River

It’s coming on Christmas 
They’re cutting down trees 
They’re putting up reindeer 
And singing songs of joy and peace 
Oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on 

But it don’t snow here 
It stays pretty green 
I’m going to make a lot of money 
Then I’m going to quit this crazy scene 
Oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on 

It’s Christmas. And it’s been as the last few Christmases have been… happy, but tinged with melancholy. Yesterday I found myself missing the cold winters up north, not just for the weather but what they meant, all of us together for a couple of days in my parents’ house. New traditions replace the old (and some endure, like the reading of A Visit from St. Nicholas before bed on the night of the 24th). Time moves onward, and I miss the days that can no longer be recreated.

It’s been a good day, but one with memories I don’t want to lose but which are now tinged with sadness. To anyone who reads this: May your future Chirstmasses be filled with joy, and may your memories of past ones be happy!

Until I pass this way again…

25th December 2014Permalink Leave a comment

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Ev’rywhere you go;
Take a look in the five and ten – glistening once again
With candy canes and silver lanes aglow.

Well, maybe not a lot like Christmas, but the mince pies have arrived in the supermarkets, the nights are drawing in and summer’s over. Most importantly, my Winter Ale is maturing nicely. So much so, in fact, that I’m going to have a go at a second autumn / winter beer, flavoured with plums, liquorice and spices. An interesting experiment if ever there was one. And after that I have plans for a US-style pale ale. Beer brewing: it’s the hobby that just keeps going…

And then there’s the other big part of the autumn coming up: NaNoWriMo. This year I’ve gone down the planning route again. I have a notebook that’s gradually filling with plot outlines and character notes. For my 10th anniversary of trying the challenge, I’m doing something different. The last few years have all been pretty grounded stuff – based as far as I can in reality. I haven’t cared to write anything that’s fantastical, preferring instead to take a concept and grind it down to what it might have originated as.

This year, I’m having a break from seriousness. Inspired by the fantastic production of Sweeney Todd that is about to close in the West End, which takes the Victorian story and sets it in the 1930s, I’m inspired to go even further and write a complete antithesis of steampunk; my novel this year will be inspired by the classical victorian melodrama, but set as a space opera. I’m beginning to think it might work quite well.

 

17th September 2012Permalink 1 Comment

Ten Years Alseep

Ten years asleep in the queue for the late night bus –
With all of us.

Breakfast television is the biggest decision I’ve made
In the last decade.

It wouldn’t happen in another world.
It couldn’t have happened to a nicer planet.
It would’ve happened in another world,
So don’t pretend to care when you don’t care!

I was wondering when the stress of buying would kick in. On Wednesday I had the phone call. My mortgage broker was calling to tell me that there was a problem. The day before he’d called me to tell me everything was OK and the finance company’s survey was going through. This time he was calling me to tell me he’d (inadvertently) lied. Apparently there was a problem with the application. Eight years ago I had a few financial issues, and had a credit card withdrawn. Eight years ago! Apparently they wanted to know why – I could barely remember myself. I ended up telling them how much I’d earned back then, having recently graduated, and they went away again.

Finally the survey was booked in and performed yesterday, but it was a rather nerve-wracking few days. What else would they find in my credit history that didn’t appear on my credit files (I checked them before we even applied)?

Now waiting to hear back from my own surveyor as to the state of the house. Then we’ll see what’s what…

HIPs don’t lie

You know my HIPs don’t lie
And I’m starting to feel it’s right
All the attraction, the tension
Don’t you see baby, this is perfection

Ahem. Not my usual choice of accompaniment but the pun was too delicious to resist. The ongoing saga goes on, and I’m beginning to wonder what some estate agents do for their cash.

Saturday, Appointment 1

A house. Seriously the most nondescript house that I’ve seen so far. Good-sized kitchen  and big combined lounge / dining room, reasonable sized rooms upstairs. Apple trees in the garden and a garage. If houses were foodstuffs, I’d probably describe this one as the equivalent of a boiled potato. Sure, it’ll keep you alive, it’s got some stuff in it that’s good for you, but by about the first three days you’ll be desperate for something with a little more flavour to it.

Saturday, Appointment 2

A house. There’s been some mix-up at the estate agent, and he can’t meet us, so he calls us to give us directions. I don’t even have a house number for the place, so we have to walk along the road until we find the house from the photograph I have in front of me. It’s a decent house, mid-terrace, good size, and the current owners are decently friendly. Garage at the back, loft conversion – the place is certainly big enough, and well-looked after. The problem? It’s £20k over our top budget. The estate agent thinks the vendors will budge. I’m not so sure.

Conversations with the damned

So, feedback for all those who we went to look at houses with. I set up two second viewings for next week, and give the rest of the people I’ve viewed with a polite “thanks, but no”. The agent for the second house on saturday repeats his beliefs that the vendor will shift on price. I say I’ll think about it but won’t promise anything. I ask for a cop of the HIP for both the houses I want to see again (HIPs, I’ll grant, are mostly a waste of time, but the land registry and future planning bits are kind of useful, which is why I’m getting hold of them.) The first agent sends it there and then. The second says he will, then doesn’t bother.

When I phone him up the next day to chase, he apologises and tells me the house was taken off the market this morning, and he’s going to have to cancel my second viewing. Nice of him to be proactive and tell me. Funnily enough, this is the same agent that tried to get me to take out a mortgage with him too. Any more houses, I’m going to go out of my way to avoid dealing with him.

On a cheerful note, the estate agent from Saturday has come through – he’s texted me to say the vendor’s knocked £15k off their asking price. Still over our limit, but maybe there’s some maneuvering room here now. Hmmm. Needs more thought.

The End of the Tour

There’s a girl with a crown and a scepter
Who’s on WLSD
And she says that the scene isn’t what it’s been
And she’s thinking of going home.

I’ve been spending a lot of time on trains recently, travelling up and down the country for various family-related reasons. And you know  what? I’m starting to believe that British railways aren’t even in remotely as bad a position as might be supposed.

A couple of summers ago I was in the position to take an Amtrak train from Chicago to Sandusky, Ohio. Sandusky isn’t a big town. The only notable thing there is the Cedar Point amusement park, the reason I was visiting.

The first thing to notice about Union Station in Chicago was the squalour. It felt like a neglected version of a Greyhound bus terminal, which is saying a lot. On board the train, though, things were rather better. Spacious seats, a friendly train conductor, and space downstairs for the luggage. The trouble is, they’re needed.

Amtrak’s top speed trains do about 50 miles per hour. When you consider the sheer scope of the geography involved, that isn’t very fast at all. Almost all trains run overnight. The train I was taking arrived at my destination at about 1am, supposedly. In fact it was nearer 3am local time when it finally pulled in, not exactly the most social hour when the local cab companies (and I use this in the loosest possible sense; there are half a dozen Sandusky taxi companies, all a single driver with a cellphone acting as their own dispatcher) almost all cease operation at 1:30.

So Amtrak’s fares are reasonable, but sticking to the timetable isn’t exactly their strongest point. This is because the rails are all owned by freight companies who prioritise their own trains over the passengers’ (in violation of a toothlessly enforced federal law, but this is by-the-by).

On the other side of the Atlantic, we have the deregulated remains of British Rail. Fares are higher, per mile, but on the other hand we have daytime trains, that run (pretty much) to schedule. Compared to Japan, the lateness is terrible, but it’s bearable. I can sit back, watch a movie, and get there in about the same time as if I drove, for the cheap-as-chips price of twice the cost of petrol of I were to drive there.

That’s the trouble. If two of us travel, it’s a cost of four times that to drive. And while I’d love to take the train, it just doesn’t make economic sense for us  to do so. The ever-escalating cost of petrol will take care of that, but not fast enough. The economic argument is far and away against it and will continue to be for the next ten years at least.

Give me East Coast, Virgin Trains or even South West Trains any day over Amtrak. Just price it at a point that means I actually have a choice between the car and the train.

A Little Respect

And if I should falter,
Would you open your arms out to me?
We can make love not war –
And live at peace in our hearts.
I’m so in love with you,
I’ll be forever blue.
What religion or reason
Could drive a man to forsake his lover?

I’ve written my foreword, I’ve produced a PDF of the (un-)finished article, and very shortly I’l be sending it off to the printers, for a very limited print run of two copies, much as I have for each of the three other completed NaNo Novels.

Tomorrow I get to kick back, relax, and most importantly, not write anything. It’ll be marvellous.

In case anyone is interested, while I’m not ready to release the text of Thinner than Water to anyone other than myself as yet, you can read the foreword, which I hope gives a clear indication of what I’m doing, here: http://sleepawaytheafternoon.org.uk/foreword-to-thinner-than-water/

29th November 2009Permalink Leave a comment

Eyes

Missed the last train home,
Birds pass by to tell me that I’m not alone.
Over pushing myself to finish this part,
I can handle a lot,
But one thing I’m missing is in your eyes.

All in all, my 10,958th day on the planet hasn’t thus far been ay different to all the rest. A pleasant start to the day, good-natured teasing from my colleagues when they found out (and even one who got my reference to Carrousel!).

A new decade spans before me – what to make of it? I can only guess. Interesting developments abound in more than one direction, some good, some not so good. But – I’m alive, and like (almost) everyone who got here before me, surprised to discover that.

15th September 2009Permalink Leave a comment

Forever Autumn

The summer sun has faded as the year grows old
And darker days are drawing near.
The winter winds will be be much colder
When you’re not here.

What’s this? A genuine blog post? Not sure what’s going on here, but I’d like it to become a habit so we’ll see.

Autumn is my least favourite time of year. I’m not sure when that happened, but I tend to get overly reflective of what I’ve done in the preceding 12 months, the evenings noticeably drawing in at the same moment that I turn a year older. And I look at what I’ve attained over the past year. As always, there are things I wish that I’d done differently, or not at all, and I start to plan for the next year. What’s up first? NaNoWriMo.

Last year’s successful attempt, The Logic Bomb I’m still as attached to as when I finished it. This year, I’m starting to fill in the blanks for Thinner Than Water, what I hope is a very different take on the often-clichéd vampire genre. I’m still also attached to another, very different, idea I call Simplicity, but I don’t have a good story to fit it into (yet).

After that, I aim to spend a good amount of time fixing up The Logic Bomb so it’s fit for someone other than me to read it. That should take up a few months. Maybe by this time next year I can show something more than just a fifty-thousand word pile of words worked on over a single November.

3rd September 2009Permalink Leave a comment