Thursday, 26 May 2022

Author Interview - Chantelle Atkins & Sim Alec Sansford and their latest book!

Today I'm really thrilled to have Chantelle Atkins back on my blog who has just co-authored a book with fellow author, Sim Alec Sansford. I had the pleasure of interviewing them about their latest book: Fortune's Well, Part One, which has just been released.

Book blurb:

In the town of Fortune’s Well a dangerous storm is brewing, and two unsuspecting teenagers are standing right at the heart of it.

 

For JJ Carson, life has not been easy. His father is dead, his mother arrested for the murder, and he has been forced to live on the farm with his alcoholic uncle, Henry. 


Just when things could not get any worse, JJ discovers his living situation is not the only thing that makes him different from the other kids. A dark, swirling mist has made itself at home inside him and it is slowly changing him from the inside out. 

 

Enter Darcie Duffield. Beautiful, popular, and incredibly misunderstood.


Darcie is sick of the status quo and wants to make a difference. After a chance meeting with a strange boy at the river she becomes tangled in a web of lies and deceit stretching back generations, as she tries to help save him from the darkness lurking within. 

 

Why is this happening?

 

Where has it come from?

 

And why is Darcie the only one who can see it?



Cover design by Luke Fielding

Tell readers about your new book. I hear it's part of a trilogy.

 

Chantelle: It is the first in the trilogy, yes. It’s a story about two lonely, misunderstood teens who discover they have special abilities, and that the town they live in (Fortune’s Well) is not all it seems either!

 

Sim: The book, and in fact, the entire trilogy has been so much fun to write. The story honestly took on a life of its own. I can’t say we planned for three books from the start, but it just grew and grew, and I’m still not sure we’ve seen the end of it yet in terms of the universe we’ve created.

 

I understand the two of you wrote the book together, each doing different chapters. How did that come about?

 

Chantelle: It was Sim’s idea to write together, and he already had the concept in place before we started. It just seemed natural to devise a character each and tell the story in first person narrative, from alternating points of view.

 

Sim: As Chantelle says, it seemed right for each of us to have our own characters to reflect our own perspectives of this world. The process was so organic.

 

What inspired the idea for the book? 

 

Chantelle: I’ll let Sim answer that as it was all his idea!

 

Sim: At the time I came up with the idea, there was a lot floating around on social media about mental health. I had this sudden thought about creating a story where something negative (anxiety, depression, bullying, addiction etc.) could lead to something beautiful (magic, friendship, adventure). From there the idea grew, I imagined a young boy covered by a thick, dark mist, only he could use it for good. There were various other ideas too. I shared them with Chantelle and asked if she was willing to co-write. I was delighted when she said “yes!”

 

What did you learn about yourselves from writing jointly? 

 

Chantelle: Mostly just that it is possible! I’ve never written with another author before and didn’t think I would ever want to. I knew of a few authors who did write this way and I just couldn’t understand how it worked! Now that I know, I will definitely be working with Sim again.

 

Sim: I learned the importance of patience and taking the time to create something. It is so easy to get excited about an idea and just go for it. I’m very much a “pantser” when it comes to writing whereas Chantelle is more of a planner. I feel like her influence helped me a lot with my own solo projects. Having someone else work with you causes you to stay disciplined.

 

What was the most difficult part of the book or the joint writing process?

 

Chantelle: Probably for me it was the way we wrote it in Facebook messenger – as in we swapped ideas back and forth that way. Normally, I plan a book to a certain extent first, get the characters right, start writing and then have a notebook/planner running alongside the novel to refer to and add to. We kept meaning to organize it like that but it just didn’t happen. Instead, we swapped chapters back and forth and discussed ideas and plotlines in messages. This worked though! The tricky bit was having to scroll or search back through messages to find plot ideas we’d had and forgotten!

 

Sim: I think I agree with Chantelle on that. It seemed to work really well to just let the ideas flow via messenger, but at the same time the story grew so big and there is so much history and lore that by the time we got to writing book three and had to backtrack or find a certain piece of information, it was difficult.

 

What was the most enjoyable part?

 

Chantelle:I think the energy of it. It was really addictive. We wrote three books in 11 months! They just flew back and forth and we really kept the momentum going. It was a lot of fun. I really looked forward to every chapter I wrote and got so excited every time one of Sim’s arrived in my email!

 

Sim: The best part of this experience was getting to be a writer AND a reader. Although we’d share ideas back and forth, sometimes the story and characters did take control and I never knew what to expect from Chantelle. It was so much fun! That excitement helped inspire me to respond with my own chapter to see where Chantelle would take the story next.

 

Did the characters come first or the idea for the story? Who came up with the idea?

 

Chantelle: It was Sim’s idea, and we build the characters after that. I got a strong idea quite early on for my character and I think Sim did too. They just grew from there until we were quite in love with both of them!


Sim: I completely agree. The idea came first but the characters didn’t hang about at all. One thing I did want for my character, Darcie, was for her to be the polar opposite of JJ in terms of background. Unlike him, she still has both parents in her life. She is also rich and popular. But, despite their differences they still have this fantastic connection. While JJ is alone and bullied (by Darcie’s friend group), she too feels awkward and out of place having moved from America and always having to be perceived as the “perfect” daughter.

 

Who came up with the title for your book?

 

Chantelle: I can’t actually remember! We changed our minds quite a few times, I remember that. There were other ideas too. In the end, the town it's set in became a bigger part of the story than we had originally anticipated so it made sense to name the series after that, and then come up with sub-titles relevant to each individual book.

 

Sim: The original title idea was “A Jar Full of Empty” which was this bizarre paradox that came to me along with the idea of including mental health in the story. The jar full of emptiness being a metaphor for how the kids were feeling. I pitched the name of the town as Fortune’s Well, after a place I used to travel through years ago. Every time I saw the name of the stop on the bus I used to think about how mysterious and magical it sounded.

 

Did you each stick with your own characters or were they interchangeable between you both?

 

Chantelle:We stuck with them but obviously we had to get to grips with writing the other characters in our chapters too. That was nerve wracking to start with, but I think because they took on such a life of their own, we were soon easily able to write scenes with the other person’s character in.

 

Sim: The other interesting thing about characters, is all the minor characters we introduced and how they grew into key players. For example, Chantelle first introduced the character of Jared Wheeler in chapter one as a school bully. I’m not sure if she planned for him to be anything more than part of that one scene, but I took him in my chapter and expanded his story—He’s then became one of the main antagonists in the book.

 

Have you plans to write any books together in future?

 

Chantelle: Yes! I had an idea for a short story recently and it appears in my recent collection, The Old Friend – A Collection of Tales and Poems, as The Black Van. Before I knew it, I had a novel idea, possibly a series idea, for a YA dystopian/post-apocalyptic story and I asked Sim if when the time was right, he would consider writing it alongside me in the same way and he said yes!

 

Sim: How could I say no? This series has been so much fun to write, I can’t wait to see what else we can create. Alongside Chantelle’s idea we have also discussed various sequels and prequels for Fortune’s Well. I can’t wait to see what happens next!

 

Which of the characters do you relate to the most and why?

 

Chantelle: For me, I absolutely love JJ who I created but I relate to Darcie more to be honest, probably because she is a girl who has body image issues at the start of the series and that’s something that has followed me around in my life. But I do relate to how much of an anti-social loner JJ can be!

 

Sim: I agree with Chantelle here. I find both protagonists to be relatable for various reasons. I find JJ to be relatable because of his solitary nature, but Darcie has this strong desire to be herself and to be accepted for that honest version of herself which really resonates with me, and I’m sure many readers.

 

How much research did you need to do for your book? 

 

Chantelle: Not a lot to be honest as its paranormal/supernatural/superpowers we are writing about, so we could really just let our imaginations fly. We based the town on Dorchester where Sim grew up, so he was always sending me photos and maps of areas we were fictionalizing for the books.

 

Sim: Like Chantelle says, we were able to completely let our imaginations go. However, there was some research in terms of locations and some supernatural lore. The town is based on my hometown of Dorchester in Dorset, so some of the history is accurate to a certain extent, the rest of the details are dramatised for the story.

 

How long did it take you to write this book?

 

Chantelle: I think about three months for each one, roughly? I know it took 11 months to write all three.

 

Sim: That’s right! I think this book started around Christmas and was finished by March… Madness!

 

Is this a new genre for you?

 

Chantelle: For me, yes! I have never written anything about superpowers or ghosts before now! It’s actually made me want to write more in this genre and one of the WIP’s I am working on right now has some similar vibes, with magic, folklore, a weird little town and shapeshifters!

 

Sim: I absolutely love Young Adult Paranormal/Supernatural stories. Ghosts, Vampires, Angels, Demons. My current solo series, The Denver Falls Saga, is paranormal mystery. There’s just so much you can play with, and I enjoy the world building. I’m currently working on a regular Young Adult Mystery series though (void of magic!) and it’s been really interesting. I actually think it’s much more horrifying not being able to explain away evil acts with magic and instead having to get into the psyche of a regular person and why they would do these things.

 

Would you like to tell readers who may not be familiar with you work a bit about your books and which is your favourite?

 

Chantelle: Out of mine, my favourite is and will probably always be The Boy With The Thorn In His Side series. It was with me for so long, as I started writing it at aged 12, and I rewrote it again and again over the years. It got so big and complex and became a 5 book series, and I am currently working on a spin-off book for it!

 

Sim: For me, I have plenty of books to finish off and get to the publication stage, but short of a couple short stories/novellas, I only have one novel published currently. That being, Welcome to Denver Falls, the first book in the Denver Falls Saga. I think it will always be my favourite because it’s my first published novel. There’s plenty or mystery and paranormal elements, and even a bit of romance. It’s been described as “Twilight without the vampires” which I think is a great description. 

 

When it comes to Chantelle’s book, I love them all! But I highly recommend her Holds End trilogy, starting with A Song For Bill Robinson, I think it’s my favourite series ever! I’ll never stop recommending it.

 

 

Do you have a timetable for the publication of Parts 2 and 3 of the trilogy?

 

Chantelle: Not exactly, but I would imagine they will all come out in 2022.

 

Sim: Agreed. We have a rough schedule for when they’ll be released (possibly 2 month between each release), however, we are still making some last minute changes to book three… So, we’ll see!

 

Many thanks to Chantelle and Sim for this fascinating interview and insight into their writing partnership, and for daring to do it!  They have challenged all my own ideas that it can't really be done in fiction - they've proved it absolutely can.  The book sounds an intriguing read and I know Dorchester a bit, having lived in Bournemouth for many a year. I will leave you with an excerpt from Fortune's Well and links to Chantelle and Sim's social media links and of course, where you can buy the e-book. I believe that a paperback will be following.



Extract:

This can’t be happening…

It’s like a dream and it all happened so fast that I know I will be lying awake in bed all night trying to piece it back together again. Trying to relive it… I’m shaking hard. My eyes feel too wide and my skin too hot and when I look down at my fists, I swear I can still see the black swirls drifting around them.

Darcie is resting her head on my shoulder and suddenly that helps - suddenly her doing that gives me exactly what I need to think clearly. Jared was hurting her. He was going to attack her.

So, it’s not just me…

She’s shaking too. She must be in shock. I lift my arm slowly and stiffly and wrap it around her shoulder. The torchlight bounces around outside for a few more moments and then starts to drift away. The groundskeeper might be heading off, but Jared and his friends are all still out there.

‘I think we need to get out of here,’ I whisper. She lifts her head and stares at me, biting her lip, trying not to cry and I nod at her. ‘Darcie, right?’

She nods again. ‘And you’re-’

‘JJ.’

She smiles and wipes a stray hair from her face. ‘I think you just saved my life, JJ.’

‘Nah.’ I glance away before straightening up to check the window. ‘We gotta go.’

She gets to her feet nodding and I open the door slowly and glance out before committing to movement. I start to move when she stops me, grabbing my arm.

‘What was that stuff?’ she hisses, and in the darkness, I can see the whites of her eyes, the fear in them. I stare back at her and I want to tell her I don’t know, I didn’t see any stuff, but I can tell that she is not kidding.

‘I don’t know what you mean,’ I reply softly.

She nods as if this is enough for her and she follows me out of the building. For a moment, I’m lost. I don’t know what to do. I just beat Jared up. The other kids are still around. The black mist…it did something to me. It was like it was there when I needed it, but that can’t be possible, can it? Does all this mean Uncle Henry was right? I’m as crazy as my mother? I want Darcie to ask me again, to tell me what she saw so that I know I’m not losing my mind but not yet. We have to get out of here first.

 

Chantelle’s links:

 

www.chantelleatkins.com

 

facebook.com/chantelleatkinswriter

 

twitter.com/chanatkins

 

Instagram.com/chantelleatkinswriter

 

 

Sim’s links:

 

www.simalecsansford.com

 

facebook.com/simalecsansford

 

twitter.com/simsansford

 

Instagram.com/simeon_alec

 

 

Book link:

 

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09Z189QDC

 

mybook.to/HangmansRevenge

 

Other links:

 

https://books2read.com/u/bx1a7J

Friday, 15 April 2022

Little Guide to Pet Peeves (Pt 9 - The Final Ragbag)

Well, I've now come to the final episode of something that was years in the planning. I began this 'little guide' for fun regarding some of my personal bête-noires and so with no further ado here it is!


Trousers that get wet at the bottom


I suppose another way of saying trousers that are too long or heels too flat. These are trousers you didn’t realise were scraping the pavements until, following a spell of damp weather, you discover you’ve got sodden hems flapping around your ankles. The wet patches can extend to the knees in some cases. Furthermore, on removal of said wet-bottomed trousers, you find the hems are also coming apart where a compound of recent rainfall and mucky gritty debris have found the weakest link and caused frayed holes.


Tetrabank

I’ve handed this job over to my sister now who is assiduous about cutting open cartons of used juice or milk and turning them upside down on the draining rack until they’ve dripped dry. But when I did this thankless chore I didn’t have the patience to do all that. Instead, I would attempt to rinse them out through the snipped off pouring slot and then simply chuck them in a carrier bag hanging on a door handle. Soon the bag would be bulging and the dreaded journey had to be made to the Tetrabank. Admittedly it was only a few hundred yards up the road, situated in the car park along with the other recyclable banks, but the worst bit about it was having to feed each individual carton into the (usually) overflowing maw of the Tetrabank. Thus half flattened cartons still dripping with watery juice would be boomeranged out at you. Like the other city of cartons were saying ‘no room at the bin’ (one of my sister's expressions).

Thankfully, our recycling crew now pick them up from our premises.

 

Child-proof lids.



Image courtesy of Pixabay


I get that they’re supposed to be child-proof. Nobody wants to be running their child to A & E because they swallowed some lethal poison, but making them adult-proof too? You’re supposed to somehow squeeze these two parts on the lid, press down on the lid and turn at the same time. This is guaranteed to cause a sore red hand at the very least, and blisters and cuts if you’re unlucky. That is, if you still have any mobility left in your wrist. This action is guaranteed to disturb your mental equilibrium so that you wished you’d never begun the operation. Sometimes the anger and frustration gives you the strength you need through sheer fury that you end up with spilt bleach all down your trousers, the smell of which will remain for the next twenty-four washes at least. 



Katie

...or any ‘ie’ suffix which infantilises a name. I appreciate that this may be peculiar to me and that if someone is christened Katy then that is their name. I also have no problem with shortenings of name that end in ‘ie’ or ‘y’ such as Jackie or Debbie or their male equivalents. But Katie isn’t a shortening. It’s adding an extra little appendage that doesn’t need to be there. At best it’s an attempt to sound chummy, but when anybody calls me Katie I get the heebie-jeebies. Katy sounds fine on anyone else but it’s just not me. It doesn’t sound fun, or chummy, but annoying and belittling.

 


Waiting




alberto-barbarisi-sO3WT9XJOhE-unsplash.jpg

Waiting. Waiting for anything. For taxis that are late or for phone calls which don’t happen. But worst of all, is waiting for medical appointments, for instance if the doctor or dentist is running half an hour late or longer. As I turn up early for appointments, that makes the wait even longer and even more stressful. So by the time I get to see the doctor or dentist I’m already in a state of heightened anxiety. But there is also a palpable relief that the waiting is over!


 

You’ll love this


No I won’t. Not now you’ve told me to! They tell you before you’ve had a chance to come at it fresh and untainted - whether a song or a programme or a book. You’ll Love This. Well, I might have, but not now you’ve told me I will. I'm cussed like that. I like to discover things for myself. I don’t like you making up my mind for me or compelling me to fulfil your expectations of me. That’s pressure! What if I don’t like it? What if I prove you wrong? If you’d only say ‘I think you’ll like this’, that’s an altogether different proposition. Those two words ‘I think’ helps us both. It gives you permission to be wrong and allows me flexibility and lets us both save face.


Wrong dates


This will sound very nerdy to some but I hate it when people put the wrong dates of songs on YouTube. Here's one that I once saw: O Lori by Alessi 1976. What? It was 1977 not 1976!  What's in a year you may ask? Well, quite a lot when you're 17 and those summers couldn't have been more different weather wise. 1976 was hot and dry; 1977 cool and damp, and When Alessi sang about riding a bicycle with you and chasing you through the meadow it evokes memories of that cool summer. Another one: Men Without Hats was 83 and not 82. I could go (and on) but for those of us with memories attached to songs (or other events) we don't just pinpoint the year, but the particular month of a year. Jeez, we could probably pin it down to the hour if we thought about it!


Changing duvet covers



jurien-huggins-dEUYgSzEosc-unsplash.jpg

This surely has to belong in everyone’s. Grappling with a thing twice as wide as you and trying to fathom out where each of the four corners are inside of the wretched cover. You can always get someone to help you. But that can be double the trouble as you pinch the corner of your side’s bottom corner and swear blind you’ve got it right, stuffing the duvet into its designated corner to prove it – only to find that it’s somehow ended up in the top corner opposite or found its way out altogether! After half an hour of wrestling and swearing, if you’re lucky, the duvet will eventually take shape beneath the cover, albeit a lumpy one.  But if you can shake it out so that the duvet reaches all parts and you can punch down the lumps, you know you’re on the home straights.

NB: we've discovered duvet covers with three-sided, zips! Expensive but they make all the difference to this tedious task!

And that's it for now (although I will probably update from time to time, particularly the first one on lingo and expressions.) But I hope you've enjoyed the series and that some of it, at least, has resonated. Or perhaps brought about a completely different reaction which is equally fine! We are all very unique in our loves and hates but I've enjoyed engaging with those who've taken the trouble to read and added comments in the comments section. 

Happy Easter/springtime, one and all! 



Tuesday, 22 February 2022

Little Guide To Pet Peeves - (Pt 8 – Pertaining to transport - pre-Covid, anyway)


The usual preamble––I began this 'little guide' for fun regarding some of my personal bête-noires and so here I am again, with my penultimate one.  This was all written before Covid but since 'opening up' maybe a lot of it has become relevant again.


Train Ticket Queues

I use trains less and less these days, but not being the calmest of people, one thing that raises my blood pressure is when you want to buy your tickets for that day’s journey, and there’s someone at the head of a long queue, snaking towards the entrance, booking tickets for several weeks in advance and asking the ticket official all sorts of non-relevant things––can my dog and my three aunties have forward facing seats too? Hmm, I’m still not sure whether to get the 15.23 or the one an hour later; can you give me the times of arrivals again? OK, and how much will that be? Then said woman (it is usually a woman) fiddles around for her card––can I pay with this card?––and is still firing questions at the hapless ticket officer while he or she dispatches her tickets and receipts.
 

Train Window Screens


free image courtesy luca morvillo (pexels)


The local line between Totnes and Exeter passes some of the most stunning views in the country. Once you’ve passed through Newton Abbot, you can enjoy a most spectacular ride, particularly if you’re lucky enough to get a forward facing seat on the sea side. The estuary opens out at Newton Abbot as you look over to Shaldon nestling over the water beyond the bridge and boats. (Coming in the other direction, towards Newton Abbot on an autumnal evening you will be treated to some striking sunsets or misty skies). Before you pass through Teignmouth station the beach-hutted land at the harbour stretches our towards Ness Rock at Shaldon. Boats and masts provide a splash of colour before the estuary widens out and becomes open sea. Between Teignmouth and Dawlish Warren––another place of outstanding beauty and renowned for its rare winter bird visitors and its dunes––there are five tunnels for the train to pass through. Brunel had them built into the distinctive red Devon cliffs so the railway could connect those in the south west with the rest of the country. 

You may even recall how we were all marooned for a few weeks after the storms of February 2014 battered the rails and the line was left swinging and unmoored. (just a little plug here—I go into a lot more detail about this line in my book The Dead Club!)


The open seas have so much variation: you may be treated to great spumes of wave froth on a rough spring tide, choppy white horses or a picture-card sparkling sea on a beautiful summer’s day with families enjoying the beach in summer. Or people will wave at the train from the sea wall. Beyond Dawlish Warren’s sandy dunes, where on the low tide you can see men with their buckets collecting molluscs, lies the lovely seaside town of Exmouth. We had a lovely friend who lived there––we used to meet in Teignmouth, a kind of halfway point between our two homes. Sadly she’s no longer with us but we carried on waving over to her spirit as we passed! And it’s not as though all the scenery is on the sea side either. On the land side you have the towering red cliffs, you have the seafront houses and hostelries of Dawlish and then the beautifully named Starcross. Beyond is Powderham Castle and the deer park, the deer often to be seen congregating in the fields as you rattle by. Back on the seaside, little clusters of habitation appear again, as the sea narrows into estuary once more, in the form of Lympstone, and Topsham (where we’ve spent many a family celebration) before arriving into Exeter. And I’ve barely mentioned the skies and cloud formations.


Now the point of this rather long preamble will become clear! Why with so much beauty, variation, and nature would anyone pull the window screens down when it’s sunny outside and prefer to be ogling some tiny screen of phone or tablet rather than the seaside! Such is life in the Internet age. But I have to confess that if I’ve been sitting on a seat behind or in front with a shared window screen to one of the guilty ones, I’ve whisked the screen up to reveal the erstwhile obscured view.  As yet, nobody has dared to pull it down again!



Minging cars 


Car interiors seem to absorb smells into their fabric if not cleaned regularly. Stale crisps or old dog or rotting umbrella canvas, I'm sure you've all travelled in cars that ming like this. Someone—a friend or acquaintance—has kindly offered you a lift somewhere and it would show ingratitude to turn it down. You may not even be aware of the state of their carriage until it turns up and by then it's too late anyway as you try and mask your urge to dry retch and ask how the windows open in the back. 


I once worked for someone like this and his car was like a travelling hovel—people spoke of old nappies in the back—and it wouldn't have surprised me. But when people are offering to take you from A to B, you put up and shut up. 


Train carriages can be like this too. For some reason people taking the lid off their soup or opening a packet of cheese and onion crisps (already listed as a pet hate) or opening up their box of cold pasta and hummus can make the lives of others passengers hell as the stinking aromas taint their journeys. They certainly have me moving seats.


Do you have any travel pet hates?  Please do leave them in the comments section!



Monday, 3 January 2022

Writing and other goals for 2022

Writing and other Goals for 2022


It's that time of year again where I like to set out my goals for the year ahead. One year often seems to flow into the rest so much of what I intend for this year will just be more of the same and nothing dramatic.


Last year I finally published  'The Colour Of Wednesday' the follow up novel to 'Down The Tubes' and co-edited the Poetry Collection from our Facebook Group 'Don't Go Breaking Our Arts' (for artists and writers with long term conditions and disabilities) with Poet Alan Morrison. 








I also began my next big writing project: an autobiography of sorts, with an angle, which has been exciting and nostalgic to do. It really helped to discover that I can write on my phone in comfort and will sync with my iPad and computer. So all I have to do is copy into a Word document when next on my computer. I spent many a pleasant hour in the summer month in the shade of the beautiful gardens opposite tapping into my phone—doing two things I enjoyed at once. As a consequence I’ve written many thousand words already although I’m nowhere near finished so I may have to break it up into more than one volume. 


I also had one of my poems  ‘Lessons’ published in The Morning Star and I almost completed my Pet Peeves series of blogs; just a couple more to go now. So I’m pretty chuffed with fulfilling most of my writing achievements. 


This year I’m hoping to make a lot more headway with my memoirs, improve on the quality and output of my poetry and do more poetry submissions as well as finishing the Pet Peeves blog and maybe beginning another series of blogs on something completely different. I’m also hoping to find about more about arts council funding. 


Other activities


Singing


Hoping to continue with online singing via Zoom which gives much pleasure as well as keeping the old vocal chords oiled. Although I don’t want Coronavirus to continue restricting activities I do want the greater choose and online opportunities that have arisen from the pandemic to continue in perpetuity.


Genealogy 


Continuing to collate the stories and information of my Jewish ancestry to honour and remember those who were Holocaust victims. 


Health goals


Last year I did try acupuncture for my hyperhidrosis. I’m not sure it helped a lot but I only had three sessions. It may have helped a bit as the Hyperhidrosis hasn’t been so bad since but that may be the mild weather. Social anxiety is a big trigger and the hyperhidrosis seems to be just as bad in these situations. There are one or two other things to try or retry but with each new thing that doesn't work it's easy to lose hope...


I did continue with the therapy for ME/CFS remotely, but that has ended now. I’m hoping to be accepted for the decode ME study in the new year, the largest of its kind and hope that by partaking in this research it will throw new light on causes and treatments of this debilitating conditions. ME has too long been overlooked and ridiculed.  


At some point I would like to be assessed regarding  neurodiversity. I think a lot of problems I had in childhood were now what we'd call 'on the spectrum'. I know several adults who have been diagnosed late in life and also many women on the spectrum have been under diagnosed because of their ability to 'mask' and 'fit in'.


I obviously have much wider wishes for 2022 that extend to a fairer world and a preserving of our planet but that is too mammoth in scope for my little corner of the Internet...


So it just remains for me to wishing you all a happy and healthy new year!

Saturday, 18 December 2021

Little Guide to Pet Peeves (Pt 7 - Pertaining to Seasons)



I began this 'little guide' for fun regarding some of my personal bête-noires and had hoped to finish it this side of Crimbo. I have two more which will have to be postponed until next year as I like to do goals for the year early January. 

This was intended to be part 8 but as it contains some seasonal references I have decided it will be the last one before Christmas.

Snow

Yes, the white stuff. How can it be a pet hate, you ask, it looks so beautiful, big fluffy feathers falling whimsically from the sky and transforming even the most mundane scenery into a magical wonderland. Even your wheelie bin, with its white hat and soft base looks like a treasured thing. And I will concede the best thing about snow IS it’s beauty and is to be captured on film or as a 'still' from your iPhone’s camera, preferably through the window from the warmth of your sitting room to share and delight in when it’s long gone. But that’s where it ends. It’s cold. It turns to slush. It goes grey and filthy. Worse. It becomes a lethal skating rink of cobbled ice, threatening to upend you and have you cold-footing it to A & E to check which of your precious old bones may have fractured. Kids love it, of course, and young couples might find it romantic but post middle age most of us hate it. You have to trust cats on this. They look out on their territory with justifiable suspicion and refuse to venture out in it when the door’s held open for them. They don’t want cold wet stuff on their paws any more than we do.



'Cat' by guvo59 courtesy of pixabay



Meteorological spring (and summer, autumn and winter) 


It’s what BBC weather people say on March 1st, June 1st, September 1st and December 1st respectively. But when I was a gal, Spring began on March 21st, summer on June 21st and so on.


If you do a quick Google you will see that the old way is based on the astronomical seasons based on the earth's position in relation to the sun, while meteorological seasons are based on the annual temperature cycle.


Well, you can prefix a season with the word meteorological all you like but it ain’t going to change the seasons. As my birthday is just ahead of the Summer Solstice for instance I have often observed that the real summer weather frequently comes after 21st June. Similarly the real bitterly cold weather frequently occurs from late December onwards. So I’m sticking with the tried and tested.


Fresh Air Fiends*


Now don’t get me wrong, I love a warm breeze or a cool breeze on a stiflingly hot airless summer’s day. But opening windows when it’s winter or forty five degrees Fahrenheit outside? What’s that all about? I can understand people wanting to freshen their sleep-stale rooms for a couple of minutes but there are some people who insist on windows open all the time. They see or feel the central heating is on and insist on throwing a window open whatever the outside temperature. There they are flinging off their cardigans and there’s poor old me, putting on my hat, coat and scarf and after a few minutes asking if anyone minds if I shut the window please, earning me a few odd looks. Are you going down with something do you think, they ask. Well, I will if you leave that darned window open any longer. And don’t get me started on Aircon. I started travelling first class on trains, having found the standard class more and more of a struggle over the years, and with a railcard it was surprisingly reasonable. No longer sparsely populated by men in bowler hats (if it ever was), you also got a complimentary drinks and snacks. But along with that, especially on Cross Country trains, you also got cold air blasted down your neck in February courtesy of the Aircon. I lost count of the times I had to ask the train manager to turn it off or down. Why they think we pay for first class to sit in a arctic blast defies belief.


* This, of course, was written pre-Covid and the importance of getting ventilation in to dilute the virus can't be stated enough.  But for folks like me who have strange body temperatures, we just have to avoid  all this fresh air stuff.


            Blur-1 by Pexels Courtesy of Pixabay


Christmas Songs 


Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, Frosty The Snowman and all those endless festive tunes that are piped through stores once the Ghosts of Halloween have taken off on their broomsticks.  Of the Christmas pop songs there are one or two notable exceptions - 'Merry Christmas War Is Over' by John and Yoko Ono is a fabulous song of which I never tire (but then I don’t overplay it). Greg Lake ‘I Believe In Father Christmas’ is another classic. Slade’s ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’ was once a classic and when it first came out it was iconic. Now it’s just become a raucous cliche.  I suppose the same could be said for many Christmas carols but I’d still rather hear most of them than Slade.


Well, that's all for now and apologies if this all sounds a bit Bah Humbug but I hope you've enjoyed the posts throughout the year and I really do wish you all the best festive season as possible in the current circumstances!  


And all the best for 2022!

Tuesday, 23 November 2021

Little Guide To Pet Peeves (Pt 6 - out and about)


I began this 'little guide' for fun regarding some of my personal bête-noires and so here I am again, hoping to finish the series before Crimbo.  This was all written before Covid but since 'opening up', maybe a lot of it has become relevant again.

Chuggers

I’m sure ‘charity muggers’ are unanimously loathed, which is maybe why they’ve largely disappeared from our streets. But at their height, charities would send out over-zealous keen young things to jump in your path or dance in front of you with their clipboards and silly comments. In an aggressive market economy, even charities felt they had to up their game and profits with a sound business plan and a decent pension plan for the CEOs. So out went the humble tin which volunteers shook with the obligatory badges to pin on your lapel to show you’d donated. In came the chuggers with their clipboards and contracts for you to sign since it was no longer enough for you to give one-off donations. I had young men dancing in front of me telling me how nice I looked today (believing flattery would get them everywhere - it didn’t.) I’m afraid I’m the wrong person to mess with however chirpy or good- looking the boy might be. But I think the booby prize has to go to the young girl who shouted half way up the high street as I was advancing, ‘hello lady in green’. What was this supposed to achieve? A sense of flattery that I’d been especially selected from my fellow shoppers or one of embarrassing me into submission? Probably a bit of both but it achieved neither. I scowled into Peacocks to avoid said offending chugger, annoyed with myself for not having a ready retort


Formal Forms of Address


This is the flip side of the informal and nauseating terms of address such as the ubiquitous hun (see Pt 1). But it also irks me to be called Miss Rigby. It’s not just the ultra formality - and, sometimes insincere, politeness - it stems from an archaic time when a woman’s title was largely determined by her marital status. Of course that’s why Ms was invented - to disguise whether you were a Miss or a Mrs. But the pronunciation is always cringey and none more so in a situation when someone asks ‘is that Miss or Mrs?’ forcing you onto the back foot when you mumble in reply ‘Well muzz actually’. It makes you feel like a fussy feminist purist rather than the casual affable laidback person that was in conversation moments before. And leaving off your title is no guarantee of someone not supplying you with one anyway.


Years ago, tired of my local Nat West Bank addressing me as Miss Rigby every time I did a transaction, I got the title removed from my account in the hope that they would dispense with the formalities. But no. They still addressed me as Miss Rigby!


They do it because they can, they’ve got your name and your number – and I didn’t know what to do to stop them. But then I discovered a way of getting my own back. Thank you, Mr Parker. Much obliged to you Mr Parker (Nosy by any chance?) Well, they always had their name tags with first and last name on their lapels.


In the end I had to make a point of saying ‘please, call me Kate’ - which to their credit they did once I’d pointed it out to them. But I’d rather they didn’t call me anything or at least asked me how I liked to be known!


Untrusting Cashiers

Maybe you’ve also had this where you go to the till with an item and it’s not got a price on. The assistant at the till then asks you if you remember how much said item was and you do, you remember clearly, you can visualise all the other same items with their price tag on, it’s just that you happened to pick the one where it somehow got detached or maybe it was never priced in the first place. You tell the assistant that it was 1.75 without wavering and she still rings the bell and calls someone to check the flipping price!


People spreading their germs about in public.


Have people never heard of the saying coughs and sneezes spread diseases? And fair enough, you might expect it in a doctor’s surgery waiting room but what about those martyrs who stagger into work, thinking they’re being heroic and and then infecting the whole damned office with their horrible lurgey? It would have been so much better if they’d just had the common sense to stay off work because infecting half the work force isn’t impressing the boss, especially if he or she is laid up with it for three weeks as a result.


Then there are shops where a snuffling assistant hands you your loose change, the same hand which nanoseconds before handled a snot-filled tissue. This requires the hand gel on hand to smear liberally over your palms before you’ve even left the shop. Or cafes and restaurants. If you’re anything like me you will leave as soon as you get wind of a sniffle or a cough because the last thing you want are those nasty droplets breeding all over your Danish pastry. Or on the trains where there is some oblivious yoof - usually male - sneezing and coughing in the seat in front of you. You catch him using his bare wrist to wipe his snitch. These are probably the worst offenders. They just accept that colds are a part of life and a small inconvenience or price to put up with for that three day music festival camping in a wet field. In the presence of these types my seat is promptly vacated and if I’m lucky I will find another well clear of a non germ-free adolescent.


As mentioned above, this was first penned in pre lockdown and I'm still hopeful that some people have become more aware since we 'opened up' the economy and society post vaccination, but there are many others who many seem to have reverted to type!


Please feel free to share yours in the comments section below.