I’m a natural stress-head. Not about everything but about little things. When it comes to big things, I’m surprisingly calm. I can handle it. But for little things, stupid things mostly, I’m a stress-head. I stress about time a lot. How am I going to find the time to get everything done? What if I die soon? I’ve taken on too much work…again! I stress about doing things well. You could have done that better, Riley. You’re not very good, are you Riley? I stress about stressing even. Chill out! What’s the matter with you? I snap at my poor, unsuspecting husband when I’m stressing too. I can’t help it. It’s like little worms burrowing into my brain and making me behave irrationally – irrational because stressing rarely helps.
This over-assuming book has been looming on my book case for longer than I remember. I wouldn’t even know where it came from if it weren’t for the charity shop sticker pasted to the front – ah yes, one of my jaunts through the many that grace our town, spending money I haven’t got on books that I rarely get around to reading. I say ‘over-assuming’ because of the dark, foreboding cover and the creepy looking doll, with it’s piercing black eyes and spooky under-layer. The cover, if I’m honest, has always frustrated me a little and perhaps that is why it has always lain untouched. It jumps out and smacks you on the face and says ‘read me’ in such an ugly, obvious way that I was repelled and put off. I built a wall that screamed back ‘no I won’t, I’ll read what I bloody well like and you can’t stop me’, shouting (silently of course, I’m not as crazy as I would perhaps like to be) in an obstinate manner much as I imagine Harriet herself would do.
It’s the intent of an action that makes it morally wrong, rather than the consequences.
That’s something I find myself pondering often (obviously in between more important ponderings such as “what’s for dinner?” and “Is it nap time yet?”). When does a neutral action become a morally bad one? At its time of conception with the intention or at its conclusion with its consequences? Or even somewhere in the middle? It’s something Roy and I debate quite often too. Whilst he’s firmly on the consequences end of things, I tend to be swayed more by the notion of intention – and not just because being on opposite ends of the spectrum engenders a better debate.
The jam jar fell from the kitchen worktop. She saw it fall, as though in slow motion, but her dive to catch it did nothing to save it. It smashed on the floor with a crash and a splat. The thick, purple lava spread slowly, crawling across the floor and climbing over glass fragments like a predator.
Even as a kid, I never really got money. I mean, I had pocket money, I understand money, I even like money to the extent that it can buy me things and offer opportunities and experiences I wouldn’t otherwise have, but at the same time, I never got money. I still don’t. I mean, bits of extravagantly printed paper or stamped chunks of metal that we pass around to one another and for what? What’s their real purpose? To be able to pass it to someone else in exchange for other things, who will then do exactly the same. Bits of stuff we just…move around. It seems pointless, doesn’t it? It something we all accept with ease because it’s part of our everyday lives and has been forever but if you really think about, it seems banal and bizarre and peculiar. It’s not like warmth or food or skill. It’s not something that actually provides value to our lives other than as something to exchange. It has no function. Money is, in essence, useless.
I’ve never really seen the appeal of audiobooks. Why sit and listen to something when you could be reading instead? It didn’t make any sense to me, but then neither do other hobbies like…you know…anything that involves moving or going out or talking to real-live people. What’s more, I’d get even more pickled when people say that they’ve ‘read’ so-and-so book as an audiobook. You didn’t read it then, did you? I’d quietly ask (more than quietly – I’d ask in silence). I never thought there was anything wrong with audiobooks of course. If you enjoy listening to books, go for it – why not? But it’s not reading is it? It’s listening. Saying you’ve ‘read’ an audiobook is like saying you ‘read’ the movie version, right?
So it was book club again this week. I love book club. Even when everyone enjoyed the book, the discussion always reduces to a bitch-fest of which characters we didn’t like and who did something stupid. It’s fun. Even without the bitch-fest, it’s always satisfying to talk to people who agree with us and interesting to talk to those who don’t. The best book club meetings are those when there is a range of opinions on a book – lovers and haters. That can really get a debate going.
See How They Runby Tom Bale didn’t quite manage that level of debate, but it did get the conversation flowing. There were some who absolutely loved the book while others thought it was okay, but there were no out-and-out haters this month. Certainly, as it proclaims on its cover, it’s a fast-paced novel. Right from the outset, the action gets your heart pumping and your curiosity jumping. It gets your eyes running across the words and stumbling as you try to take the story in too soon. You need to know what’s going to happen next.
“You can do whatever you want to do, as long as you believe in yourself.”
When I was a kid, mum and dad said that to me a lot – a good, strong, positive idea to spur me on to greater things. Motivational advice designed to keep me going, to keep me confident, to keep me working hard, and to make sure I make something of myself. It worked and, perhaps because it was so drummed into me or perhaps because it’s true, I still adhere to this guiding principle – work hard and believe in yourself and you’ll achieve whatever it is you want to achieve. It’s pretty powerful for one little sentence.
Even as a child, though, I could see the flaw in this proposition – not so much in real terms, but in abstract terms. No matter how hard I work or how much I believe in myself, I’ll never be able to fly to the sun (the story of Icarus, which I was also told as a child, is proof enough of that). No matter how hard I work or how much I believe in myself, I can’t just point at a frog and turn him into a prince – not that I’d need to, I’ve already found my prince (altogether now…d’aaawww – or blurgh – equally acceptable reactions). So the proposition, no matter how motivational or powerful or functional, is simply not true. But what if it was?
Do you know what I’ve realised? Time is a big thing for me. It’s an issue, and not just in the I-don’t-have-enough-of-it sense (although without a doubt, I don’t have enough of it). Time, where it comes from and where it goes, how we waste it and how to make the most of it, efficiency, procrastination, life, death, and immortality. They’re things I think about a lot – and I know I’ve done a fair few blog posts on the topic too – but time genuinely does affect our everyday lives in ways that sometimes we don’t even realise.
I recently read a blog post by fellow author Tanya Jones. It was all about immortality and whether it’s a good thing. It got me thinking. In fact, I read it over a week ago and since then, the concept of immortality has been swirling around and around in my over-stuffed brain, trying to wedge it’s way between thoughts of what we’re having for tea, the ever-increasing to-do list for the bar, and the importance of putting commas in the correct places. After all, immortality is a big deal, right?
Stories are hard, I think. I can think of scenes – scene after scene after scene – but stories? Stories are hard. I’m not really sure why I find stories hard – and I mean proper, structured stories with a beginning, middle, and end – but I do. I start writing and I’ll be honest, half the time, I don’t even know where it’s going and then I get stuck and I’ve got a scene with no real purpose. Is that just me or does that happen to anyone else?
Sir Drink-A-Lot swivelled slowly on his bar stool to face the fallen glass that now lay in a thousand tiny pieces on the floor.
“What the…?” he asked, as though the shattered glass could answer him. He held an empty glass in one hand and a bottle of whisky in the other. Poor Sir Drink-A-Lot didn’t manage to fill it before all the craziness began though, for the fallen glass was merely the beginning. With a low grumble, the floor began to rumble and the glasses on the shelves began to tinkle amongst themselves. Sir Drink-A-Lot stared, open-mouthed, as Evry Pub shook around him.
The Last Weekendtells the story of Ian and Em, a seemingly everyday couple, with everyday values and everday lives. It tells the story of a stiflingly hot August bank holiday weekend away in the English countryside with old friends, Ollie and Daisy. Despite having not seen each other for a number of years, the two couples aim to revive old friendships, offer up new revelations, and spend a relaxing weekend together, taking a break from the woes of real life. And it turns out just like that. Sort of.
I’ve been thinking about death a lot lately. Not in a philosophical sense – where do we go afterwards, do we have a soul? Not in a physiological sense either – the heart stopping, the brain dying, the blood not pumping around. No, I’ve been thinking about death in a more normal sense, in an every-day human sense.
Somewhere far, far away, hidden in the depths of the Earth, is a village that very few people know about. It’s a rather special village indeed, and it has a rather peculiar name. It’s called Evry Village.
It’s a tiny, unassuming little place. In fact, if you were to accidently come across it – although it’s very unlikely you would – if you were to come across it, you wouldn’t think that there was anything special about it at all. The gardens are well-kept and the streets are well-swept, the neighbours are friendly and the children are happy. The cats and dogs are clean and kind too. If you were to come across it, everyone would behave perfectly normally, as though they were merely a pleasant, simple community. But every Evry inhabitant, from the tiniest kitten to the boys and girls and the oldest of the grown-ups too, they all know the truth about Evry Village. For Evry Village has a secret, and what a very special and rather delightful secret it is.
Death’s a funny thing, isn’t it? Funny weird, not funny haha. Nobody knows where you’ve gone or why or what’s happened to you. You’re just there one minute and then…then you’re not. You’re just an empty shell, a nothingness that bears no resemblance to you, the real you. You’re lost in the realm of things that can’t be explained, whilst those you’ve left behind are wandering, wondering, shell-shocked and surprised even though really, it shouldn’t have been that much of a surprise. It happens to everyone eventually, and you were old and sick, it was on the cards.
It was raining. Henrietta hated it when it rained. She hated it in that same way that all the hatless hate the rain.
“Eeeek,” she squeaked as the rain pattered onto her soft and downy head. “I’m going to melt!” Her little feet pitter-pattered on the ground, making the cutest, teeny-tiniest slapping sound. She ran here, she ran there, but nowhere could she escape the plops of liquid that quite insisted on landing upon her soft and downy head.
You know, one of the things that I love most about books is just how versatile they are. Yes, they can make you laugh or make you cry, but it’s more than that. Books can be pure entertainment and escapism or they can be there to guide you through life. They can be a reflection of your soul or help you through a spiritual matter. They teach you things, from facts and figures to methods and hows to do things. Format It Yourself by Jo Roderick falls exactly into this category – and it does it very, very well.
I’ve been stood here for too long, trying to make a decision. I know I’m taking too long. I just know it. This isn’t normal. It’s not. I’m not normal! She’s getting impatient. I thought I’d made my decision but now she’s asking me questions, making me clarify my decision, making me add extra nuances. It’s like time has slowed and I’m having to use all my energy to concentrate on making this one decision. Too many. Too many decisions today. Too many decisions in life. What if I make the wrong one? What if I say yes and it all goes disastrously? What if I say no and regret it? There is so much riding on it. Or is there? Perhaps the rest of my life, perhaps not.