Trials by train

I may have already mentioned my BBC orchestra thingamajig that I’m doing. If not, it’s a) a cooperative thing with the BBC and b) in Wapping. Now, for those not in the know Wapping is approximately a year away from Egham.

I jest. It’s on the Overground line, so it’s about a century away. seriously, I didn’t know trains could be that slow. But apparently they can. There is absolutely no risk you might fall over when this train stops, kids. It’s going so slowly you could outpace it going backwards doing cartwheels.

So, anyway, I really wasn’t looking forward to this journey, especially because that train is the rush hour train and it’s always packed to the brim. But this time, I ended up meeting up with someone from Holloway who was also doing the orchestra.

(the week before we kind of were looking at each other like “I think I recognise you from somewhere? Do I know you?” and apparently I’m noticeable on campus, which is slightly scary)

Anyway, so we met up and managed to wrangle seats, so that was nice. Even though the journey was really long and it turns out there’s only so much small talk you can do with someone you barely know. And of course, I learnt a very important lesson in the distinction between silence and awkward silence: silence is when you’ve run out of small talk. Awkward silence is when you’ve just whacked someone in the chest with your bassoon.

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Camp NaNoWriMo

Not ‘camp’ NaNoWriMo. Camp nanowrimo. It’s this April, so I thought I’d kick things off with a repost of one of my old short stories! Basically, I’m doing a compilation of short stories, so this isn’t completely random or anything. without further ado…. enjoy

Prompt 2: The Philosopher’s Stone

The Philosopher’s Stone. A stone rumoured to have the power to turn base metals into gold or silver. A stone with the ability to produce the Elixir of Life; a medicine capable of curing any ailment and giving the drinker immortality. A stone said to be able to revive the dead. Certainly a valuable stone, if one could get one’s hands on one. But not something that exists. Not in the real world, outside of stories and myths and legends.

Or so you might think, if you were a man of science; of realism and rationality. Even a man of the church would be swayed in that direction; religion has a way of closing one’s mind to matters spiritual, ironic as that may seem. No religious men I know of would dare to believe in such a Stone as this, and they certainly would not believe in alchemy. Even if the proof was right in front of their eyes, as it is here, even if it were undeniably true they would continue to disbelieve. Perhaps it is better that way. Leave the alchemy for those with faith.

Most people only ever hear about two of its properties anyway. Its ability to produce gold from base metals is well known, and the production of the Elixir of Life is practically the stuff of myth. People often forget it has other abilities. The one we are chiefly concerned with here is the production of silver.

Silver, you might cry, if your tongue wasn’t still and your heart stopped. Why silver, when silver tarnishes, gold is perfect and the Elixir of Life is coveted above all else? Well, for starters, there are some who prefer silver.

But I won’t beat around the bush. There is a much more pressing need for silver here than its shine or its high value due to its scarcity around these parts. Most people would be content with gold, and I probably would if I had been born anywhere else. Having been born here, on the Edge, I value silver above all else. I might even sell my sister for a pound of the stuff, safe in the knowledge she at least knows how to escape back to here. We’ve done that more than once, as a matter of fact, and I’m never quite sure if she’s forgiven me for it. Nevertheless, the small lump of silver I keep around my neck is a valuable treasure. I would hide it if I didn’t need to keep it on show at all times. Strange, ordinarily you would hide such trinkets under your clothes. Not here though. If you have no silver, the streets aren’t safe. It needs to be visible.

Having said that, I have heard horror stories. If your necklace breaks, for instance, or your bracelet slips over your knuckles. Not everyone comes back out of the dark.

There I go again, rambling on for ages. You must be still so confused. We need the silver, you see. Not for social standing or for our children to sell on a rainy day, or even to look at on boring seventhday afternoons.

We need it for the monsters. Not just your regular, run-of-the-mill monsters; your Bogeyman, troll, harpy or even werewolves, to whom it turns out silver is not inimical.

I mean the real monsters, the ones that crawl and slither out of nightmares. The ones that aren’t really there until you name them, and then they’re fixed in that shape until dawn or until you can banish them with a handful of well-aimed salt, which is often risky, or with a lump of silver, which destroys the physical form permanently.

Obviously, there are some risks to both methods. Salt is easily obtainable, and all you need is a pinch. But if you miss… well, you rarely have a second chance. At least with silver, mere proximity weakens the night terrors. Of course, there are the difficulties in obtaining such a metal. This is where the Philosopher’s Stone comes in.

Alchemists are few and far between, but we were able to … obtain… a few in recent years, to learn from and study. And then we were able to produce one or two of the precious Stones. The price was high, but the rewards great. Of course, you have to be careful with that sort of thing. Even the slightest wrong move can mean death. Alchemy is not to be trifled with. And I hate to say it, but perhaps information obtained under duress is not necessarily the most trustworthy information. Still, it has been successful enough.

I have to admit, the longer we fight these monsters the stronger they seem to get. But what alternative is there? Life on the Edge of the World is difficult, yes, but at least here we are free from the tyranny of government or the harshness of war. We could not be guaranteed that anywhere else, so we stay. Even though in the winters the nights stretch out to engulf the day, and even though the clouds are frequent and allow tiny shadows to slip through. Even if cold silver seems to be less effective than it was even half a century ago. Even when our enemies grow cunning and band together against us. Perhaps it is merely our fears and unease that make it so.

They are made out of our nightmares, after all.

 

 

 

Protagonist

Make-up

Given that it’s currently Lent, I thought I’d give something up. To increase the chances of it actually sticking, I chose to give up something I don’t really like but use anyway: make-up. I don’t exactly wear a lot anyway, and what I do wear tends to be along the lines of foundation and maybe tinted lipgloss, but it’s still make-up and I still don’t really like wearing it.

Part of my issue with it is that it seems so unnecessary. Why is make-up even a thing? Since when was the human face so ugly we can’t stand the sight of it without pigment and tints and highlights and bronzing? A badly made-up face is surely worse than whatever horrors the naked human face can unleash.

But it doesn’t seem that simple. If it really was just a case of the human face being hideous, it wouldn’t just be women who had to wear make-up. Men would wear it too. But… they don’t. Because it’s ‘feminine’. So, women are ugly? Inherently ugly? Is that really what men think?

So I’m not wearing any at all. It’s like, think how much time I’m saving in the morning! 2 minutes! Every day!

er

and also, time in the evening

So that’s like 4 minutes a day. And obviously, I’m saving money by not buying foundation. Anyway, that’s my Lent. I’ll let you know if it works

bye

Weekly Review: Things I’ve learnt this week

  1. No matter how long you leave it, you always end up with the same amount of laundry: too much to fit in one washing machine, and too much to fit on your clothes horse
  2. There is never as much food as you thought there was
  3. Especially if it’s cake
  4. Tumblr will eat up more time from your day than you could ever hope to spend doing productive things like reading
  5. Trains are magical and to try to understand how there can be four trains an hour going to Waterloo but somehow only two trains coming back is a mistake
  6. no seriously how does that even work they’ll end up with too many trains at Waterloo this is madness 
  7. The time it takes you to get to a place by foot is always directly proportional to how urgently you need to get there on time
  8. The time it takes you to get to a place by train is always inversely proportional to how urgently you need to get there on time. You will always be hideously early to things.
  9. Sometimes these combine and you end up being almost too late for the train that gets you there too early. Even my planning can only go so far in the face of such obvious sorcery
  10. In comparison to the faces of other people, your face will always look the most hideous. but are they thinking the same thing about their face?!?! 
  11. Entrusting your apple to your flatmate is a risky business and best left to the brave and bold.

Message in a bottle… from the past!

Now, I occasionally write things down and then leave them alone for about… ooh, a few years, really. This is one such document. I apparently used to be in the habit of writing mini-diary entries. This is the kind of thing I would have posted on my blog if I’d had a blog back then. I didn’t, so I just typed it up and left it. Well, I say I didn’t have a blog; truth be told this was probably initially going to be part of a book I was writing. It never happened. 

So, without further ado, from the lips of 16-year old me, enjoy. 

Of emotions and wider applications thereof

Or why I hate conversation.

I find it very difficult to relate to people. This is either as a result of my living in a world full of shallow, egotistical people you’d have to be equally shallow and egotistical to relate to, and I flatter myself by saying I’m perhaps less egotistical than most. It could be because I interact with a very limited sphere of people, due to my sheltered upbringing in a middle-class family in a fairly middle-class town at a middle-class school with delusions of grandeur. It could even be because, as a general rule, I don’t give a damn about most of the people I could relate to (read: celebrities) and the only other people I could relate to are about twice my age, half my age, or completely the wrong gender.

Of course, it could also be because of my learning difficulties.

I’ve always had a fairly forceful personality, which might seem strange to people who know me; I’m almost painfully shy. Apparently my confidence has been diffusing away as I’ve aged, to leave me a social-skills lacking, unable to communicate 17 year old. Like most teenagers really, except with little hope of a light at the end of the tunnel.

See? I can even do metaphors. If you’d tried that 10 years ago, you’d have been met with disdain. I did disdain very well back then. And sarcasm, for some reason.

Once, when I was in year 2 or 3, I was given a piece of maths homework to complete, which I did, and handed back in to the teacher. When the homework was marked, the teacher rang my mother. My mother was more curious than upset. She couldn’t quite understand why I had deliberately answered all the questions incorrectly. My answer? The teacher never told us to answer the questions correctly. It’s not my fault the teacher wasn’t specific enough.

Then, a few years later, I was taken to see two psychiatrists/behaviour assessors/whatever/bs doctors. They were apparently assessing me to see where I fell on the Autistic spectrum. So they asked me a few questions. Did I like talking to people. I replied I did not. Was I enjoying talking to them? I replied, probably getting a little bored, that they were people… (therefore…)

So it’s probably apparent that my grasp of the emotional meaning of what other people say has always been a little… sketchy. I presume I’m in no way the worst affected by this sort of thing. There are probably thousands of people with even worse social skills than me, probably even hundreds of thousands. The only trouble is, most of these people probably aren’t even aware of what they’re doing wrong. I am; painfully so. What to do.

What makes it even worse, isn’t the fact that people are complex and weird and a bit unusual and strange (and all of those words mean different things. amazing). It’s that somehow, a person can spout a meaningless string of babble, which I am somehow supposed to combine with that mythical thing called sign language, interpret their facial expression, assess their mood and then not only respond to their statement, but also adjust my own emotional state, body language and facial expressions. At the same time? Are you kidding me? I can’t monitor myself like that AND monitor someone else AND interpret their speech AND come up with a valid response AND make that response, not if I want to do it within a reasonable time frame. It is unbelievable the number of times I have been told off due to this processing time. Or, I suppose, I could do this all without that internal feedback system. A dangerous place to go though; inevitably leading to stress, headaches, and general grumpiness.

And that leads me, quite nicely, back to the title. Emotions. They’re a tricky thing, aren’t they? Well, you might not agree, being a perfectly well-rounded neurotypical individual. That’s what they call you in the autistic community. Not normal. Neurotypical. Like, you’re what the brain is, generally. You’re average. And people with learning difficulties… well, they’re individuals. They’re unique. That’s all very nice and lovely, but it doesn’t change the fact that I frequently have trouble interpreting even my emotions. Forget other people’s for a moment. I have trouble with my own emotions. Happiness is obvious, as is sadness, anger in small doses is tolerable, but once an emotion gets beyond the stage of vague contentment or even general misery, it becomes incomprehensible. Intolerable. Emotion overload, I can’t handle this. And that’s not even mentioning the other, more confusing emotions like love and hate and envy and rage and… well, you’d know all about those. You’re neurotypical. This kind of thing is easy for you. And yes, yes, I know, you’ll surely protest something along the lines of “it’s not easy for me either, it’s difficult for all of us” or “we all sometimes get a little overwhelmed”.

Damn. Even talking to a hypothetical person about their emotional normality is getting me worked up. You know when you get irritated? Well, when I get irritated it’s like, like there’s something heavy in my limbs and back, like its achy and heavy and dense and generally uncomfortable. It makes it very difficult to type anyway, because my shoulders decide they don’t really want to move, and with the best will in the world you do need your shoulders to do things in life. Like picking things up and putting things down.

Of course, for all I know, that’s completely normal. For all I know, it’s normal to be rendered speechless by small things. Not with upset (or I assume not with upset), but with anger. Or it could be joy, for all I know. Maybe it’s all three.

That’s where I stopped. So, that’s that, really. It’s amazing how much of that still rings true. Pretty much all of it, I’m afraid. Although tumblr now informs me the PC term is ‘allistic’ rather than ‘neurotypical’, I’m pretty sure it’s all the same thing. 

Now, what does this show? Well, that the emotional constipation is hardly anything new. Buggered if I know what it proves beyond that though. 

Musings on personal taste

This may well end up being just another food post. Honestly, I’m obsessed! Or that’s how it seems. I should think of something else to write about haha

But seriously, food. It’s a divisive issue. My own personal view is to eat until I’m full and then to stop. Sometimes this is difficult if it’s something delicious, like the occasional really excellent curry or homemade pizza. Seriously, that stuff is so good it’s hard to stop when you’re full. “Just one more piece”, I say. “Just one more”. Then it’s: “Where did all my pizza go?”

I sometimes think that I have only one requirement of my food: it must be delicious. It’s a tough ask; sometimes food doesn’t quite make the grade (I’m looking at you failure!porridge. And you, endless!meatballs. The meatballs were fine, you just get a bit … bored) but for the most part I’m not disappointed by my cooking. Not blowing my own trumpet or anything, I’m a terrible innovator in the kitchen. I follow recipes all the time. If I didn’t, it’d be a very different story.

My flatmates could be forgiven for thinking I absolutely adore vegetable soup. I could forgive them for this, because I have it every day. Yep, you read that right. Every day. You would probably then ask why I do this if I don’t even like vegetable soup that much. My reasoning is really just the fact that it’s the easiest way to get vegetables into myself without having to prepare them. If I ever have children, this may have to change, because I really can’t stand the buggers and the poor things will end up with very odd eating habits.

er I mean I can’t stand vegetables not that I can’t stand children

That, and it’s pretty cheap. By my calculations, I’ve got the price down to about £0.30 or 30p per bowl of soup. (I generally make my soup so thick it can support spoons, so the servings aren’t majorly generous, but they’re filling and very … strong. Intense? Strong? ??) Then you’ve got… oooh, 10p per bread serving, and you’re looking at overall 40p per lunch. I mean, what’s not to like, hmmmmmm?

But the thing is, people looking at me would think “oh, she loves carrots and parsnips and sweet potatoes and onions! Why else would she eat it so often?” OK, maybe I do love carrots. And I’m rather fond of my bread. (that bread is just so good with soup it hurts. especially on those days when I’m like “eh” about soup. yep, bread is the real hero here) So this is a case of personal taste being more personal than it needs to be. Or more private, anyway.

And who could forget the great Week of Meatballs? The week where I had meatballs every day, twice a day, for about a week. It was… really… good… loved every second of it. (…)

The less said about the specifics of that the better, really. It was a dark time for me.

Seriously though, people probably thought “woah, she has an unhealthy obsession with meatballs. Maybe we should stage an intervention?!”

I think the point I’m trying to make here is that you can’t really tell what foods a person likes by what they eat. Humans are weird, aren’t they? Or maybe it’s just me.

Product review: Washing Up Pad

Right, haven’t done one of these in a while. Today I will be reviewing… a washing up pad!

No wait, stay for a while this shit is actually pretty good. 

Washing up is no longer a dreaded chore. Whether used with or without washing up liquid, washing up is simple, effective and easy with this pad.

It’s a pretty bold claim, but given that ‘just use water’ is basically e-cloth’s tagline, I’m not entirely surprised. At £2.99 it’s not exactly cheap-sponge price, but given that you’re meant to be able to wash it in the washing machine a good 300 times, it sort of makes sense. Plus, you end up saving money if you don’t have to use as much/any washing up liquid. Bargain.

In theory.

Anyway, I decided to give it a go because I’m so enamoured with literally every other e-cloth. Their dusting cloth gets my vote every time. (Vote for what? Dunno, but I’ll damn well vote for it) And, so far, it’s done pretty well. I threw my most tea-stained mug at it, and it came out with flying colours. That same mug was the one that stubbornly resisted every washing up liquid I had on me, but a bit of scrubbing from the scrubby side and BAM no more tea-stain. I was about a day away from going for the bleach. Now I can save my bleach for bleach-worthy things, instead of stupid stubborn tea-stains.

I mean seriously, talk about overkill. Bleach on a teacup.

So far it seems to be doing pretty well, but I guess only time will tell whether or not it takes the cake and cuts the mustard.

Asexual rambles, or why I didn’t enjoy ‘Queer Musicology’

Ok, so we had queer musicology a few weeks ago. (btw, this post is probably going to be a bit more heavy going, so I guess if you’re after something lighter you should read something else? My bread post is pretty popular. That might be a cool place to start.)

So, where to start? Well, the whole idea of a lecture dedicated to queer musicology was cool, although it really did serve to highlight how all other musicology is cishet musicology, which depressed me a little bit. A lot, actually. It kind of pissed me off.

why do I keep doing that

It pissed me off. I was pissed off.

And that wasn’t the only thing that pissed me off. I was majorly irritated by just how – I hate to say stupid – ignorant the rest of the people in that lecture were. Not one of them pointed out that there are so many other queer readings than gay/lesbian readings. Seriously? None of them remembered the bisexuals? Not even the lecturer mentioned that. I don’t really know what the point of that lecture was, to be honest, because all we really did in my seminar was establish that straight people don’t understand why queer people might not want to come out all the time necessarily.

That’s the second thing. The third thing I wasn’t majorly impressed by was the use of the word ‘queer’ by the lecturer. As far as we’re aware the lecturer is female and straight. (She’s always referred to her partner as being male, and being queer would be an amazing experience to draw on for that lecture) So it was just a bit jarring really to see that she was using the word queer. I don’t like to police people’s terminology, it just kind of surprised me. And I was sort of sat there like “when will we hear about the whole rest of the acronym?” We covered LG but BTQIAP+ just sort of fell out of the window there a bit.

And, really, I don’t like that the only way to interpret music is apparently sexually? Like you have some kind of metaphorical sex with the music and then you understand it? I don’t really like that.

My problem during the seminar was that I just had too many things to say and there wasn’t enough time to point out all the flaws in the lecture without totally dominating the conversation.