I'm a writer - or at least I am trying to be - a miscellany of genres, some published, some not.
Hates pulses, litter, dog poo, noisy neighbours, our street, spitting, adverts, modern cars, yellow shoes, liver, and people who moan...
migraine (n.) late 14c., megrim, from Old French migraigne (13c.), from vulgar pronunciation of Late Latin hemicrania “pain in one side of the head, headache,” from Greek hemikrania,from hemi-“half” +kranion”skull” (see cranium). The Middle English form was re-spelled 1777 on the French model. Related: Migrainous. https://www.etymonline.com/word/migraine
I had my first migraine when I was around 25 years of age. I didn’t know I was having a migraine. I managed to make it home from the shop I worked in at the time, get into my pyjamas and lie down on the settee. I thought I was coming down with flu. When I complained about an awful noise in the apartment, my husband had to turn off the fridge – and that’s when he knew – I was having a migraine attack.
It began with pulsating neon-like triangles in the outer corner of my right eye. They throbbed away al afternoon, eventually causing such fuzziness as to obscure the vision in that eye. I had the most horrendous headache, felt nauseous, shivering, and later came the vomiting.
A migraine is a primary headache disorder characterized by recurrent headaches that are moderate to severe. Typically, the headaches affect one half of the head, are pulsating in nature, and last from two to 72 hours. Associated symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light, sound, or smell. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Migraine
A headache?! A headache?! It’s more than a headache wiki!! Ask anyone who suffers from them. I began to get a migraine once a year or so, from that point onwards. Very occasionally one would be so bad, that I would have to take the day off work. Painkillers were useless. A darkened room, a cool, damp flannel on the forehead, plenty of water, oh and a sick-bowl, just in case!
“Migraine is an inherited tendency to have headaches with sensory disturbance. It’s an instability in the way the brain deals with incoming sensory information, and that instability can become influenced by physiological changes like sleep, exercise and hunger.”Professor Peter Goadsby, Professor of Neurology, King’s College London.
A s far as I am aware, no-one else in my family suffers from migraines; not my mother, father, brother, or aunts and uncles or nearest cousin. Then I reached a certain age (mid-40’s) and began to get a migraine each month. And each time it was different – sometimes I would have a visual migraine; Scintillating scotoma, the most common visual aura preceding migraine, but often without the after headache. I would get Ocular migraines; painless, temporary visual disturbances that can affect one or both eyes; that’s the one which makes you think you might be going blind; scary but it passes. As well as nausea, I get photophobia and in recent years have taken to wearing sunglasses even on not-so-bright-days.
Most commonly, my migraines take the form of, what I call ‘the shrinking helmet’…
…Imagine Alexander Dumas’ Man in the Iron Mask, kind of thing, okay? It is smooth, polished, seamless and fits snugly over one side of your head. There is a ‘plate’ that goes into your mouth and presses on the roof of your mouth and another that presses against your right eye. Through the following hours, that ‘Mask’ is going to get tighter and tighter. Your mouth feels as though it will press up through your nasal cavity, your eyeball is flattened… and then you get used to it. It seems to resolve into a neck-pinching all-over general pain. There may, or may not, be nausea.
I missed my writing session for NaNoWriMo last Friday, Saturday and Sunday, because of migraine!! It lasted 2 days (and on the third day you gasp and blink with relief, but fear going near bright lights and technology) I was not sick. But I could not write at my laptop. I could not hand-write as I couldn’t wear my glasses without the ‘Mask’ pressing tighter. I couldn’t read, use my mobile phone, play video games.
Today, Tuesday, I still have the remnants of the pressure in my right eye and the roof of my mouth. I will have to get as much as possible written of my story, before the possibility of the whole thing kicking off again!
Like some kind of word assassin, it lurks on the edges of my brain, ready to sneak in and kill my vision.
In the mid 80s I went to a Polytechnic (now a University! Of course it is, aren’t they all) to study Fine Art. Whilst there, I met my future husband who not only taught me patience, the art of not caring what others think and how to play the guitar, but introduced me to the music of Patrik Fitzgerald.
As art students, it was our prerogative, nay, our duty, to lie in bed in the morning and arrive late. Sit around being fey, poetic, or as Jarvis Cocker once sang, “It may look to the untrained eye like I’m sitting on my arse all day.”
One day, whilst not attending class, my other half put on a cassette – you remember those,you had to wrap the brown tape around a pencil when it got tangled or twisted, and then the damaged bit would be a permanent wobble – anyway, he puts this tape on.
I had NEVER in my life heard anything like it. I immediately went out and bought an album – that’s a record, NOT a CD people – ‘Gifts and Telegrams’.
I played it until future hubby was sick of listening to it. I still have it. I haven’t listened to Fitzgerald’s music for over a decade – until today.
Fitzgerald is hard to classify/pigeonhole. Wiki describes him as –
“Patrik Fitzgerald…is an English singer-songwriter and an originator of folk punk… he began recording and performing during the punk rockmovement in 1977, after working briefly as an actor.”
I had never heard an album that sounded like it had been recorded in someone’s bedroom (though that’s where all the new young things start today – on social media *rolls eyes) I had never heard music that incorporated sounds that apparently didn’t belong to instruments. Singing in an amateurish, yet compelling, manner. And odd techno bleeps.
So today, as I was writing, I decided to look for my NaNoWriMo Novel Writing Soundtrack, and the wonder of the internet brought me to Patrik, it was an odd feeling I have to admit. Kind of like coming full circle musically, rediscovering your youth is a bizarre thing – just you wait!
Fitzgerald is incredibly unique in the history of British music and I do think more people should be aware of him. For some reason, he seems to have been forgotten. It isn’t Punk in the way most remember it, there’s no aggressive, hyper-tuneless, in-your-face stuff – though I do like a bit of aggro – Fitzgerald is more melancholic.He’s urban before urban was a thing, his introspective, almost suicidal lyrics pre-date Emo’s. Ironic, minimal, bitter, poetic,now is the time for a resurgence of Fitzgerald’s music focusing on the human condition.
I know it can be challenging for some people, but I do urge you to give it a listen to. I’d love to hear what people think.
This is my 2nd year at NaNo. Last year I started a sci-fi novel, reached my 50,000 word count and continued it – it is still progressing, has passed 100,000; but that’s for another time. This year I am trying a new approach. Planning!!!!!
I am late to the party this year, partly because of that and due to other writing commitments: I have a little map of the village in my notebook, all the villagers names, family connections and job roles in the community i.e. dyer, scribe, labourer etc. I have NEVER planned a story before.
I will be ‘trying’ to write a piece of Magical Realism, set in late 17th early 18th century. Suzanna is a 12 year old on the cusp of womanhood. All she wants is to be the May Queen and for James Joseph to fall in love with her. An isolated village, the Church, culture and conformity, and Oak Tree Jesus!
My notebooks, beginnings…
And so begins my introduction to this years NaNoWriMo event.
NaNoWriMo?? I hear you cry – what is wrong with you Alex, have you forgotten how to speak or are you making up new words?
National Novel Writing Month – shortened to nanowrimo – is an annual, Internet-based creative writing project that takes place during the month of November. Participants attempt to write a 50,000 word manuscript between November 1 and November 30. But you don’t have to!
If you’re a writer and need something to motivate you – this might prove to be worth a shout. I joined, last year, on the recommendation of a fellow Wirral Writer. I work alone, I like working alone, I don’t mix well when it comes to creativity, I don’t want to share my ideas and I don’t want to make new friends – if that sounds like you, then NaNo is still fit for purpose. You do not have to do anything you don’t want. But I got a hell of a lot of words written! I found that this works for me, I need a ‘kick-up-the-arse’, not because I don’t write or enjoy it, but because I get lost in the minutiae, or I wander off into the Land of Research – for example, did you know that not everyone in England in the 16th century had a chimney on their house? Chimneys were a luxury, a luxury!! – see what I mean?
Last year I was what is commonly called, a ‘Pantser’ – writing by the seat of your pants, not organised or planned. This year, it’s Planner; let’s see how that goes.
Sure, some people go all the way, they keep in touch, they communicate with new writing friends, they even meet up at venues for real-life ‘write-ins’ as well as virtual ones. It is a perfect writing platform as you use as little or as much of it as you want. You can see other people’s word counts – so you are either incentivized or proud as a peacock throughout.
So, if you are beginning a new story, or even in the middle of one, you can join the community and share as much, or as little, of your experience throughout the month of November – just get that story written!
Before NaNo – daydreaming, and during NaNo – working!
‘Covering four specific horror-related themes: Halloween, ghost stories, nautical terrors, and cosmic horror, The Asterisk Anthology: Volume 1, brings readers eight extraordinary tales from new authors of weird fiction, winners of the Nosetouch Press calls throughout 2017. ‘
Nosetouch Press on Amazon
Good Morning all!
I’m very pleased to announce that I have had my work published in this new anthology of horror stories. Not one, but two made it through the selection process! Yay!
It all began in October 2016; after reading a ‘call for submissions’ via Dark Markets, I entered my first story for Halloween. Nosetouch Press ran a 4 Round submission process – Halloween, Ghost Stories, Nautical Nightmares and finally Cosmic Horror. I came second in Rounds 1 and 4. It’s always great to see your work in print; validation through publication says that someone thought your work good enough – and few things feel better – for a writer.
There is a broad range of writing styles, tied together by the four themes. I am convinced you will find some you love in it (I have two reasons to love this anthology!)
I’d like to thank the two people involved in compiling this anthology; David T. Neal and Christine M. Scott, who must have spent hours reading through submissions, deliberating between them who had won and making final decisions. I know, from experience, how hard it is to get 10 writers work collected, edited and compiled into a form for publication, so what it must have been like for submissions from across the world, I cannot imagine.
You can buy your copy of The Asterisk Anthology here-
The ‘Challenge Alex’ experiment continues. Moving on with the idea of me being introduced to ‘new stuff’ in regards to music, this weeks suggestion comes from Ben, who, from my limited experience, does not fall into the same listening category as other students. He has a taste for the old-fashioned; he likes Edith Piaf, for example! (Shh, don’t tell him I told you!)So I am hoping he has something different to offer. This week I have been mostly listening to…
Rag ‘n’ Bone Man (AKA, Rory Graham)
N.B: this is NOT a review – it’s simply an experiment in expanding my listening tastes.
What I listened to –
1.Human. Great voice; a softer feeling Joe Cocker. Clapping and a tambourine keep the beat as ‘the Bone Man’ begs us to not ‘put the blame on me’. Background vocals provide harmony and the continuous ‘yell’ in the background – which, oddly, was not too irritating.
What does it sound like to me? It’s pop, but with a difference, influenced by Blues, Rock and Gospel I think.
Did I like it? Yes, I did.
2. Skin – Beginning a cappella, we get to hear the full power of this man’s voice. A very warm, deep Blues sound. When the music begins, it almost ruins it for me, the verse I didn’t like, but the chorus is strong and thrums away; instruments, vocals and lyrics creating a lovely, pulsing rhythm.
What does it sound like to me? Pop, with a Blues influence.
Did I like it? Yes, but not as much as the first one.
3.Lay My Body Down – Piano led intro, and then that voice. A plea to not weep for him when he’s gone, as Graham imagines his death. The piano, voice, drums etc. roll around each other in perfect harmony
What does it sound like to me? Again, it sounds like Gospel influence Pop.
Did I like it? It was okay.
4.Life in Her Yet – A slightly, lighter, upbeat intro, but the lyrics are still quite tragic.I can imagine this being used in a Western movie, the heroine has had a tough life; a hard-bitten woman with the desert ingrained on her face and a rifle always to hand.
What does it sound like to me? Country and Western influenced Blues Pop!
Did I like it? Kind of.
5.Grace – Vocals with a simple piano accompaniment; later joined by a bass, guitar, choir; each ‘instrument’ coming in layer upon layer until it builds to join in the chorus – then back to solo voice and piano. Not so much a romantic love song, but a song about eternal love, humanity.
What does it sound like to me? Oddly, it doesn’t feel completely like a modern song. There is something from the past lingering here that I just can’t put my finger on.
Did I like it? I think so; I enjoy the sentiment in the lyrics.
6.Bitter End – As he questions whether a relationship has come to the bitter end, we get swells of Gospel-like choir following his solo voice and lone piano. Like that it ends with the question on a high note and stops dead.
What does it sound like to me? A half-empty 80’s bar, smoky pop/soul. Reminds me a little bit of late Sade
Did I like it? Not sure.
7.Hard Came The Rain – Extremely deep throated intro! A little guitar riff that reminded me of Blue Oyster Cult’s ‘Fear the Reaper’ – hard chorus with passion and vitality; nice gravelly texture to Graham’s voice. Feels ‘real'(whatever that means!)
What does it sound like to me? Pop/Rock/soft Metal with a C & W influence.
Did I like it? Yes. Best so far.
8.Hell Yeah ft. Vince Staples – rap intro and interspersed throughout. Hell yeah, usually used as definite acknowledgement to a comment, here Graham uses it to say we are all going to Hell – yeah! Quite a short number compared to the previous, at just under 4 minutes, it has an abrupt ending; possibly the abrupt ending some of us deserve! The drums have that tripping hip-hop edge to them giving a very vaguely militaristic feel.
What does it sound like to me? Soul meets Hip Hop.
Did I like it? I think so, I don’t normally like Hip-Hop, but the treatment given here works for me.
9.Guilty –what I would describe as a ‘typical’ rock/pop sound; with undertones of rap. Nothing outstanding here.
What does it sound like to me? Soft Rock, Pop.
Did I like it? Not really. A little dull in comparison to, say, Hard Came The Rain.
10.No Mother – A black gospel, soulful intro. Graham’s Blues tinged voice goes full on ‘Mississippi man’. The regular beat and metallic clangs, I feel, are meant to inspire in us a memory of black slaves working themselves to death on building the railroads. Here we are listening to the voice of a parent who wants to see the child that they have been denied access to.
What does it sound like to me? Particularly the intro and the ending, make me think of poor black people in the bad old days of the American South. Blues Pop.
Did I like it? No. It is too derivative for my liking.
To round-up – I will definitely be giving Rag ‘n’ Bone Man another listening to. Though I can’t assign a definitive style to his music, I just feel that it is something that I would not, under normal circumstances, bother listening to; but I will. However, that being said, I did find myself thinking, you’re a white man,from East Sussex; why are you singing like a black man? Am I even allowed to say that? There is a particular sound that we equate to peoples of the world, and Blues, Jazz, Soul and Gospel tend to belong to Black Americans. Writers are told to write ‘what you know’, and I can’t help but be suspicious of someone who takes on another cultural style wholesale.
So, maybe this is the challenge for me! The music in itself was not challenging, but its delivery and cultural context were. Maybe I just need to be less narrow-minded when it comes to what people sound like; regardless. Were my middle-aged-lady sensibilities offended? Not at all. I would like to see how Rag ‘n’ Bone Man progresses over the next 10 years or so; he’s relatively new on the music scene; I believe, so plenty of time to comfortably grow into his own creative skin – I’m betting he will be great in his later years.
Addendum: After initially writing up this post, I watched the video for Hard Came The Rain, made by Nick Rutter. He makes a story about the violent end of a relationship between a female impersonator and his ex-lover; quite powerful imagery that provides a decent narrative to the song. I still like this song best of the ten I spent time listening to, now I realise that it is quite different from the other nine, Graham doesn’t sound like he is trying too hard, it sounds like his voice – not borrowed from a late, great Blues singer.
I know I mis-spelt the word in the heading! Irritating? Confusing? Not as much as the following will be…
I guess you have to be born in Britain to fully understand the peculiarities of our language. Most of the time you don’t have to explain what you mean – like belonging to a gang that has it’s own idiosyncratic lingo, the English have words, phrases and grammar that does not always make sense to a foreigner. Add to that, the odd dialectic words that are peculiar to geographic areas; that you don’t find anywhere else in the UK, and you have a potential minefield.
Stuff we say – but don’t mean:
“How are you?” Mostly, the English don’t want to know how you are, this is simply another way to say ‘Hi’ or ‘Hello’. You’ll come across this in a place of work where people are hurrying past each other – “How’re you?” or “You alright?” (depending on location), is answered with “Fine. You?” then move on.
“That’s quite good.” Usually translates as, “That’s rubbish!” We’re just being polite. Don’t take it personally. An English person would actually recognise this as being quite a barbed comment, if said with the right tone!
“With respect.” Probably said at work or in middle of a heated debate. This usually means, “You’re an idiot! I’m being patient with you. And I don’t agree with anything you’ve said!”
When invited out for a social event, or to visit your home, you might suggest getting together sometime. An English person will most likely say, “That’d be nice.” What he or she is thinking is, “Oh no, please don’t invite me out. I can’t think of anything I would less like to do.”
“It’s fine.” Watch this one. You have most likely offended. It actually translates as, “Are you a f***ing idiot!”
If an English person says “Thank you” in a determined way, or “Your welcome” it is most likely in response to another person being rude – i.e. not holding a door open, or not making eye contact when giving change. They are pointing out your rudeness.
“I beg your pardon?” If it sounds like a question, we’re not asking for your pardon, we’re miffed at something you said or did. It means, “Explain yourself, you disgusting creature!”
Words that mean more than one thing – reading and speaking are two/too different things:
Vowels sound different depending on the job of the word, stress placed on beginning or end of a word makes it a different noun.
The farm was used to produce produce.
The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
I did not object to the new object.
The psychologist had to subject the subject to a test.
Britain still has a class system; don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If you are lucky, or unlucky depending on your point of view, you might mix with all four! Yes, despite what some would like to believe, Britain is a multi-layered society and we all know our place!
Upper class are the posh peeps; ‘old money’, though many these days have little cash as their stately homes have sucked it all up. They don’t usually have a job.
Middle class (and within this are the upper and lower middle), these are the aspirational, moneyed, living in comfort. Managers in private companies, government employees and teachers fit n here.
Working class (within this are also two levels; according to pay, benefits, lifestyle) are what it sounds like, workers in lower paid jobs; industry (little of that left), shop-workers, teaching assistants, nurses and carers.
Trying to say the correct version of a word in a given social situation can even trip up the English!
Toilet, Lavatory, Loo – or Bog?
Bicycle, Bike, Cycle?
Lunch or Dinner?
Pudding, Sweet, Dessert – or Afters?
Sick, Ill, Poorly, Unwell – or Under The Weather?
Pardon, Sorry, What?
Napkin or Serviette?
Front Room, Lounge, Living Room?
Settee, Sofa, Couch?
Pants, Undies, Knickers?
Names that will fry your noodle:
Place-names as well as family names in Britain can be complicated. If you mispronounce a place-name the locals might have a laugh at your expense, but it reveals that you are ‘not one of us’. If you mispronounce a family name (especially those complicated upper-class ones), then you a revealing that ‘You really are NOT one of us’ (ugh!)
Name Not like this Say this
Aldeburgh Alda-berg Olbra
Beaulieu Bow-lee-oo Bewlee
Beauchamp Bow-champ Beecham
Cholmondeley Chol-mon-delly Chumley
Dalziel Dalzee-el Deeyell
Farquhar Far-que-har Farkwa
Gloucester Glaow -cester Glosta
Mainwaring Main-wearing Mannering
Norwich Nor-witch Norritch
By the way, American English is another thing altogether, just don’t talk about it with a Brit!!!!
And another thing to fry your noodle about English, I have attempted to stick to English and it’s dialects. Scots, Welsh and Irish have their own idiosyncrasies, but they do speak English. You may have noticed me flipping between the words English and British; I refer to myself as British as I am a mix of Irish, English and Scottish, I am not just English – except on a form when there is not option for Anglo-Irish. There has been a decades long debate about English or British, and because one of the opinions-that I agree with- is that the REAL British are the Welsh, who were pushed west by the Anglo invaders, then I cannot, by my own argument, be British!!!