It has been a long time since I last wrote an update, so a) here one is and b) here’s why it’s been a while.
There has been a lot of work on Top Secret Project 1 and Top Secret Project 2. They are two unconnecting things about which I can say… basically nothing. Except that there has been a lot of work. Top Secret Project 1 was slowed down by my PC exploding (several times) taking 45,000 words with it. 85% of the responses I received to this were a mixture of horror and genuine, heart-warming support, and 15% were people demanding to know why I didn’t use cloud storage. To everyone I say: thank you for the support, it was very appreciated during what was a less than zingy week. I do now have a cloud backup, but also I’d like to reiterate that I first started writing novels on Creative Writer 2. And if that programme hadn’t had a 99 page limit I probably would STILL be writing novels on Creative Writer 2 because I’m just that old and started just that long ago. Also I really liked how you could change the ribbon at the top so it had spaceships on it, and that feeling has never really faded. Who said that word processing programmes had to be so boring? The fact that I’m on something as thrillingly advanced as Word 2007 is a sophisticated, slightly wrenching technological leap forward.
Proofs for Top Secret Project 1 arrived this morning ready for the black and red pens, and Top Secret Project 2 is back out with people who have thoughts and expertise, so hopefully neither of these things will be a secret for too much longer. Fingers crossed.
While my PC was exploded, I switched to writing on an ancient laptop, which also slowed things down a bit as for Top Secret Project 2 I was using software that isn’t Word 2007 (or even Creative Writer 2) and which is just about sophisticated enough that the typing buffer on said laptop had a delay on it. Write sentence… wait for sentence to appear…. write next sentence… wait for it to appear… oooh yeah, that was frustrating. But the PC is now finally, touch wood, fixed. It was a long and frustrating process, but given the machine is a little over a year old I was as determined to get it repaired rather than replace, even if we did end up with the technological equivalent of the King of Uberwald’s axe. (For those who haven’t had the joy of reading the complete works of Terry Pratchett, there is no bad time to start. Amongst the many fables told in the Discworld series is the story of the King of Uberwald’s axe, which is the same axe that has been in the royal family for centuries. Of course in that time it’s needed the handle replacing, the head replacing, the string you loop round your wrist replacing… but it’s still absolutely, 100%, the same noble axe.)
Meanwhile, events and conventions are starting to gear back up again, and my word I have done a lot of lateral flow tests in honour of this momentous time. It was lovely if strange to return to the world of Comicon where I had the pleasure of seeing some lovely and awesome peeps, and this coming weekend I’ll be at Novacon in Buxton, so if you’re there please come say hello.
Gigs are also coming back, though as enthusiastically as they’re being planned they’re also being cancelled as there were 33,000 or so new Covid cases in the UK yesterday, and over nine million cases registered over the course of the pandemic – or roughly one in seven people in the UK. So yeah, that’s definitely a rocky road.
Finally there’s been domestic labours, as my Mum’s roof is falling down, and goodness that has been a time. So to cut a long story short… the last few months have been fairly hectic, and blimey I’m tired. Which leads to….
I was eligible for the first Covid vaccine a little early, courtesy of having asthma. When I received the call-up I genuinely burst into tears and thought it must be a mistake, and even when being jabbed had to stop myself from apologising for being there, despite not being a front-line worker. However, it doesn’t seem like I’m eligible for the booster, meaning as we go into winter I am just about starting to lose some of my protection and will therefore be spending the coming months being really rather cautious, to say the least. I’ve had my flu jab to at least try to take that off the table, but not gonna lie, as I look out of the window at a grey cold day, memories of that long lockdown 2020 winter are stirring and goodness, it was no fun at all. To save lives, I am 100% in favour of lockdowns, but in their absence all I can do is be as careful as I can to try and protect my family, friends and community.
This is not what has slowed me down the last few months, however. What has chiefly slowed me down is that I haven’t slept properly my entire adult life, and in 2021 finally decided to do something about it and contact the NHS sleep clinic. This could be a whole essay on how hard self-advocacy is, but the short version is: to any reader out there who is maybe ignoring something that gives you pain, who maybe thinks whatever is troubling you isn’t “bad enough” or “important enough” or that you should just “take it on the chin”, I see you. I have my whole life believed that too. And I am wrong. I won’t waste time on the fluffy stuff about valuing and loving yourself, though annoyingly it is all true. Rather let’s put it like this: preventative medicine is always cheaper and better than trying to fix a massive, long-term problem. Whatever is troubling you, the time to act is now, rather than wait for things to get worse.
Anyway, that PSA out of the way, the sleep clinic. As I said, I haven’t had a solid night’s sleep for as long as I can humanly remember, and when I spoke to the GP about it she prescribed a drowsy anti-histamine to take occasionally. I took it one night, and had a solid night’s sleep, and that single event was one of the most emotionally disturbing experiences I’ve had for a very long time. Not because it wasn’t great – it was incredible – but because I didn’t know what solid sleep felt like until that night. I had no idea what it was like to be functional and awake during the day, not just for a few hours in the morning or by pushing through pain in the afternoon. It was a genuine revelation. Since then I’ve been waiting hopefully to actually talk to the sleep clinic proper. And when it happened… not gonna lie, it was a bit frustrating.
Firstly, the appointment ended up being by phone instead of in-person because the doctor involved was self-isolating, which entirely fair. She then blasted through a checklist of symptoms to make sure I didn’t have sleep apnoea (I don’t) before informing me that this showed I had no “organic” reason for insomnia and she was therefore gonna refer me to CBTI. Which… is great. It is. I will take any help I can get to experience this mysterious “solid night of sleep” thing. But it is also frustrating, because for the last 15 years I have read about and attempted to implement all the tools of CBTI already, and given that the same anomalous sleep behaviours I have are manifested by my Mum and her Mum before her, along with other genetic conditions we share, to leap from “you don’t have sleep apnoea = no organic causes” felt… rough. Honestly, just a bit rough. But I’m gonna take whatever help is out there, and have everything crossed for CBTI ‘cos goodness, did I mention? That one night where I slept well? That was AMAZING.
Anyway. None of this is new, per se, but in the context of trying to get my shit sorted out so I can go into 2022 a little more bright-eyed and bushy-tailed continues to be an ongoing adventure.
I’ve also had that cold everyone has. You know the one. It’s one of those colds that makes you wonder just how you haven’t got Covid, given how everyone has this cold. And of course: more lateral flow tests, just to make sure. The insides of my nose are gonna take a while to forgive me for all of this.
3. Miscellaneous Other Things!
As I write this, as well as still having a cold, I am also mildly injured. My right wrist has temporarily given up, after spending three days doing some pretty intense quarterstaff training as part of my next escrima grade. The training itself was brilliant – for the first time since coming back to escrima after the last lockdown ended, I am finally starting to feel like I’ve got a handle on this whole “hitting people with big sticks” thing that I’m supposed to be getting ok at doing. This is especially helpful as, when dealing with power and weapons, the one thing you really can’t afford to do is flinch, and after all those months away from martial arts I was definitely flinching at a strike.
I have also joined a chess club, which plays outside come rain or shine, and it’s pretty great. I loved playing chess at school, but when I left it was hard to find consistent games, and most chess clubs seemed to happen in dubiously lit rooms beneath pubs on inconvenient days. Finding a club therefore that is both local and friendly has been wonderful, and it’s full of players who are much better than me, which is 100% what I am here for and the best possible way to learn. I have even started doing that which I never thought possible, and reading about openings. It’s taking some getting used to, as my Dad, who was himself a very good chess player, would only ever refer to openings as part of his familial trash-talk. “Ah, I see you are wibbling the Viennese with a hint of London flair!” he would opine in response to almost anything. “An interesting fianchetto of your black bishop down the Berlin line!” And so on. I am thus primed to laugh out loud when people say almost anything to do with chess theory – a habit I am trying to dispel.
As with my professional lighting career, in both the escrima seminar and the chess club, I continue to often be the only woman in the room. This is fine, but it can also be tiring. There seems to be this banter in male-dominated spaces – the incredibly high-effort, high-energy banter of men who are absolutely not putting any effort or energy into being casual. The quirky handshake, the cries of “bro”, the tortuous energy spent on seeming effortlessly chill. Don’t get me wrong – women absolutely have these dynamics, in different ways – spaces that lack diversity can often get a bit… hum… and when you are just one woman in a room of thirty men, it can absolutely be a wall of noise that’s hard to break through. I love everyone at my escrima club, but have had many, many years of men from other clubs, including men significantly less experienced than me, offer up a range of notions from “don’t worry, I won’t hit you too hard” through to “you don’t have to be scared, it’s on me not to hurt you” without any data on my actual levels of violence (high) or training (significant) but merely at the sight of my fluffy female visage. While in lighting land, I have had to re-acquaint myself with the experience of being called “the merch girl” while literally sat programming a lighting desk, as well as the general litany of “sweetheart” and “babe” that seems to be a necessary part of all get-outs.
All of this is changing, and continues to change, but I think my tolerance for it is declining the older I get.
Cop26 has been in full swing in Glasgow, and honestly, while I do genuinely believe that cuturally and socially we’re making huge progress towards tackling climate change, politically it’s been hard to stomach. The single nation that had the most delegates at this world-critical meeting? Not a nation at all – the fossil fuel industries. As a community and a society we can turn back the climate catastrophe and every single one of us can make a difference, but goodness you sometimes get a hard reminder of just how entrenched are the forces arrayed against this project. To everyone who like me sometimes feels more than a little stressed about this, I can only repeat – political change is driven by us. Our actions, our convictions, however small they may seem, can and do make a difference.
Meanwhile I am trying to seek out new sensory stimuli and cherish those I have access to as much as possible before a potentially Covid-ridden, flu-tastic winter sets in again. For the first time in my life I did a longsword class, which was an interesting mix of the very familiar (“why would you do this when you would just chop his arm off?”) and the very strange (“so in the Italian school you’d then thrust while doing the parma 3”). I did an advanced sewing class, as while I had some solid teaching from my Mum and further training at RADA, getting to place where I am confident repairing and altering items seems a very useful life-skill. And as the autumn begins to turn wintery, I am running for the parks to enjoy the scarlet and yellow in the trees, the smell of mulch and the low light through the leaves, before it all gets a bit too finger-numbing cold. I am also, being now a sophisticated adult who is no longer using Creative Writer 2, permitting myself to kick gleefully through piles of fallen leaves – though never ones that have been neatly stacked by the local park wardens – and might also try and find some waterproof boots, so I can jump up and down in puddles.