us. It was lovely and quiet.

But I'm not going to dwell on the negatives in this world. There are so many at the moment, and I'm surrounded by them all the time.

A new year - the year of the Ox in China. I have no idea what it means for us, but I suppose I will have a look shortly. I could ask my Chinese friend, but the last time I asked him what a particular year meant for us, he advised me to invest in the stock market. I suspect it's similar advice he would offer now. 

The year is fresh, although I recognise it as an arbitrary marker. Simply clicking over a new number in a calendar doesn't actually change anything. Or does it?  I suppose it offers us a chance to reset, forgive and/or forget, and face the future with a new determinism. This year, that could be quite difficult.

But despite that, I do have plans for this year. By December I'll be able to report back on my strike rate.

Have a great year. Don't let the world get you down.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Whistle While You Work.

I have never really listened to music while I work. As a teacher, I couldn't really do so in the classroom. Even while marking I found it distracted me. And this was also true of listening to music as I write. I didn't choose to listen to music in my last position in administration. In the office, it would have meant earphones, and I preferred to be able to hear what was happening around me and to be sure when my phone was ringing.

Last week, however, I started playing music in the background while working, My role has changed, and I have found that gentle music calms me as I create content. There are some tasks which require a great deal of focus, and so off it goes. I can't focus on certain tasks and enjoy the music.

It's been great catching up on some recent music I hadn't had the opportunity to check out properly. And to play old favourites I hadn't heard in a while.

Will I start listening to music when I return to the office?  I don't know. It may just feel wrong. Time will tell, although I don't anticipate it will be anytime soon.

In the meantime, I'm going to throw on the latest album from Dystopian Future Movies.  Lovely!

Monday, December 7, 2020

Write, Rewrite, Submit.

I submitted a story recently. It has been a while since I sent one out into the wilderness, but a market appeared before me, I had a story that suit and so off it went.

It's been a while since I wrote anything new. I wrote this story a couple of years ago, and never really sent it out. I received great feedback from a reader, who really liked it. I left it for a while and re-read it with fresh eyes, then re-structured it to make a better story. And then it sat on the hard disk for close to a year until a few weeks ago when I sent it on its way.

Will the editor like it as much as I do? I can never be sure unless they buy it. Even if they reject it, they may add a note about what they thought of it. And it might be one they love but it doesn't fit in with the collection they are preparing.

On the other hand, I might receive a standard for rejection, which leaves you none the wiser as to what they thought of it.

Ultimately it makes little difference, apart from the bruising to your ego and your own hurt feelings. And this can really hurt when you read the final product (from which you were excluded) and really hate some of the stories.  "Why?", you shriek as you raise your fist to the darkening sky and curse the editor, the publisher and the other authors.  And then you get on with your day and make your toast for breakfast.

But hopefully I'll hear soon, and the bonus will be an acceptance.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Hunting Dogs.

We lost Mabel, our lovely dog, just a few months ago. She was somewhere around 16 or 17, travelled to the UK with us from Australia, and we miss her terribly.

The house is empty without her. It feels wrong to arrive home and not have her waiting for us. It feels wrong when I'm cooking and she's standing at my feet waiting for a scrap. It definitely feels wrong to wake in the middle of the night and hear the reassuring snuffling sounds of a content dog fast asleep and dreaming of bones.

We lost our other girl, Millie, about 18 months ago. It hurt as well, but not as much as we still had Mabel at our feet. Now we've come to miss them both equally.

We started looking at rescue centres to find another dog, but they're all out. It seems they can't keep up with demand as families working from home decide to get a pup. I guess it's good for all these homeless dogs, but will they be sent back when there is a return to work?

As a side to this new demand, breeders are charging excessively ridiculous sums for their dogs - if you can find one who has any. Waiting lists abound.

In the meantime, we continue to look for a dog. It has to be the right one for us. But we'll know when we see it.  Wish us luck in our hunt.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Continuing Positivity in These Trying Times.

It's been a trying time. The weirdness continues. We're back in lockdown in the UK, the US election has been held along with all the associated fun and games, and the world generally seems like an unhappy place.

There's no doubt that the events of 2020 thus far (and who's to say what still awaits us) have had a terrible effect on the world. Not least in regards to mental health. Even myself, who lives in a relatively safe area, has been fortunate to not have lost anyone, and hold a job which is vital during these times, has felt the stress and strain of the ongoing events. 

I've done my bit to remain positive in social media - trying to share some of my favourite things on a daily basis rather than spread the negativity which seems to dominate our lives. I commenced in March when we all started working remotely from home and managed to get to day 180 before I decided it was enough. I felt I was going to have to start adding things just for the sake of adding things. And not everything can be a favourite.

On the upside I've seen a lot of movies and been reading a lot. I've read and enjoyed a range of magazines which offered short and cheap trial subscriptions. I've read some new fiction from authors in a range of genres. I've devoured a bunch of biographies and autobiographies from (mostly) musicians who interest me. And I've revisited a few old-school Science Fiction and Fantasy authors - some novels I'd read before, some which were new to me. These are mostly beautiful 70s SF novels with the wonderful painted cover art which I managed to find in charity shops. 

It is what it is. We have to learn to live with this. Hopefully we'll all be able to emerge once more and create a new normal. Until then, I'm diving back into the decreasing stack of waiting books next to my bed.

Friday, October 23, 2020

UFOs and Assorted Mysteries

I've always loved the mystery of UFOs. I remember as a child reading and loving a story about a boy who saw a cigar-shaped object land in the field next to his house. It had bright lights and (I think) creatures who got out and walked around. He watched from his bedroom window as they explored, then left. In the morning he thought it was a dream, but there were depressions in the soil.

Not much of a story, I admit, but at the time it captured my attention and interest. I would love to revisit it, if anyone can find it. It was illustrated and in one of those children's annuals. I seem to recall the book was A4, red in colour and...  well, that;s about all, really.

But I never lost my interest in UFOs. I even watched one once, back in Tokyo. Observed it for about 40 minutes. No idea what it was. Alien visitors? Probably not. But it had unusual movement and remains unidentified as far as I'm concerned.

Recently I watched a few documentaries about UFOs. There was one about Bob Lazar and his Area 51 stories, another about Rendlesham Forest, yet another about Dr Steven Greer, and the TV episode about the Berkshire, MA sightings. Fascinating. Not sure on Greer, many questions about Rendlesham (particularly the notebook and the binary code), but much happier with Lazar after many years of doubts. And the Berkshire story is just amazing.

When I was a teenager, there were two stories which were huge in Australia - the disappearance of Frederick Valentich, and the Quentin Fogarty videos of the Kaikoura UFO incident. I won't go into details on these, as google is your friend.  But I recently revisited the original news reports on these, as I hadn't seen them since the 70s. I watched a documentary on Valentich, and read a bunch of websites.  More questions than answers, for sure.

I know a UFO researcher, and I managed to have a brief chat with him about some of these.  I checked out some of his videos, and plan to watch more. And I really need to read some of his books.

Mysteries indeed. And some that may never be solved. But for now, like Fox Mulder, I want to believe.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Red and Black and Murky Grey.

I love my Australian Rules Football. I hold an international membership, watch every game I can through a streaming service and am happy to discuss the game with anyone who cares to join in. In this part of the world, this is not something that occurs very often.

I've supported my team, the Essendon Bombers, since I was about 5 years old. My uncle and aunt were Essendon fans, and they took me to a couple of games. Those were some lean years, but I had a life size poster of Des Tuddenham, and was proud of the red and black. 

When I returned from Japan in the late 90s, I started attending matches fairly often - usually with my cousin and her then boyfriend (now husband). And we were a powerhouse. A strong team who played with determination, aggression and skill. Somewhere after 2001 it all went wrong, and we've occasionally risen to mediocre since then.

This year we had high hopes, which once again were dashed as we floundered in the bottom half of the ladder, missed out on the finals, and heard the same old excuses from our coaches. And , like many other supporters, I'm tired of it.

Seriously, how can the players be adjusting to a game plan after three or four years?

At this present time I don't hold much hope for the next few years. But give it a few months, into trade period and the pre-season, and I'll probably return to my optimistic football self. And hopefully next year will not be a compromised season due to Covid.