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Wednesday 30 January 2013

How to Hydroplane in London during Rush Hour (Moment of Oops, Part 89765)

My brother bought me a pair of Uggs when I was in Oz a couple of years ago. I made loud cooing noises, and I wear them a lot. They're pricey in London, so the best I could afford where the cheap shop versions, where the lining turns into the zombie version of cotton wool and tries to eat your toes after a few outings.

I try not to wear them when it rains, though, because although I love them to bits, for some reason in wet weather they become the equivalent of strapping blocks of butter to your feet, especially over anything metal or tiled. The results have been interesting in the past. I've never dared try them in snow. There's a certain age where you just stop bouncing well on pavements.

On Tuesday morning when I left the house, the puddles were drying up. The remaining ice packs from last weeks snow had washed away, and the sky seemed fairly clear.

The Uggs went on and I trotted down to the station, detouring around the gangs of pigeons that were loitering around the remaining puddles and sniggering at the pedestrians.

I reached Kentish Town just over an hour later, since TFL was having it's usual morning melt-down, and it was drizzling. It must have rained pretty hard just a few minutes earlier, because the ground was saturated.

The first light crossing wasn't too bad.

The second one... Well, I took a step towards the end of the pedestrian ramp, expecting to stand and wait for the light to change, and realised that I had no brakes. There was nothing and nobody to grab onto to stop myself.

Messenger bag flapping behind me, little grocery sack containing my lunch (yogurt and a cool drink) held stiff-armed in front of me to ward of demons, pigeons, and on-coming traffic, and chanting the usual Incantation of Protection (OhshitohshitI'mgoingtodie!), I sailed majestically over the road.
I'm 99% sure I had a little bow wave following me.

There was a group of people waiting for the next bus who watched me hydroplane across the road with varying expressions of awe and horror. I was lucky, the only traffic that came close to me was some guy on a fancy racing bike, who squawked something as he blew past me. No idea what it was since I was still busy chanting.

I did the rest of the walk to work using the exaggerate penguin shuffle. It went well, right up until some small flying thingy flew up my nose, at which point I went "Gah!", and swotted myself in the face, with the hand containing the grocery sack. Whilst doing so, I forgot the penguin shuffle, and hydroplaned rapidly into the brick wall of the building next to my office. (No marks or bruises, because I hit it with the top of my head, which was cushioned with a beanie hat as well as quite a bit of hair.)

I took a few minutes to lean against the building and remember how to breath, because slapping yourself in the throat with a grocery sack containing a bottle of carbonated drink tends to affect that.

It rained for the rest of the day. I took the bus back to the station after I clocked out.

Sunday 27 January 2013

Interesting Side-Affects, or the Chapters the Other Me Wrote

Here's a bit of a strange one for you: I appear to written chapters I don't remember. At all.

The last bit I remember writing was a few pages after the last snippet I posted. I opened the document this weekend expecting to pretty much pick up from there. What I found were several chapters I'd written during the mild phase of migraine on-set/withdrawal, and I don't remember putting those words down.
They're pretty good - a few minor spelling hiccups that have been fixed, and it's obviously my writing, but I don't remember doing it. I was trying to figure out how to describe the hunters that have our two hawks cornered, and it turns out that's been done, and rather creepily too. (Well done, Migraine-Me.)

I've taken a look back through the work already down, and there are several bits I don't remember. Actually, I would have sworn blind I hadn't touched the PC on those days, since they match up to a couple of serious attacks in my migraine diary. And while it's still obviously me writing, those scenes have sharp, jagged little edges to them that are very interesting indeed, since I'm wondering if those word spikes correspond to the pain spikes.

At this point I'm not complaining, although it's a bit unnerving to realise part of me wants to write so badly that I'll do it subconsciously. (I do wish Migraine-Me would pay attention to spelling though; she's left a bit of a mess to clean up.) Those strange little scenes work well in the book, and although I may have to do a little more polishing to make sure the voice doesn't veer too wildly from place to place, I'm going to just read, edit and move on.

I haven't found anything in my research to indicate this is a thing for other migraine sufferers, though.   (I know the accepted term is migraneur. It makes me want to roll on the floor and bite the carpet, because it sounds like we have this fantastic adventure every time it hits, instead of praying for death and codeine, so I don't use it.) If anyone else has had this happen, I'd love to know. Otherwise I'll just have to accept this as some sort of apology from the pain gods and leave it at that.

One other interesting thing. I'm pain-free (yay, Botox!) but still noticing symptoms - the bruising under the eyes still appears, the hyper-sensitive smell and strange tastes still comes and goes. I can live with that. If I'm pain-free, I can live with that quite happily. I've had no light-show effects though, which correlates with the theory that those particular nerves are no longer being affected. I'm hoping that research eventually unearths the reasons for the rest of the symptoms, but my personal evidence suggests these are occurring in the brain itself, and not caused by the expansion of blood vessels against the facial nerves.

Sunday 20 January 2013

Pain Free, and a Celebration Ravens Snippet

It's Sunday night, and I am migraine-free for the first time in weeks. At this point in time, I consider Botox to be the best discovery on the planet, and I've bouncing around the flat like a bunny on extra-strength carrots; the sheer relief of not feeling miserable is indescribable. 

Next week I get to write again, and function like a normal human, (well, as normal as I'm ever going to get) and hopefully this means I'm migraine-free for another year or so. 

To celebrate, here's another wee snippet from the WIP. Usual warnings apply - still to go through final edit, possible typo's, and definite strong language.



Mariah crawled backwards to him and circled her forefinger in the air, one eyebrow raised. He nodded. Every moment they were on the roof without a dampening spell meant the danger of alerting their attackers to where they were, and he felt the quick prickle of the spell she laid and pushed against it gently with his mind.  It would hold for a while.

"Quickly!" Jadah hissed from behind them. "It won't take them long." She looked at them bleakly. "They have your scent."  
"What are they?" Mariah asked.   
"I'm not sure," the spirit said. "But if they get hold of you two we are totally and utterly fucked. You need to get off this roof."  
"We could hold them off here for a while," Carmine said.  
"I'm not sure Amber could hold them off," Jadah said, and Carmine felt himself pale.  
"They have the streets blocked," Mariah said. "We'd need to get to across town using the rooftops."  
"No," Jadah said. "Too noisy, and these things are too fast, and smart enough to have thought of that. They have traps set up over the next three blocks in every direction."  
"They were expecting us," Mariah said. There was a cold, hard ball of fear and fury in her gut. "They expected hawks."  
"I reckon so."  
"If we can't outfight them or outrun them, we're running out of options here." Carmine said.   
"I can show you how to hide," Jadah said. "But it's going to hurt."  
"Oh, good. One of those."   
The two females rolled their eyes at him and he shrugged. "What do we need to do?"  
"You need to trust me," the ghost said. "And you need to bleed. Both of you." 

Jadah took them over to the chimneystack with its cold gray stone. "Cut the backs of your hands, your forearms, temples, and the back of your necks. Long and shallow; this could take a while and I don't want you bleeding out." 
Mariah and Carmine looked at each other.  
"Me first," Mariah said eventually, and held her hands out to Carmine. He pulled out his boot dagger and began to cut, swiftly but carefully. He hesitated when he got to her face. 
"I'll heal," she said softly. "And next hunt will see the scars gone." 
"Doesn't mean I have to enjoy it," he grumbled. 
"Hurry up!" Jadah hissed, and they both felt the spell at the top of the stairs fail. The raiders were outside the room beneath them. 
Carmine bent over and kissed Mariah on the forehead, then made the last three cuts and slapped the knife into her hand. 
She worked faster than he had.  
"You need to bend down so I reach your neck," she said. 
The door shield fell and they both staggered. 
He took the blade from her and swiped it across his own neck. 
"Idiot man," Mariah said.

Saturday 19 January 2013

When the Black Dog Bites

I logged onto Facebook this morning and saw a RIP post that shook me badly.  I flicked over to her page & couldn't see anything. (It turns out I didn't scroll down far enough, but that's just me being special with the internet again.)

A few years ago, I was a member of the T-Party, before work got nuts and I started travelling all over the place.

Denni Schnapp was one of the writers in the group. Talented, opinionated, intense. Ferociously intelligent.

After I left the group, I followed most of them on Facebook. It's pretty cool watching folks you knew do well, get published, and grow.

Denni and I clashed a few times on Facebook. Nothing nasty, just irritation, I reckon. At some point last year we quietly unfriended each other. No big deal, no drama. I'd still see the odd posting by mutual friends, and I'd click over to her live journal every now and then. (I thought I was reading a WIP - pretty dark stuff, but I've seen worse on those pages, usually with half the talent Denni displayed.)

Last Thursday, she hung herself.

I have no idea what to say, or think. I'm grieving for the loss of a talented writer, for that intellect that burnt so fiercely you could warm your hands on it. For the woman I shared a couple of drinks with during T-Party meetings.

Looking back at her live journal is the worst kind of hindsight, because this wasn't some experimental WIP, this was real.

Someone I knew - we weren't bosom buddies but I knew her - was in severe, very real, emotional pain, and I never understood that. Never got it.

When the black dog bites, it tears chunks out of more than the person it eventually kills. It mauls the ones left behind; the family, the friends, the colleagues.

All I can hope is that she now has the peace she so desperately sought and never found on the skin of this world.

All I can say is that I am sorry.

Friday 18 January 2013

A moment in darkness

I haven't blogged since The Weeping Butcher incident, mainly because it's been a couple of weeks of excruciating migraine attacks, and trust me, you don't go near a computer screen during a serious one of those.

Every few years I seem to go through a cycle of increasingly severe attacks. It happens at various times, in various seasons, and it doesn't matter what I've eaten or drunk. In fact, looking back over the migraine diary, the only pattern is that there is no pattern. It's annoying. It makes my OCD hurt.

Straight after writing the butcher blog, I had the worst attack I've had in years. About thirty minutes into it I went blind. Not the white-out that I'm used to, where all the colour bleaches out of the world and I know it's time to pass out. This time, everything went black. No pretty coloured explosion or flashing lights either. Just straight to darkness.

It happened so unbelievably fast. One minute I was whimpering about pain at my cousin, and twenty seconds later I couldn't see anymore.

Stacey, bless her, helped me up the stairs and into my bedroom. I crawled onto the bed and waited.

I didn't panic because I'd heard of it happening to other sufferers, so I knew it was temporary. I know that because the blood vessels expand during an attack and put pressure on facial nerves that is the cause of the pain, and this particular attack was lodged behind my eyes, so I can assume that the same pressure impacted the optical nerves in some way. It was still pretty scary, and if I hadn't done the research I'd have been a screaming mess, but there's a big leap between reading about something and experiencing it. There is no way to prepare yourself for something like that. You can understand it intellectually, but having it actually happen? You end up clutching to the knowledge that it passes, that it will end, because other people deal with this. You cuddle up to it like a teddy bear, and hope to hell you aren't going to make medical history by being the girl that doesn't get her sight back.

The blindness passed in around twenty to twenty-five minutes or so. The actual migraine attack lasted 4 days, which is not my idea of fun. The first night was the worst. Couldn't sleep. Couldn't talk. Kept asking Stacey to punch me out (she wouldn't). I spent the night rocking gently with the lights off, praying for it to stop. I didn't particularly care if it killed me at that point, as long as it stopped; I was fantasising about someone just drilling a tiny hole over the eye socket to relieve the pressure. It made a week in the hospital with a broken leg look like a kiddies tea party.

The problem is, I can't even hide the mild ones - one of my personal symptoms is severe discolouration under the eyes. Mild attacks are light brown. More severe ones turn blue-black. During this particular episode, I looked like someone had used me as a punching bag.
It took until that Thursday before food stopped making me gag and I could eat. Friday was good. I no longer looked like Zombie Chick on Acid, and I could eat. Saturday was brilliant. Sunday I had another attack.

I decided to hell with it and called the nurse for a Botox appointment. I had it done the last time I had a cluster of attacks like this, and I was migraine free for a year. I have no idea why the pain relief lasts longer than the muscular effect, and the scientists are still trying to figure that one out. Karma obliged by letting me get some savings together, with a lot of help from others. (The jabs are pretty pricy, and it's £250 that I'll never see again, but it's still cheaper than spending a fortune on pain-killers and losing days.)

In the past week I've had two. The first I got over in about 4 hours, because I got a can of oxygen off of Amazon and used it. It helped. Didn't cure it, but I reckon it shortened it.

Yesterday I travelled up to Bournemouth, and heading back on the train I could feel the next one start. No oxygen this time, just take the tablets and sit very still and get back to London. Thankfully the last one was pretty mild, but I keep thinking back to that moment I went blind, standing in my kitchen.

Since  the start of December I've lost almost 3 weeks of my life because I just couldn't function, and I cannot carry on like this. I have an understanding boss, and brilliant family and friends, but that's not the point. Being unable to move for 4 days of my life is not an option. Going blind in my kitchen when I can prevent it, is not an option. Life is too damn short to spend it whimpering in a dark room.

At the moment, provided the snow doesn't mess things up, I get the jabs tomorrow. I can't wait.

Sunday 6 January 2013

Zombie Duck followup, or How to Make Your Butcher Weep, & the Return of the Pigeons

I've been tormented by birds this week. First the Zombie Duck debacle, then my old foes, the Pigeons, who attempted to splat on me Friday while I waited on the platform for my connecting train.

Me (Hears splat and looks down at puddle of white next to the toe of my boot): Bloody pigeons. (Looks up. There is a large black feathered bag of evil smirking at me & wiggling its tail feathers.)
Bag of Evil: *CoooEeee!* It carefully shuffles further across on its perch and aims a feathered butt at me. 
I move. Splat!
Me: Missed, you bugger!
Bag of Evil: *Gah!* Shuffle. Aim. Fire.
Me: WTF? Missed again, though. At this point I moved further down the platform, to the very edge of the sheltered area.
Bag of Evil: *OooooOOOOO* Shuffle Shuffle Shuffle. Aim. Fire.
Me (hastily side-stepping): I swear I will climb up there and kick your feathered arse...

It should be pointed out that issuing threats of violence at pigeons while shaking your fist at them results in a very clear space around you, and the general refusal of any fellow traveller to meet your line of sight. I spent the remaining 8 minutes on that platform in the unsheltered area, keeping an eye out for incoming bird missiles and feeling my face turn numb, which did not improve my temperament. Nobody got on the same carriage as me.


On Saturday I wandered down to the butcher shop. I needed mince to make hamburgers, and these guys also sell some organic vegetables that blow the supermarket produce out of the water for taste, size, and price.

I also wanted to warn them about Zombie Duck, since I have no idea what caused it or whether any other customers had the same issue.

The guy I usually deal with is a friendly chap - always smiling, always with a cheery greeting for everyone. It's one of the reasons I keep going in there; that and their meat quality is excellent. Zombie Duck was an aberration.

Butcher: Hello, there. How were the tongues?
Me: Tongues were great, thank you. Bit of a problem with the duck, though.
Butcher looks mortified: What happened?
Me: It turned green in the oven.
Butcher: What???? (His lower lip starts to quiver.)
Me: Never had that happen before. Has anyone else had that?
Butcher (Shaking head violently): No. Oh, god. Oh, my. I'm so sorry. I'm just-
He breaks off to ring my stuff up. His eyes are starting to - Oh, my dear Gods - my butcher is trying not to cry.
Me (starting to babble): I just thought you needed to know. I'll probably order more tongue soon. Thanks, bye!
I grabbed my purchases and fled. As I stepped outside, I glanced back to see the poor man slumped against a wall, shoulders shaking ever so slightly, and one of his colleagues patting him on the arm.

I walked home feeling mortified. I don't like feeling that I was cause of someone feeling so desolate they had to cry. To be honest, I never know what to do when someone starts crying at the best of times, and having it happen over £10 bird was a bit more than I expected.

I have even more respect for the powers of the undead, though.

Zombie Duck made my butcher weep.

Tuesday 1 January 2013

Zombie Duck!

Well, that didn't take long.

It's not often something goes spectacularly wrong in the kitchen at my little pit of doom in East London, but when it does, it goes all the way.

The plan was to roast a whole duck. I got the duck at the local butchers just before Christmas, put it straight into the freezer, and spent a couple of happy hours researching recipes.

The plan was to have whole crispy-skinned roast duck with a soy and honey baste and some vegetables on the side.

What we got was... erm ... probably best described as crispy roast uck, with a side of potential plague. The four horsemen of the apocalypse rode through my kitchen and left holding their noses and gagging gently.

The first indication that something was wrong came around the beginning of the second hour of slow roasting, when an indescribable aroma began to fill up the flat.

Now, I've cooked duck before. Never a whole one, usually the legs and breast. It smells great. It does not smell like a werwolf rolled in a sewer and then duct-taped itself to an exhaust outlet.

I checked to make sure the giblets were out, and there weren't any feathers left. The duck had been defrosted and salted, and if the meat was off I'd expect to smell it at that point, or see discolouration. I wondered if some cleaning product had gotten into the oven.  I'd left some of the extra skin in the pan to get crispy so I took a tentative nibble. It tasted okay. Fifteen minutes later my mouth and throat were burning.

A skype conversation with the folks confirmed that duck shouldn't reek badly while cooking, so I decided to haul it out and see what the hell had happened.

By this point my cousin was walking around with her top pulled up over her nose and mouth, like an extra from a cowboy movie. The stench was dying down a little, so I pulled open the oven door and hauled The Bird That Shall Not Be Named out.

Stacey and I looked at it. At this point, I may have thrown up a little in my mouth.

The top of the bird had turned a hideous shade of grey-green. The meat on the legs had collapsed, leaving shards of brown bone sticking through. The sides were splitting and peeling apart. (The skin was crispy, though. Definitely got that bit right.)

By all appearances, I had just roasted seven shades out of zombie duck.

(I ate some of that. It was a nibble, true, but not the point. I ate some of that. I'm hoping not enough to get me sick.)

At this point the smell was overpowering, and both of us retreated from the kitchen to our respective bedrooms. The dialogue below is an extract of the text message conversation that followed.

Me: This is an ex-duck in every sense of the word. Chicken again?
Stacey: Maybe it shagged the dog. (When the smell started, she thought a dog had gotten in. A large, dirty, wet dog.)
Me: Fluffy duck! Or, Fluffy got ducked? 
Stacey: Fluffy got ducked then stuffed into a duck suit.
Me: Duffy does Fluffy?
Stacey: It could have been Pluto or Goofy.
Me: Duffy is a bad, bad duck.

Eventually, for the sanity of all concerned, Stacey got dressed for outdoors while I double-bagged Zombie Duck, and she took it downstairs to the outside bin.

I put on the extractor fan to the highest setting and scrubbed everything down with malt vinegar and soap.

We ordered Chinese takeaway, and I sulked over the perfect crispy duck pancakes that arrived as part of the order.


It's back to work for me tomorrow, so the blog posts will slow down a bit.  If anyone has any clue how I ended up roasting zombie duck, I'd love to hear it.

We've ended up putting a diffuser into the kitchen; as the smell of roast zombie duck faded, it started to smell more and more like said zombie duck defecated as it was hauled out of the kitchen.

There are easier ways to clear your sinuses.