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2016: Done More?

I certainly haven’t done more blogging, have I?

2016 has turned out to be a jagged shit of a year for a great many people. That’s all I have to say on the matter, whatever you think it is; I’m done arguing with people who bring their own adversaries and paste their faces over mine. This right here is a personal reflection, and despite all things I have come out of 2016… and done all right for myself.

Professionally things are as good as they’ve been for years and better. Despite a wobble towards October I haven’t needed to sign on this year, and despite a fiscal hit around the costs of establishing Rob’s art shoppe, she’s working and I’m working and so we’re both actually earning money at the same time. That’s never happened before. More like that please. I’m courting another client – all a bit hush hush until something comes of it – and I’d obviously like to do more work in 2017.

Creatively, things are… decent. I’ve been a bit quiet on the blog front because I’ve been mucking about with videos instead and dumping the least rubbish ones on that YouTube thing. It’s a nice break from writing blogs for a substantial part of my living. I’d like to do more of it, and broaden the focus to include the best of the content from my gaming blog and more stuff like that. I’m sorting channel art out for that and I’m starting to remember how editing works, or at least how to avoid needing too much of it. That’s the second thing I want to do in 2017: be a bit more pro about videos.

Physically… well, the bindrune worked for a month or so, but then I lost some of the post-its and I didn’t get out much for a few weeks when we weren’t well off, and I started drinking, and… if anything I’m in slightly worse shape than I was six months ago. At least a workable dosage has been calculated for my arthritis medication, a balance struck between “less pain and swelling” and “your immune system and liver are dangerously compromised”. M’colleague Chris has challenged all and sundry to walk a thousand miles during 2017. I’m not going to come in first, but I’m determined to come in successful.

Spiritually… I don’t like to talk about the spooky dos too much, but after a few months in the armchair, bored to tears by arguments about meme magic from people who wish they’d thought of weaponising that fucking hideous frog thing first, I recently had… a shock. A rather drastic restatement of purpose. I am lowly, but I talk to gods; though no prophet, I am witness. It’s been a sharp reminder of what I am and what my place in the world is and the sort of thing I should be doing. On Christmas night I shocked myself with the surprising declaration that I want to live. I don’t say that very often. I don’t always want to die, but I don’t have much lust for life either. It surprises me when it comes. It’s a good surprise.

For this year I had no plan except do more. This year I have… a whole bunch of plans. I’m aware that I have the luxury of time on my hands, and that I often don’t do a whole lot with it. Since I started tracking my working time (I was told to, and it’s come in useful for estimating mates’ rates and paid-in-kind arrangements) I’ve become painfully aware that my days slide away.

There’s a bunch of stuff I’d like to do every day.

  • Walk 2.74 miles (that’s around the edge of the village and back; easily achievable even on a day when I’ve nothing better to do).
  • Write something for myself (my uncle won Shitscram Present Of The Year with the writing journal that offers a daily challenge and a page to do it on).
  • Paint a miniature: I’ve signed up for a Tale of Gamers challenge and sworn the Oath of Moment, so the Corehammer crew may rip me a new one if I don’t crank out the promised forces by the promised dates.
  • Draw a rune and commit its symbolic resonances to meaning. I managed this for a month, and it was good, so it’s time to take that to the next level and git gud enough to do readings without needing two reference books to hand.
  • I feel like there should be something else here to fulfil the Law of Fives, but I can’t think what it should be. It’ll come to me, I imagine. Maybe listen to or read or watch something I haven’t seen before: that’s a good one. I’m a devil for re-consuming the old instead of tackling the new.

These things should be their own reward. I don’t mind saying that after everything that’s gone down this year I’m feeling a little more spiteful and a little less patient and a lot more like I want to live, rather than mark time in the gentle dissolution I’ve craved for so long. That may not last, but everything that tugs me from the armchair and the habits and the vacillation is a tiny act of power in the face of misery, and that is what I’m supposed to be about.

Of Weight Loss and Bind Runes

I’m a fat lad, me. Not morbidly obese or anything, but possessed of a certain stoutness about the tum. I know I’m overweight, although I didn’t realise how overweight until I was weighed before a routine rheumatology appointment last week.

The discovery has spurred the sides of my intent. I have traditionally held by the Satanic principle that vanity alone should motivate one to take care of oneself and keep oneself in trim, but that clearly hasn’t been true in my case and so I have arrived at the point where it’s become a medical matter.

I intend to shed four stone in four months, so that I might be well within the recommended range of weights by my next appointment, and present a more stylish figure by Hallowe’en.

Robin has me keeping a food diary – every morsel that passes my lips is noted down on paper – and this is certainly helping me account for my existing habits, but it is not helping me correct them.

I do not write this to castigate myself, nor to describe my situation in exhaustive detail or repeat well-worn explanations. I write to discuss solutions to problems.

The biggest problem I perceive right now is that I eat when I’m bored, or when I’m thirsty (because it is impolite to drink without eating, as C. S. Lewis cautioned me in my youth – I remember nothing else from Narnia except that line), and that I do so in a sort of distracted haze in which my conscious will is temporarily suspended.

What I need is disruption – something which shakes me out of that addlepated state and into the clarity of responsible decision-making. Hence this:

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This is a bindrune – a composite of letters from the Futhark which combine into a symbolic meaning. Thorn denotes change and willpower – is denotes deprivation – eoh denotes improvement. Through willpower, I deprive myself and thus improve. One of these is stuck to each of the food cupboards, and to the fridge. As I drift, I recognise the rune and am reaffirmed in my grand design.

Why not a simple note? Because I would express it in English as a reprimand, an instruction, and my feelings would be hurt, and I would eat to spite myself. This is something positive, a refreshment of my statement of intent. Also because I would ignore a note in English, skim over it, not acknowledge it. The rune is special. It is out of the ordinary. It demands decoding and interpretation – activating the mind and thus disrupting that empty grazer’s meander which leads me to the nosebag in the first place.

This is but one element of the plan. I do not expect Rune Magick (TM) to solve all my problems. It is a part of my armoury, however, and I intend to make use of it.

 

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A Candidate The People Can Trust

 

Friends and Welshmen, I hereby announce myself as an Independent candidate for the Monmouth constituency of the Welsh Parliament. All being well and the will of the voting public being with me, the Senedd will soon play host to its first openly devil-worshipping, self-serving, ruthlessly materialistic rotten bastard – as opposed to my long-haired opponents, those closeted part-timers in the mainstream political parties who hide their convictions behind weasel words, grand ideological claims and outright lies.

It is with a heavy head and a solemn heart – not to mention a full bladder and a dicky spleen – that I confront the burden of political office, and the terrifying prospect of representing constituents with whom I cannot reliably make eye contact.

My manifesto is a work in progress, as a month is a long time in politics and I am indecisive, but here is the current state of policy in the Garradian camp:

  • Economy
    I stand for revaluation of the British Pound Sterling. Billions and trillions are stupid numbers for ‘winning’ playground arguments. Make everyone’s pounds worth more and whack a few zeroes off the end – that should bring the numbers down to levels which ordinary humans can understand. As a bonus, a loaf of bread will once again cost something sensible like ninepence, and the farthing will be returned to circulation. A tax on billionaires’ tears will fund the other measures on this manifesto.

    To further protect the British public from the depredations of the financial sector, saying “four nine nine ninety-five” instead of “four hundred and ninety-nine pounds ninety-five pence” in advertisements will become a hanging offence. Offering goods for £499.95 instead of £500 to make them look cheaper will be punishable by two years’ hard labour. Falling for it will be punishable by two weeks’ community service under a supervisor wearing an “I’m With Stupid” shirt.
  • Europe
    Wales will immediately withdraw from the European Union and, under the provisionally-titled Taking Our Ball And Going Home With It Act, found a League of Celtic Nations with Scotland, Cornwall, Brittany and the Isle of Man. Ireland will be granted provisional membership provided their delegate stays sober and turns up. In the event of their failure to do so, membership will be offered to the top bit of Italy or the Basques instead – whoever can beat the other lot at rugby.
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Your Candidate, kissing babies! The stuff of which great statesmanship is made!

  • Education
    Welsh, Latin, High Gothic and Gallifreyan will be compulsory school subjects until the age of eighteen, in order to prepare our young people for life in the modern vast cosmic nothingness inhabited by terrifying entities of colossal and arcane power. The blasphemous croaking speech of the Deep Ones and their half-human spawn will remain an option after GCSE.
  • Law and Order
    The statute books will undergo immediate review to protect Welshmen from being shot with a longbow by Englishmen anywhere at all. (Note to Campaign Management: the eating of hot cross buns outside the Easter period will remain a criminal offence, pending a referendum in the event that any scandals need covering up.)
  • GBLTQ&A* Issues
    Pronouns will be abolished because I’m fucked if I’m going to remember whatever jumble of syllables the genderqueer crowd have come up with for their fictive headmate multiple systems this week. Or rather, Jon’s fucked if Jon’s going to remember. Doesn’t that sound grand?
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Your Candidate expresses his extremely mature and nuanced critique of mainstream politics. This is the plain speaking our country needs!

  • Red Tape
    Members of the Senedd will have to pass a written examination, set by experts in the field, before proposing a policy affecting professionals within that field. (Note to Campaign Management: this legislation will come into force after I stand down in disgrace following a carefully-engineered scandal involving my genitals, an offshore tax account, four separate nests of serpents and the schematics to Bentham’s Panopticon. NOT FOR CIRCULATION.)
  • Expenses
    I have every intention of paying for my own damn housing, holidays, transport, blackjack, hookers etc. etc., but demand a modest stipend of £185.50 per calendar month for the upkeep of several cats.
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Your Candidate treats his Campaign Manager with exceptional respect – no institutionalised sexism or Clarksonesque abuse on his watch!

  • Transport
    Funding will be withdrawn from the Severn Bridge – people who want to go to Bristol will just have to take a sodding train – and diverted into a Welsh space programme, devoted to establishing Anglesey as the first lunar colony by means of a really big elastic band.
  • Urban Development
    The people of Wrexham and Chester will be encouraged to sort it properly. You know what I mean. Let’s have it out between their top boys. No more faffing about. Just sort it.
  • Drugs and Alcohol
    All Class C drugs will be decriminalised. All budget cider of the White Ace/Lightning/Mischief/Power/Trash variety will be criminalised. (Note to Campaign Management: this is not reverse racism but a sincere effort to get cheap, nasty booze off the streets. Be sure to make that clear.)
  • Culture

    https://youtu.be/1i4EnjRKVQw

 

Queries, inquiries, donations, wild accusations and improper suggestions should be addressed to my Press Office, which can be found down the back of the sofa in the King’s Head Hotel, Abergavenny.

Hail Satan, and let the good times roll!

Two Sonnets

Today is World Poetry Day? Good. Here’s Patience Agbabi, utterly nailing the relationship between poet and form, writer and muse, inspiration and punctuation – and being absolute filth about it.

I’m slim as a silver stiletto, lit
by a fat, waxing moon and a seance
of candles dipped in oil of frankincense.
Salt peppers my lips as the door clicks shut.
A pen poised over a blank page, I wait
for madam’s orders, her strict consonants
and the spaces between words, the silence.
She’s given me a safe word, a red light
but I’m breaking the law, on a death with,
ink throbbing my temples, each vertebra
straining for her fingers. She trusses up
words, lines, as a corset disciplines flesh.
Without her, I’m nothing but without me
she’s tense, uptight, rigid as a full stop.

Patience Agbabi, ‘Transformatrix’ (2000)

And here, unworthy to stand in such company, is your host, with fourteen awkward unsprung lines about horology.

Time is not a healer; instead, she makes
us all her co-conspirators, her lost
idols and adulterers, our memories
by turn enshrined, by turnabout betrayed.
She keeps our secrets safer than ourselves,
yet keeps no watch, places no guard upon them;
Protecting them from us, but not the world.
A treachery we’ve earned, if one considers
how we tie her down and measure her,
a rape by minutes, seconds and degrees.
How we stretch her out from point to point,
uncurling curves and cycles, and pretend
her nature knows of anything like ending.
Now, silently, she passes, in revenge.

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Unlocking My Word Hoard

I had some plans for this blog, along the ‘scheduled content’ kind of lines, but they’ve all fallen away somewhat after the staggering amount of other writing I’ve done this month. I’ve actually worked something like proper adults’ hours for a couple of weeks, while plugging away at a major project for GEMS Education. I’m not sure how much I’m allowed to say, but I think I can publicly state that it will be some time before I want to read another poem (although I have fallen in love with ‘Transformatrix’ by Patience Agbabi, and with Ruth Padel’s delightfully accessible essays, which have almost displaced The Ode Less Travelled as my favourite popular books on poetry).

When I haven’t been writing for GEMS I’ve been writing for Future Content. In fact, I’m taking a break between two articles for them by… writing this. Something is broken. I’ve been working for Future Content for about a year now, and they seem to like what I do (to the point where they trust me to edit other people’s work – rather more than I trust myself). They’re not my only client at the moment, but they’re paying more and more of the rent, and I haven’t had to do anyone’s homework for them in ages.

When I haven’t been writing for Future Content, I’ve been writing about World of Warcraft. I had intended to play a bit less, and do more of more or less anything else. The trouble is, at the moment when I was becoming disinterested in the game, some forum nonsense drew me to a guild which is… more or less exactly what I wanted to achieve with the guild I (briefly, disastrously) ran a year or two ago. The level of activity (pretty much constant), the activities themselves (PvP and roleplaying) and the quality of the activities (pretty good, I haven’t felt this challenged as a player since the Black Temple two years ago) have conspired against me and kept me around. It’s all been inspiring me to produce some actual fiction about my character, which again hasn’t been the case since 2014. The old lightning, in which gameplay and roleplay combine and actually involve more than a handful of other people, appears to have struck again. So I’m still playing WoW, but in a less… vague, directionless way, and with other people involved. That’s an improvement.

And when I haven’t been writing about (or playing) World of Warcraft, I’ve either been asleep, or maintaining the domesticities, or crudely slapping paint on Hordes miniatures in an effort to be ready for SmogCon. It’s brought home to me how much I dislike conventional miniature painting, and how I should have faith in the layers-of-ink process I developed while working on my Revenants. I really must pull my finger out and produce some maps for that event – or rather, make Robin do them for me, since she’s the actual artist on the premises.

I’m not reading as much as I’d like to be (in that none of my Goodreads reads have progressed in the slightest), but I’m hoping that the imminent arrival of E. R. Eddison’s complete works will induce some consumption of text again. I’m also not witching enough; when I plucked a piece of fluff off my bag of runes, I felt a palpable shock, and my dreams have been lively to say the least in the last few weeks. I’m waiting for a question to present itself for divination, although Arianna says I should settle for “what the hell is going on?”, chuck the runes at the carpet and see what presents itself. Perhaps she’s right.

At least I made it to the Green Party’s special conference (it was around the corner, I couldn’t dodge that one). Not really my scene – the bureaucracy and procedure aren’t really what I’m in this for, I prefer executing the decisions – but I am slightly more in the loop than I have been, and I look forward to throwing in some weight when the Senedd campaigning starts in earnest.

It’s a step in the right direction, at least. I’ve started using Toggl for work and I may start feeding other activities into it – Robin’s currently doing some serious journalling in an effort to take control of her time, and I feel like that’s something I should be doing too.