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

 

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.

2016 New Year

Do More

2016 New Year

This time last year, I was freezing my arse off in a London boxroom, about to say goodbye to one of my best friends (don’t worry, she’s not dead, she moved to Sweden), and trying to suppress the feeling that I was going to die in this decrepit house in Camberwell, surrounded by the detritus of two lifetimes rammed into a single room, with all the goodwill and charity of friends and relations used up on the first or second failed attempts to start living in the real world.

The sun’s coming up in Abergavenny and it’s gorgeous – clean and cool and quiet. I want to be outside, here, even though it hurts to walk more than ever – my health is the one thing that’s not improved in 2015. We have enough in the bank to pay six months’ rent on a space where there’s space. Space to breathe and work. I’m writing, and while I’m grateful for the PIP that cleared the decks and allowed us to move out here and establish ourselves, a goodly portion of our living is earned from that writing. Robin is taking commissions for paintings (via Tumblr, Instagram or Facebook) and has held down a job of her own for the first time in ages.

Things are better.

It’s been a quiet six months since we moved up here though. Not for want of things to do – you can’t throw a stray glance at a window in Abergavenny without seeing some society, group, organisation or institute running something – but for want of something else. Chutzpah, maybe. As I age and cleave away from school and Big School, my coping strategies and mechanisms for dealing with people and spaces become less and less adequate. I can’t spend too much time in supermarkets – they echo the  battering on the senses which happened all the time in London. I’ve never been good at introducing myself to people at the best of times, and my behaviour has been… inconsistent. I’ve made some bad impressions and that’s kept me to myself, reflecting and – let’s be honest – hiding. My usual approach to irritants and misbehaviours is to avoid the stimulus and keep myself to myself “until I’ve learned my lesson.”

My desk in our new living room faces the wall. There’s so much light in here, from two big windows, and I have a laptop and swivel chair, and I choose to face the wall. That’s telling.

I spend time writing, which is good, but I spend time scrolling through social media and playing solo games, which is less than good. I clocked up 39 hours on World of Warcraft in my first week back in the game. That’s the working week, with an hour off on Friday for good behaviour. That’s telling, too.

After the election I elected to take some time off active political engagement. I was tired and disappointed and in pain all the time, and I need to sort out my own shit for a while, whether the Party needs every pair of boots on the ground or not. It’s a different affair in Wales – more spread out, less centralised and structured, and it feels much more dependent on networking and knowing people – the two things in the world at which I am worst. (Besides archery. I’m really bad at archery.)

I took up witchcraft instead, in a quiet sort of way. In this more than anything else I am secretive and solitary as Dickens’ oyster, it seems. Reticence comes with the territory. There are a few contacts and companions, but I don’t feel the need to be involved with a Scene and all its spats and poses, and it’s awkward talking to strangers. It’s a thing I do sometimes – that’s all.

There’s no grand resolution for 2016, other than this: do more. Stop looking at the wall, scrolling and clicking, appeasing the trained inclination towards dull and repetitive non-activity of the Bullshit Jobs variety, buying things to cheer myself up. Do more. Paint some figures and go out and play games with them. Write some fiction and stop being shy about pitching. Don’t stop at clocking a poster in a window – go to the damn event. Start drawing again. Recruit some roleplayers who aren’t eighty miles or more away – I refuse to believe that I’m the only geek in the village. Maybe go back to teaching or at least tutoring, if the college or the grammar school in town will take me on. Do more. Doesn’t matter what.