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Sunday 2 November 2014

Dangerous Times

These are dangerous times for a lot of people.

This is not a good time to be a Muslim. I'm watching my Facebook feed blow up on a regular basis with people who've drunk the poison fed to them by the media, and call it good, and I feel my stomach turn every time I read the crap they spout.

I don't think it's ever been a good time to be a Jew; as a race they've been subjected to every atrocity imaginable, and the number of morons who think every Jew believes Israel is righteously bombing the hell out of Palestine is face-palm worthy.

It's a very bad time to be black, especially in the USA, where it seems someone called open season on young black males and didn't send the memo to the rest of us. I'm pretty sure other minorities are getting the pointy end of the stick as well, but it hasn't blown up on any sites. Yet.

It's a horrible time to be female and active on social media. If you don't deal with asshats who think you're a lower species because you don't possess a penis, you're incredibly lucky.

It is dangerous to be gay, bi or trans in a world where people who take way too much interest in what you do in bed have power over you.

It is a lethal time to be poor. If you are poor and disabled, you are clinically and categorically fucked. If a society is judged by how it treats its most vulnerable members, ours would get a failing grade. When you have politicians who reckon that MS suffers and people with permanent disabilities can get better in the next six months, you move into the realm of a Monty Python skit.

What the mainstream and tabloid media are doing isn't anything new. In today's world, where one criminally ambitious reporter can publish something and have it accessible to everyone with internet access, it's more dangerous than ever. Whipping up a mob is never something to be proud of. Whipping up a mob based on hate can result in people dying.

Thankfully more and more people are questioning this stuff, and finding the holes in reports. More and more people are aware that a difference in skin colour, gender, or sexuality is something to be celebrated, not disparaged. People are using the same social media that pushes the hate agenda to raise awareness of injustice, and to fight back for their right to be. To be human, to be loved, to be allowed to live.

As for the politicians… Ugh. Look, my solution would be (a) vote the idiots out of power and (b) charge them with murder for every death caused on their watch. For every suicide committed by someone ground into blood and tears by inhumane policies. For every person who freezes or starves to death over winter. For every terminal patient forced back into work that dies at their desk. Because what they are doing is pretty close to state sanctioned murder.

Confiscate the money they make out of their connections and their buddy-laws, and redistribute it. Start a hot-house garden in every city where people can come and collect food in exchange for an hour of their time - do some weeding, do some watering, plant some seeds. Direct people on where to go to find the tomatoes if you can't do physical work.
Something has to happen. In the year 2014, people shouldn't be on starvation levels in a developed country, because they are too sick to work - or simply can't find a job.

Sunday 26 October 2014

Kitty update

Bast seems to be a bit of a talker. Hathor still hides under my bed, and comes out to stare at me when she thinks I'm sleeping, and makes little chirping noises like a hairy four-legged canary. She also hides food, which I'll get to in a bit.

They got taken for their shots last week. Bast dealt okay.
Hathor went bat-shit insane when the vet took her out of the cage and drew blood from the poor man. As he pointed out, it was an OhgodsIneedtogetaway moment, rather than I'mgoingtoclawyourfaceoffbecauseIcan. It was some small consolation with the vet dripping blood on the floor, but this is also what happens when you have traumatised kittens. It's what happened next that really stunned me.
After getting her shots and weighed, Hathor got put back in the cage. She scooted to the back and Bast stood in front of her, making sure nobody was going to touch her again. She'd been watching the whole process anxiously. I've seen the protective instinct in mother cats and dogs, yes. I've never seen anything like this in litter-mates.

Bast is about three pounds heavier (because she eats every bit of food she can find, including Hathor's) and a bit longer in the legs. When I come in from work she waits in the doorway of my room. She only watched me getting ready for work once; there is something incredibly disconcerting about a kitten looking horrified when you put on make-up. And she likes to talk. Usually this is to tell the world that nobody is paying attention; unfortunately she's not at ease with being touched yet. So at two in the morning, you get this:

Bast, on the staircase: OOOOH, NOOOBODY LOVES ME!!!
Me, stumbling out of my room: WTF?
Me, standing on mouse toy and hopping to stair case: Oh, kitty. Hush. (Put hand out to kitten.)
Bast: UNCLEAN!! UNCLEEEAAAN!!! (rockets back up the stairs.)
At this point I remove the mouse toy from between my toes and lurch back to bed.
Some twenty minutes later, the delicate thunder of Bast attempting a landing on the hall cupboard and missing completely will fill the house, and I'll pull the duvet over my head and pretend I didn't hear it.

Hathor, on the other hand, appears to hide her food as well as herself, probably because Bast has the table manners of a starving piranha and will take her food if she isn't fast enough.
Heading off to the shop today, I realised halfway down the road that there was something cold and sticky wedged under my toe. When I sat down on a bench and upended my Ugg, a small piece of chicken fell out. I did the rest of my shop with my toe stuck to my boot from kitty spit.

Sunday 19 October 2014

Bruises and Emergency Room Visits and Kitties - weekly roundup

Monday I got off the tube, and some little man rammed me on his way past. I didn't think much of it apart from saying a rude word; in London, the Good Manners Fairy got gagged and duct-taped and thrown to the Gods of Public Transport some time ago, and I've been knocked harder than that. But by the time I got to the office my ribs on the left side where he'd knocked me were throbbing and tender, and it got worse as the day went on.
Just after lunch I checked my side in the bathroom mirror. What I saw was a tracery of broken blood vessels extending from just below my armpit to just above my navel, and a raised lump of tender flesh over a couple of ribs.
I left work late to avoid rush hour. By this time I was sore enough that anyone shoving me would have been punched and I'd like to avoid an assault charge. Since I couldn't face the stairs at the tube I got the bus to the main train terminal, and by the time I home I was struggling to walk and not cry from pain.

Tuesday I worked from home, hoping things would improve. By Wednesday morning it hurt to breath, speak or move at all, so I headed off to the emergency centre. I was anticipating a diagnosis of bruised ribs, but wanted to make sure nothing was fractured. Instead, I had a doctor telling me I might have a ruptured spleen and bruised kidney. This was not a fun moment.

On to the first scan, which was ultrasound, followed by oral morphine (gag) and a CT scan, which was strangely pleasant apart from the 10 seconds where I thought my toes were going to catch fire and a taste in my mouth like I'd just downed a very strong shooter. The final diagnosis came back as massive bruising around the liver, kidney and ribs. Sheer relief, and the immediate desire to go home, right up until they took my blood pressure and all that jazz and discovered my temperature was high and my heartbeat was 118. It didn't help that when they told me I had to stay over night the damn heart rate shot up to 122. I've never seen an emergency doc look so horrified while trying not to laugh.

Anyway, I learnt that the emergency room has their own overnight ward for cases like me (apparently sending you home to have a possible heart attack is considered bad) and I was promptly deposited into it, given food that looked horrifying on every possible level, and dosed up with both codeine and oral morphine again, which tasted worse the second time around. As a result, by the time Stace got there with my p.j.'s, I was cataclysmically stoned. Morphine has a time distorting effect on me, and I tend to hallucinate on it. I also don't remember much of what happens, but apparently having a conversation with me is interesting.

Breakfast was edible - cornflakes and coffee. They offered me more morphine (no thanks. If I'm in excruciating pain I'll take it, but given a choice, I'll take anything else rather than that stuff.) Several hours later, I was allowed to leave, on condition that I take it easy for a few days and come back if the pain gets worse. Since I really, really don't want to go back, taking it easy is the way to go.

My cousin came and met me to make sure I got home alright. We were on the bus when we saw the sign outside a charity shop advertising abandoned kittens for adoption. I've wanted a cat again for a long time; I've missed having an animal in my life, and so has Stace. She looked at the sign and said wistfully, "Oh! I want a kitty."
And I thought 'Life is short.' and I told her to push the buzzer to stop the bus. We both needed to eat, anyway, and there was a coffee shop right next to the charity place.

So we met Maria, who runs Little Darlings and rescues animals and places them, and she showed us a picture of two starving kittens that had been stuffed into a filthy carrier, tied up in a black plastic bag, and dumped outside her shop. I would give a great deal to have 5 minutes alone with the person who did this to them, I truly would.

That night, Maria brought them over, and my life is now filled with miaows and chirps and the delicate thunder of kitten paws stampeding across the floor at 2 a.m.

We have Hathor Freya, who seems to be training to be a ninja and hides in the most amazing places, and Bast Sekhmet, who likes to be able to see at least one human and know where her sister is, and will now eat out of my hand. They're still twitchy, and a bit nervous, but they're playing and eating and getting used to the fact that they are now in a safe place.

So yeah, although I'd prefer a non-painful way off the universe giving me directions, if I hadn't spent the night in the hospital I wouldn't have these cats in my life, and I'd be the poorer for it. But I'd really like a hospital-free life from now onwards; this is getting a bit annoying.

Sunday 12 October 2014

Body Parts (minor rant alert)

Something that confuses me a bit - okay, a LOT, is why women seem hell-bent on letting other people decide things about their bodies for them. As females, it's become completely acceptable to have Fat Days, Bad Hair Days, Dull Skin Days, and every single one of those can result in depression, irritability, and a feeling of worthlessness. We panic over wrinkles. We freak out over grey hair. An extra five pounds can lead to sobbing under the duvet. (Yes, there may be a male out there that does this, but I haven't met one yet.)

Then you get the random bitchiness of strangers. There's a certain person out there who thinks they are completely justified in commenting on your appearance, food, and hair colour. These are people who've drunk the kool-aid of advertising to the point that looking like a normal human is beyond their comprehension. Or maybe they're just sad, angry little balls of misery that need to share that with the world. Hell, some of them have made a career out of appearing on t.v. to make nasty remarks to an audience of millions.
There are websites dedicated to body shaming, and nobody seems to find the idea behind them repulsive. Let's put it this way: unless you're not quite human, you are just as flawed as the people you are giggling over. You have no damn room to point.

Some of them go into politics, and this is where it gets scary. These people think that women shouldn't decide what happens to their bodies. They'd rather let you die than make that choice. Or end up in jail. They don't have that right, because slavery has been illegal for centuries, and deciding you own somebody else's body is pretty much the definition of slavery.

See, here's the thing. My body. I live in it, not anyone else. I dress it the way I choose. I decorate it the way I want, because I have to live in it. If I feel a bit overweight, I can choose to go on diet. Or not. Nobody has the right to tell me otherwise. If I am underweight, the same goes. My. Body.

I change my hair colour a lot, because (a) I can, and (b) I like it. Sometimes I don't like the colour, and it gets changed fast. But it's my choice.

I have tattoos. I like my tattoos. If you have a problem with them, don't look at the bloody things. They have nothing to do with my sexual inclinations, promiscuity or whether I like swinging from chandeliers on a Saturday night. I have yet to see someone walk up to a large, muscular tattooed man and accuse him of having a tramp stamp.

As for sex… It's really nobody else's business who you sleep with, as long as it's consenting and there are no kids or small furry animals involved. Or large furry animals. No animals, okay? It's something that's as fundamental to the human experience as eating and sleeping, and nobody has the right to tell me whether or not I should be doing it. I don't particularly care whether various religious figures approve or not, because they have no business in my bed.

Advertising tells me I should do everything in my power to stop ageing. You know what stops you ageing? Death. That's pretty much it. I don't really want to shuffle off this mortal coil just yet, and when I do I sure as hell have no intention of clutching a tube of anti-wrinkle cream in one clawed hand.

I have a number of scars, and the ones on my leg are pretty big. Society and advertising tells me I should cover them up. Never wear dresses or shorts, camouflage them so other people don't have to see them and flinch. Well, that's not going to happen. My scars show the world I survived something pretty damn painful, and if you have an issue with that, don't look at them.

Then you get "age-appropriate" clothes. You know what's age-appropriate? Not wearing diapers past the potty-training stage. If you like it, wear it. This life is too short to listen to some idiot tell you that you shouldn't enjoy it.

My body. I choose what I do with it. I choose whether or not to have kids, to carry a pregnancy to term or not, to paint it, pierce it, decorate it in any way I want. It does not belong to society, advertising, my family or my friends. It never belonged to past or future lovers, because I'm not a piece of meat. It doesn't belong to any government, either. It doesn't belong to hackers, or advertising, or society as a whole, and I am unbelievably tired of all of these entities trying to tell me it does.

Do me favour, will you? If you are female, the next time someone tries to make a bitchy comment on your appearance, tell them it's none of their business.  If you're male and you witness it, tell the commentator it's none of their business.
And if you are the commentator, think about why you are doing this. Why you find women so horrifying (even if you are one) that you have to make them feel just a little bit worse, a little bit smaller. And stop drinking the bloody kool-aid.

Saturday 13 September 2014

Blood on the ground: Why the Pistorius verdict is terrifying

So this week I got to watch a travesty of justice. Fun!

After  months of watching Oscar Pistorius revert to the age of about 6 in the courtroom - the puking, wailing, and sticking his fingers in his ears was particularly telling - the judge did the equivalent of giving him a time-out while patting him on the head. Kootchey kootchey koo, sweetums.

His behaviour in court annoyed me. This is what happens when you shoot a living, breathing human being, you ass. They bleed and die, and it's not pretty.
Stuffing your fingers in your ears doesn't change what you did. Puking sure as hell doesn't bring a dead girl back. Let's not even talk about the made for t.v. movie acting abilities. Crying and snivelling made it seem he was a hell of a lot more sorry about being in court - why didn't the cops just accept his story that night?
But hey - you can say you were terrified! You can say you thought it was intruder! (One that stopped for a potty break before charging into your room to slaughter you? Really? I'm not an expert, but that doesn't seem like normal procedure for a home invasion.)

Only an idiot fires repeatedly through a door when they can't see the target. An idiot, or a man raging about something who thought he'd teach his girlfriend a lesson. Maybe the intention was to frighten. Maybe the man should never have been given a gun license. We simply don't know.

You have to wonder what the current girlfriend thought of all of this. 18 is pretty impressionable, so the odds are he was given a soothing back-rub and a cold beer to soothe his nerves afterwards.

There's a chance he'll get a custodial sentence, but I'm not holding my breath on this one. The Telegraph headline on Friday read in part: "Shattered Oscar leaves court." What it should have read was "Destroyed Steenkamp family loses hope in justice."

In a country where it seems killing women is becoming a national fucking sport, this sentence is terrifying. Wife burnt the roast? Shoot her, and tell the world you thought it was a burglar. Girlfriend talks back? Shoot her. Tell the cops you thought someone was breaking in. Hell, if you set it up right, (i.e: not in a frigging toilet without the space to swing a cat) you'll probably get away with it. You might even get a bloody book deal.

This case made headlines because both Reeva Steenkamp and Oscar Pistorious were national figures. But look: a woman in South Africa is murdered by her partner on average every 8 hours. That's a slight improvement; this link cites a study that shows in 2004 it was every 6 hours. Sexual offence cases in 2012/2013 sit at 66 387. That's not a typo. Now think about the fact that less than half of sexual attacks are reported.

In this respect at least, South Africa is a microcosm of a much larger global disease, one that declares females as inferior, incompetent, and terrifying to certain males. We need to teach our kids that it is unacceptable to be a punching bag, and completely repulsive to use your partner as one. We need to teach them that using a weapon against another living being results in horror.
Until education eliminates that view point, until judgements are made that slaughtering your girlfriend in a toilet is murder, that raping a woman is abominable, that beating the ever loving crap out of a woman because you can is assault, there will be more death.
More blood on the ground. More families weeping over raw earth as coffins are lowered.

Saturday 30 August 2014

What not to do to coffee : Moments of Aargh

So I discovered how to make a migraine (yep, it came back. Week 3 and counting, though not the same levels as hell week) back off temporarily. Unfortunately it involves destroying a perfectly good cup of coffee and a certain degree of pain all by its little self.

Step 1: Do the zombie shuffle to the kitchen and make your black coffee as per usual.
Step 2: Place the coffee beside your bed the way you've done every morning for several years.
Step 3: Put your foot down and place it in the mug. (I have small feet. Some of you may need bigger mugs.)
Step 4: Make a noise like a cross between a wounded buffalo and a whistling kettle.
Step 5: Remove foot and hop to freezer. Swearing is optional, but highly recommended. Realise coffee is now undrinkable, because feet.
Step 6: Stick foot in freezer. Drop lid on ankle.
Step 7: Sit on floor with bag of peas on foot. Text boss to explain what happened. (He may need valium by the end of this year.)
Step 8: Lurch around on very tender toes for rest of day.

Bonus points if you:

1) Get your hair caught on the bathroom stall coat hook at work. Emerge looking like a deranged troll doll. With a limp.

Sunday 17 August 2014

Hell week : 168 hours of migraine

So this past week, I discovered that I can now achieve week-long migraines. This is not a good thing.

It was particularly unpleasant since they've been infrequent after nearly popping my clogs in New Zealand; to me a migraine attack once a month is pretty damn awesome.

Friday I started the twinges. All the warning signs were there - sugar cravings, feeling ratty as hell, sharp spikes of pain over the right eye. I expected a not-so-nice Saturday, but again - once a month I can deal with.

Saturday and Sunday with both fairly low level; not worth breaking out the painkillers for. I could eat. Monday morning started with the migraine ramping up. Painkillers - even the big-boy versions - didn't touch it. Food was a no-go.
Tuesday it got worse. I worked from home in the morning, until the pain got so bad I basically threw up my toe-nails and logged off. By that evening, I was doing a great imitation of the dead girl from the Ring movies. The original version.

Then Wednesday came.
Did you know you can hallucinate on migraines? And not the usual funky light show either; full on OMFG there are spiders the size of frigging rabbits in the flat hallucinations. (I admit to throwing a shoe at the first one before I realised that no spider on the planet gets to that size. I'm just glad I missed the computer.)
The pain alternated between the usual spikes and the feeling that the right side of my skull was being crushed. My neck hurt. I couldn't hold things in my right hand for long, and my depth perception (never my strong point anyway) was away with the fairies, giggling gently and bouncing off walls.
A few of my friends wanted me to call an ambulance. I don't know how coherent I was, but here's the explanation of why I didn't, just in case:
Emergency rooms are busy (noisy), brightly lit, and full of strong smells. This combination on a killer migraine means I'd have to be unconscious before I go into one; I'd rather lick a cheese-grater than do that to myself. There's another reason: go to the A&E with a migraine and the automatic assumption is that you're a junky looking for a fix, or you're hung-over. That you look like a shambling, shaking corpse just bears that out. Most docs & nurses are doing their best, I know. Just not if you have a frigging migraine.
I called the non-emergency line, and the woman I speak to got very excited right up until I told her I was diagnosed with chronic migraine, at which point she acted like I ate her puppy.

I got an appointment with my GP, who was pretty worried and made an appointment with a neurologist for Friday.

The folks FaceTimed me, and probably wished they hadn't. I wasn't a pretty sight, and I wasn't very coherent.

Thursday passed in a daze of pain and nausea. I don't remember much of it.

Friday I ended at the neurologist. Stace came with me, which was good because I can get lost going to the bathroom at the best of times, let alone when I'm seeing double AND giant bloody spiders. I was twitchy.
I passed the mini-stroke test (yay, me), found out the hallucinations happen to other people too (relief), got given the contact info to book a scan to make sure the ole brain isn't going too pear-shaped, and got given a blocker injection into the occipital nerve, which had reached new heights of inflammation.

It hurt.

I said a few very rude words, and clawed a hole in the towelling over the bed I was resting my forehead on.

It hurt some more, and then I felt/heard this hissing, fizzing noise and felt something pop in the back of my skull.

The nausea started dissipating almost immediately. I ate solid food that night for the first time in five days; there was still pain, but it was fading back. I slept on my side since the back of my head was too sore to put pressure on, and I woke up Saturday pain-free for the first time in a week.

As of now, Sunday, I'm still pain-free. I'm craving sugar, and I've still got marks under my eyes, so I've no idea what will happen when the blocker wears off.

Let's hope that by the time it does this particular migraine has burnt itself out.

Sunday 8 June 2014

Fur Thing Snippet

Usual warnings: still to go through final edit, and possible adult themes/language. Have fun!


Something dark buzzed around the open window, and then swarmed into the room. Wasps. They spun around the bedroom in a funnel of a million humming bodies, dipped briefly past Ruth into the bathroom, then headed for the doorway where we stood.
Lightfoot and I danced aside. Astrid leaned against the inside wall, folded her arms across her chest, and let them swirl past her. She looked like she was ready to hold up a points card and critique the swarm on movement and agility.
Then again, wasps wouldn't do much damage to a vamp. It's a bit hard to get worked up over something you know can't hurt you.
The swarm drifted lazily back into the bedroom, and hovered over the bed for a second, wings roaring.
Then it moved to the side of the bed, away from us, and collapsed to the floor. Seconds later another form rose from where the swarm had fallen, dusted off the arms of his coat, and leaned over the mass of fur on the bed.
We all turned to Astrid.
"No," she growled. "I don't do that."
The man at the bed shrugged his coat off, and laid it carefully across the chair in the room, undoing his cuffs and the top buttons of his shirt. The skin on his chest and arms was smooth and hairless, and the colour of burnt honey. 
"He's vain, and has money," Lightfoot said. "The haircut is professional, and his nails are manicured. Those clothes are expensive, and he looks after them."
The male vamp rubbed a hand over a lightly stubbled jaw. He was a good-looking bastard, I'd give him that. Black hair, dark eyes, and a well-toned body under the pricey clothes. He wouldn't have to do much work to get female attention, if that was his chosen victim pool.
The shirt came off and I sighed. This seemed to be my night for watching unwanted strip shows.
The shoes came next, then the fine silk socks. I stared at the pale white feet on the bedroom carpet.
"He has a tan. Would someone tell me why our vamp has a tan?" I looked at Astrid, who shook her head. 
"Could be fake," Ruth said.
"No," Lightfoot said. "The fake stuff doesn't stick to vamps."
"She's right," Astrid said. "It washes straight off. Doesn't matter if its salon spray or DIY. I get better results from tea, or carrot juice."
I raised an eyebrow, trying to imagine Astrid sitting in a carrot juice bath.
"I was curious!" she snapped.
My mind placed a little green feathered cap on the vamp in carrot juice image.
The male vamp slipped his trousers down over his hips, and the girls attention snapped back to him. I sneered. Red bikini underwear, really? How Eurotrash could you get?
Lightfoot patted me on the shoulder. "I'm sure yours is just as pretty," she told me.
I narrowed my eyes at her.
Astrid made a choking noise from her spot against the wall.
"If course, I'd have to check to be sure," Lightfoot continued, and I felt my face flare bright red again. 
Make something happen, make something happen.
Don't get me wrong, I love women. But I've never got past the first date stage. It's hard to stay in human form at certain moments, which I'd discovered a long, long time ago. Not to mention a few other little physical quirks, like the massive patch of multicolored skin that runs the length of my body; I doubt any female is going to look at me naked and make encouraging noises. I had no idea what to say back. 
Make something ha-
The male vampire rescued me by stripping off the briefs. 
Not quite what I had in mind, universe.
There was a moment of appreciative silence from my companions.
"I'm guessing he doesn't feel the cold much," Ruth said.
I was so not enjoying this. 

Thursday 22 May 2014

Saying farewell to a good man.

This past Monday was my uncle's funeral. He was a good man, and treated me like his own daughter, and I will miss him fiercely. This is for him.


When you step through the doorway
To the next world, to those that went before
Leave the door open just a touch
Just a little so
Those you leave behind still 
Hear your laughter, feel the touch 
Of your hand on their shoulder
Know that you wait for us in the Summerlands.

In the days to come, when grief stabs
Hard and sharp and leaving us breathless
Whisper from the door just a little
So those you leave behind
Remember the good times and know
(Jimi kicking off and the way you smiled to hear it)
That we'll meet again in the Summerlands.

And when you hear us through the doorway
The kids growing, tumbling like puppies
Those left behind sharing sorrow and joy
And bittersweet moments, 
Anticipating what you would have said
Know that you were loved.
I will see you again in the Summerlands.

Friday 18 April 2014

My new inspiration: Meet Zane Conroy

Zane Conroy

Life changes for all of us, sometimes slower than we'd like it to. But the big changes, the seriously major impacts usually happen very fast. Sometimes that change is precipitated by a split second decision, like diving into water and breaking your neck on a sandbar.

X-ray showing the damage from the impact to the spine.

Meet Zane Conroy, a young South African who did just that. The accident left him a paraplegic, with day-to-day living costs that are truly horrific. Most people would be depressed, bitter and angry at being dealt this hand. (Hell, I still sulk when my leg acts up.) Zane still acts as inspiration and touch-stone for his friends and family, and they are raising funds for him by doing a 4000km bike ride across Australia. Now THAT's love, people - and when I did this interview with him, I understood why.

Zane and Glendon, before the accident

1.  Let’s start with the easy stuff – coffee or tea? Beer or wine? Chocolate or meat? Horror or comedy?
Comedy - Do the above answers give it away? :)

2.   Give us your top three phobias?

I've never been asked that before. Ha, but if I had to answer I'd say:
1. Drowning (which I nearly did on the night of the accident - luckily faced that fear).
2. Bad driving.
3. When someone moves something in my bedroom/home without me knowing...then going to use it and it's not there. I'm a bit OCD like that haha. But I believe - "A place for everything and everything in it's place".

3.  And the good stuff – top three dreams?

Yay! I like this interview.
1. Walk again!
2. Walk again!
3. Walk again!


But if I had to give another dream, it would be to live long enough to have a gathering of every single person I ever met all at one place :)
Zane and Eddie

Amaal and Zane

4.       Your mates are raising funds for you, you suffered devastating injuries in a freak accident a few years ago. What can you tell us about yourself and what happened to you?

I'm a very easy going guy, adventurous and usually up for anything. I really enjoy to laugh and smile - it sounds cheesy but it's truly natures best medicine. I'm enjoying regular doses of it to this day. I'm loyal I'd say, woof :D No seriously, my friends may or may not know, but I actually adopt them as family. Being an only child I think has a lot to do with that, but what I know in my heart, is that these friends/family members love me very much, and knowing that is truly an invisible feeling more valuable than any currency that exists or that will ever exist - I mean just look at what they're doing!? Its two syllables - Awe-Some!!
My injury has been physically devastating. Not only can't I walk, but I don't have the use of my hands either, they're also paralyzed. Not being able to grasp an object, walk around or even do the simplest of tasks like shower, eat or get into bed can take a toll on one’s mind. But, that's the very thing I'd like to be completely grateful and joyful for - I still have my mind. Not sure if you've seen the movie "Ray"? About Ray Charles' life? Well, he learned when he lost his sight, that his hearing improved dramatically as well as his sense of awareness. The same applies with me. Upon losing my physical ability to walk etc., I've found my mind has amplified a whole lot more! It sounds corny but I truly do observe so much more and wait for it, the finer things in life :)

Gathering of friends - Good Times!

5.       What is it like experiencing such an injury? During the accident, during recovery, and now in every day life?

What if I told you that, the injury itself as it happened, allowed me to experience "relativity"? That's rhetorical don't worry :)
You know Einstein's theory, sit on a hot plate it feels like hours. Go on a date with a hot guy/girl, feels like milliseconds by the end of it. The same happened to me. As I broke my neck I knew I was paralyzed. I then realized while I was face down in the water, busy drowning, I couldn't flip myself over and was going to die unless someone flipped me over. My Brother (friend), Amaal, did in fact flip me over and saved my life. All of which happened in the space of about 30 seconds - this, felt like an eternity! The most profound thing was, that I was ready to go. I had no regrets and was actually smiling at the notion of going right there and then. My entire life was analysed and scrutinized by my brain, mind and thoughts - it was as I said, relativity. Pretty cool huh. Well, I thought it was. Look I'll level with you, by no means am I ok with being so badly hurt or being disabled for the rest of my life, but it has taught me how strong a person can be and what true determination is. What insane levels of love and friendship that exist in this world - & by insane I mean amazing, awesome, genuine, moving and uninventable (yes I just made that up).
Recovery is extremely slow and limited. It can be disheartening to get a twitch in your toe after two years and see that as progress! But, it gives me reason to train hard (physiotherapy), dream big and open my mind to the unimaginable.
Everyday life is, to be honest, fun. I've discovered a new passion of mine which is to be outside in the garden, growing plants and veggies. So I get ready, exercise, work outside, research/read, eat, listen to music and best of all laugh with friends and family :)

6.   The team is riding across a large part of Australia by bike to raise funds for you. Are we talking bicycle bike here? What does this mean to you?

Indeed we are! I say to people my friend Alex is CYCLING or riding his BICYCLE from Perth to Sydney! The expressions are priceless! It's 4000km over a month or so. He has to average around 130km per day - it's seeerious going.
But, if I know Alex, it's that he has an incredibly strong and focused mind. I've enjoyed many a chats with him about the "unimaginable realm". We spoke of this ride over two years ago, and it was at that moment, that Alex gave me inspiration beyond his own understanding. Good thing I was sitting in a wheelchair else I would have fallen over! It was an incredible moment that I had shared with him and if Alex ever gets to read or hear this interview, he will very well know that his courage to achieve the unimaginable has etched INSPIRATION into my soul for all eternity... I will be forever grateful and am still completely amazed he has taken on this mammoth task to also raise funds for me and my wellbeing. I'm truly honoured to know him.

4000 kms ON A BICYCLE. OUCH!

Zane - never stops smiling.

7.   What do you think the challenges will be on the ride, and how will the guys cope?

Challenges will be the heat, no doubt. The sitting in the saddle will become very uncomfortable. Hydration and correct food intake will be tricky too. But after having spoken with Alex about it, I know in my heart he has the ability to push past the physical realm and achieve whatever his mind and heart desires. Of course, I feel I can sleep extremely well at night knowing that our Awesome Sickpunk friend Eddie (that was a term of endearment hehe), is trailing behind him in a motor home with supplies and probably beer - knowing Eddie, I know Alex is in very safe hands.

8.       Where can people follow the team during the ride? (twitter, Facebook etc.)

There is a blog that will be updated during the ride. It's actually on the website itself:

Glendon can provide invites to "Like" the Facebook page I'm sure.

9.   How can people help? (links, donations, supplies)

Help would be hugely appreciated by donating on the website at:

Other ways can be to spread the word of what the incredible power of friendship has :) 
If I may, just end off by saying a massive thank you to the other awesome people involved in this amazing story of friendship, family and down right, love of/for people. Glendon Evarts, Simone Daniel-Watkiss, Jonny Morris, Eddie Silver and of course Alex Watkiss, what an incredible bunch of people. Thank You! & check them out at:

As for you, Janet, thanks for your time and effort to ask me the questions and take an interest in the story, cheers!

Then, a BIG thank you again to Chris Niarchos, your support has overwhelmed me, my friends and all my family back home in South Africa, cheers!

As for everyone who knows me, who has donated or who has been involved in this in any way... Thank you!

lol (lots of laughs) :)


It's not often I post an interview with a lump in my throat, but this one has done it. Zane, you inspire me. May all your dreams come true.

Thursday 17 April 2014

That thing you do… my writing process

My writing buddy and up-coming Master of Horror, Jamie Schultz, tagged me up for the writing process blog. It's interesting because it's not one of those things I've ever sat down and analysed, so I learnt a few new things about the way my mind works in writing gear.

1. What am I working on?

At the moment I'm skipping past the half-way point on Fur Thing, which is part of the Blue Moon Detective series. What that stalls, I work on the next Crescent story, which is turning out a lot darker than I ever intended. And I'm playing with ideas for a couple of good old-fashioned ghost stories; real old-school balls to the wall horror (I hope.)

I tend to let those ideas ferment for a long time, waiting for them to either turn into something useable, or fade away if I can't make them work. Then I have the opposite situation, where the ideas come through and bounce up and down screaming at me until I have to write them NOW to get a bit of peace.

2. How does my work differ from others of it's genre?

I try and give things a bit of a twist that you hopefully don't find too often. The Crescent books fall under traditional/sword & sorcery - but the hawks are a new species, and people and interactions are complicated, and there isn't always a happy ending. The Blue Moon books feature a shifter that was born as a cat, a medicated house-cat, a vamp with serious Odin issues, a ghost that was traumatised both before and after death,  and a gay medium who adopts these people as his surrogate family when his own cut him off. And while they solve cases and help people, they all have good and bad points. I also have a fairly warped sense of humour that comes through in all of these; love and blood and oh-gods-the-world-is-ending needs a good punchline.

And of course, there's the pure slapstick, like House of F.A.R.T.

3. Why do I write what I do?

Well, according to my mother, it's all Stephen King's fault. I've always been drawn to horror and fantasy. But all fiction is a fantasy, and a lot of fact is horror. I think what really drew me in was that most of the stuff I grew up reading was unique, and pushed the boundaries. Romance never made me casually sidle into the lounge to finish reading a story, where there was light and other people to choose from if anything nasty decided to visit. Westerns never made me break out in a cold sweat as my mind stuttered over sentences. I LOVED that. I wanted the ability to do that to other people, to make someone check under their bed before they turn the light out.

That doesn't mean I won't explore other genres, eventually. The mind is a playground, and I haven't finished playing in this particular sand-pit yet - and there are a lot of other places to play - and combine with each other. That's the best part about writing. The only limits are the ones you place on yourself.

4. How does my writing process work?

I have a rough idea of future books, and I do a lot of research both for what I'm working on and future story lines - I took an on-line course in archeology in 2012 for one of the Blue Moon books I'm planning. I'd say 80-90% of the research doesn't show up overtly in the books. It's background, and it's how I paint the world and drive the characters, but it's more important that I have the knowledge ticking away in the back of my mind.  (Although researching weaponry and symbolism probably put me on a number of watch-lists, and the non-fiction part of my library would make the average profiler wet themselves.)

The actual writing part is trickier; and it's pretty much time-defined. My handwriting is terrible - drunken spider attempting the hokey-pokey kind of illegible - so I type everything. I used to handwrite all my stories as a kid, until my mom gave me her old typewriter. Doing shorthand in college did not do my handwriting any favours.

I'm a pantser - I know what the plan is, but I've tried writing outlines in the past and my characters tend to ignore them. Then again, I've never had a story go exactly to plan - once the characters start talking and moving, all pre-conceived notions are as much use as a pair of chocolate panties.
It's more a case of "Tell me what happened next." Which is cool, because if the story starts to bore me I figure it out immediately, and I can step in and change direction.

I have a roughly hour-long commute on London transport to work and back. With train changes and the ability to get a seat, this translates to roughly 45 minutes of writing time each way. I stick my writing playlist on and write on my phone. 30 minutes writing for lunch. Weekends are writing,  re-writing and fixing issues and typos.

Usually around the 25K mark I re-read and think that this is frigging horrible. At that point, I know I have to leave it alone and work on the other book or another story for a bit. If I go back and it still reeks, the decision is either fix or delete. 95% of the time it's fixable, and just needs a clean-up. The other 5% gets run past Stace for a yay or nay. If she wants more story, I'll give it a shot. If it's dubious or a no, I hit the delete button. (It's impossible to make that decision alone; I don't know a single writer that cruises through every book and is happy with it. Most of us get to the point where we re-read and want to curl up in a ball and suck our thumbs for a while; and you can't make a final decision at that point because you can't be objective.) On the rare occasion I've had to delete, I've taken the view that it's a positive. The next story will be stronger for the mistakes I made, and I hopefully know what not to do going forwards. Every time you write you learn and you grow, and hopefully I'll still be learning new tricks when I hit 90.

Once the story is done it heads for beta land, and I try to forget it. When I get it back, I go through it with the beta notes and fix what needs to be fixed. Then the editing process starts, and by the time you get done with that, part of you wants to set the bloody book on fire and dance around it screaming.

Then it gets ignored for a bit until the final re-read. Guaranteed this is when I find typos and issues that everybody missed, and 99% at least one still slips in when the publishing thing happens. It's annoying, but it happens.

While the story is in the final marinading stage, I work on the cover. I either paint from scratch, using CorelPainter, or I use one of my photo's and manipulate it. I have tons of pictures on my iphone and you can do amazing things with manipulating colours and light now, and it's a relaxing thing for me.

Then I have to figure out the synopsis/publishing blurb, which goes back to wanting to set the bloody thing on fire all over again.

Then I fight with tech and upload the thing. Amazon is pretty easy. Smashwords gave me a minor nervous breakdown, to the point I haven't gone near it in a while.

So there you have it - a brief view of my writing process.

Sunday 23 March 2014

Phelps & Westboro may have actually been a good thing

Here's a thought that will make a number of people howl with outrage: Fred Phelps, the unlamented preacher of fury and bile, made the world a better place.

It was probably not his intention. This was a man who thrived on negativity; who blossomed on hatred and prejudice like a noxious weed. He fed on pain and misery, and I can't imagine the horror of growing up under his roof. It is hard to have much sorrow for the dying of a man who clawed and scratched and pecked at the world like a rabid chicken, but you have to pity someone so enamoured with hatred. You had the feeling the man would cut his own throat on a street corner if he thought it would (a) get attention and (b) hurt somebody he disagreed with.

He produced banners and had his cult picket funerals to enrage and provoke, and the end result was a number of people looked at the theories and believes, the twisting of a religion to something utterly obscene, and changed their minds. You see, the saddest thing about Phelps and Westboro group is that their views were once common place. Still are, if you are unlucky enough to stumble over certain comment trails on the internet. Some people cling to hate and outrage like limpets to rocks, and it's impossible to argue with such depths of fear. Because you don't hate something unless you fear it; unless it threatens you on some level.

Phelps and the Westboro group exposed that fear for what it is: mindless, groundless, and an excuse to hurt. It's an unpleasant feeling to look at actions you find repulsive and see your own beliefs reflected in them.

 So a number of people looked at what Westboro did, and responded. They formed honour guards at funerals, raised awareness of the hate crimes committed against members of the LGBT community, and surrounded those that Phelps would have victimised in their most vulnerable times with community, spirit and caring. Their actions were their own, but Fred Phelps and his hate group were the catalyst.

The website of the group appears to be its usual incoherent mess (i.e; business as usual). Let them continue. Let them continue to make the case of bile and vicious judgement, and let the rest of us respond the way we have so far, by pointing and saying: I will not follow your descent into darkness, into scrabbling and biting against the skin of decency and human goodness like a common flea.

As long as we can look at the example set by Phelps and his ilk of what not to do, they will continue to make the world a better place to be in. Long may they continue.

Sunday 2 March 2014

A week of Aaaarggh, or WTF, Universe? (Still not dead, though)

I missed last week's Sunday post because I *sigh* fell down several stairs and was too damn sore to type anything.

Considering I landed like the world's largest bullfrog, and missed breaking my own silly neck by a matter of centimetres, I'm not really surprised I spent Monday with bruises on my bruises, lurching around the office like a zombie cowgirl. (One of the bruises was from my groin to my inner knee. No clue.)

On Tuesday and Wednesday I gave IT a nervous breakdown by logging on and discovering my desktop had reverted back to Windows 2008, which shouldn't be possible on our system. Then I gave three separate colleagues static shocks, and had the automatic doors downstairs try to ambush me. By Thursday every time I went near them they nearly fell apart trying to close on me.

Friday, I headed out to see a gig (The Twice - these boys are going to be huge if they get the support they deserve),  and ended up wearing my cool-drink before I even got to the train. Then I got lost. On the bright side; I actually got to see the gig, which was the highlight of my week.

Today I got around to trying to change the lightbulb on my main bedroom light. The problem here is that I'm pretty short - 5ft3 - and I can't reach the light standing on my bed. I got one of those extender light-changing thingies off amazon, but it came without a pole, and the slot is too small too just stick a broom handle in. And I wanted to change this without bugging Stace, so I lugged the ladder up, piled my duvet etc in a big heap on the bed just in case (because this is me) and climbed the ladder. I could just reach the lightbulb with the extender thing.  At this point, I was hopeful. I twisted. I reached over a little more. The extender thing got a prong caught in the spiral of the green efficiency lightbulb, and spun out of reach. I grabbed for it, missed completely (this is actually a good thing, because if I hadn't missed the next ten seconds would have seen me making new and intimate friends with bits of the ceiling and the light fitting) and face-planted from the top of the ladder into my pile of duvet. Above me, the extender thing dangled and swayed from the energy efficiency bulb.

My bedroom is small. Planting the ladder at the base of the bed meant I had no way out of the room. I contemplated sitting on the end of the bed and trying to collapse the ladder, but decided I look my computer, window, head and fingers in one piece. I texted Stacey, who came down, changed the lightbulb (after she found the right one, since the one I'd bought was wrong), then trotted back upstairs, still giggling at me.

I think I need a holiday, or 48 hours where the universe and everything electrical is not trying to kill me.

Sunday 9 February 2014

What not to do on a Pilates Ball (Moment of Aargh)

So to fully explain this, I need to rewind a little to when I got back to London in January. I trudged through my front door, lurched up the stairs, staggered into my bedroom - and found a fairly impressive, anatomically correct (kinda) blow-up pool cushion on my bed, with a welcome home message from Stacey introducing me to Darryl. The anatomical part made a fairly convenient handle to carry it through to the lounge and sling it on top of the bean bag pile, although if the neighbours across the road were watching I predict a certain amount of eye-watering and leg-crossing.

I decided it was time to get back on the Pilates ball a few days ago. What I didn't realise was that at some point, Stacey had wedged my ball against the giant bean bags (now proudly topped with Darryl, in all his glory) to the point that it was holding them up.

I discovered that the Pilates ball had been performing a fairly useful function when I was half-way through the second exercise, which is a backwards stretch. What this means is that I was curved backwards over the bloody ball, finger-tips touching the carpet on one side, toe-tips on the other. This is not a position conducive to rapid movement.

Something shifted in the room. There was a gentle croaking, the whisper of pleather moving against itself. Darryl's pertinent bit (which was all I could really see from my position) wobbled. Then it wiggled.

I froze, trying to figure out what what make a six foot pile of giant bean bags and a blow-up male doll lilo thingie behave like this. My inner voice, which seems to catch on quicker than the rest of me in these situations, whimpered. Then everything happened very fast.

Me (starting to sit up) : Eh?
Beanbags: *Shudder*
Darryl: *Waggle*
Me: What the -
Inner Voice : OhCrapOhCrapOhCrap
Beanbags: *Slow Motion Avalanche*
Darryl : *Target Locked. Hey, babe.*

At which point the ball moved. Since I was totally unbalanced, I moved with it, back to the original position of being upside down. My toes left the ground. Somewhere, the gentle shifting of pleather turned into the silence you get just before everything really goes pear-shaped.

About three seconds later I was enveloped in two very large pleather beanbags, and Darryl.  I missed receiving a black eye from a blow-up dong by about six centimetres, and sheer luck.

And then I fell off the bloody Pilates ball.

Wednesday 29 January 2014

The UK has it's own version of the Hunger Games, and here it is.

About 15 years ago, I hit a patch where eating was suddenly a luxury. The thought of doing what I can do today - walk into a supermarket and buy food in quantities to feed myself for a week or more - was so far out of reach it was a pipe-dream.

I was between part-time jobs, and studying full-time. Things were strained with my folks for a variety of reasons, and sheer stubbornness wouldn't let me call them and say I needed help, which they would've done in a minute. (Of course, I would've had to find the money for the phone call. We had no landline, and cell phones were in the realm of yuppie-land, along with fancy holidays and weekly grocery shopping trips.)

On bad days, when I had nothing apart from some instant coffee and sugar to eat, I'd gather the clothes I could part with, head down to the local second-hand shop, and sell them. On very bad days, I also sold off some of my books.
If I was lucky I'd come out with R20 to R40, and head to the store. Toilet paper, canned food - running a fridge costs money - bread, noodles. To this day I have an absolute horror of instant noodles; the sight of those little packets takes me straight back to walking into a shop with my favourite blouse tucked into a packet, and knowing I was about to grovel in the hope of a fair price.

I never got to the stage where I dumpster dived - I'd have broken down and called my folks first - but I knew people who did. They'd wait for the clean-out of the local shop at 7 o'clock. Bread a couple of days past it's sell-by date, cold meats that had expired, as long as they weren't green. If they were hungry enough, they took a chance on the green meat. They didn't have people they could go to and tell about the yawning pit in the base of their bellies; when eating is a luxury, you are always hungry. It's like a rat, sitting in the corner of your brain and chewing quietly at everything.

Fast forward a couple of years. I was in my final year at college, sharing a house with my boyfriend and a flat-mate. We all had  steady part-time incomes, enough that we hired a cleaning lady to come in once a week. We had graduated to weekly shopping trips. We weren't rolling in caviar, but we weren't eating instant noodles, either.
The second week the cleaning lady came, I went home early from college, and found her scraping food scraps out of our garbage and eating it. It turned out she'd walked into town because she couldn't afford the bus fare, and she was looking after her grandkids and a mentally disabled son. She hadn't eaten in three days; the money she got went on food for them, and she was scared to take any of the food in the kitchen and lose her job.
She went home with a food parcel that day, and we made sure that we had bread or left-overs from the night before for her from then on. We weren't rich, but we weren't starving, and cursed if we'd let anyone under our roof leave hungry after cleaning our mess up. And I still remembered the rat, that little frantic chewing of hope and dignity.

When I moved to London twelve years ago, one of the things that struck me was the infrastructure that appeared to be in place to help people out. People struggling to live could get housing, could get a small allowance. Students were given an allowance to study. There were no street kids. There were very few homeless sleeping in doorways, compared to South African cities. They were still there, but when you've grown used to three-year olds begging for food and money with that rat already settled in behind their eyes, the impact is lessened. It shouldn't be, but it is. Humans have a strange capacity for accepting the unacceptable, for tolerating circumstances that should make them blanch and say enough. 

Since then, the tabloids and the wealthy darlings currently running the country have made ordinary people ashamed to claim benefits, often times benefits they desperately need, and paid for during their working lives. (I'm aware of the scroungers. I'm also aware that they're a pretty small percentage of the people claiming.) The shelters and housing have been slashed. The student allowance, often something poorer kids needed to pay for their transport and gear for college has been eliminated. Rentals have tripled in London, and the odds of me ever affording a mortgage for a property in the UK? I have a better shot at winning the lottery. Food prices have soared; it is cheaper to eat the burgers they sell for £1.99 than to buy a loaf of bread and a slab of cheese. (Tesco brand bread : 0.45p. Cheddar cheese: £2.49).
The current arrangement if you're out of work seems expressly designed to make it impossible to keep your dignity and meet all the requirements to sign on for job-seekers allowance.

In the years since I got here, I've seen more and more people appear on the pavements. They sit beside ATM's, or in the stairwells of tube stations, they huddle in doorways and train stations. They wait for the shops to close and hang around the dustbins. If they can't get anything from the shop bins - most of them now lock up their rubbish so people cannot access it - they'll hunt through the bins and bags left for collection on garbage day. Most of them are on intimate terms with the rat.

The shops - all of the supermarkets - throw away thousands of tons of food a year. Instead of using the centres set up to redistribute it, it gets tossed in the trash.

Every now and then, one of the people desperate enough to dig through that skip full of trash behind the shop gets arrested. They get charged with handling stolen goods, or vagrancy. This is not shop-lifting. This is food that was thrown out. In the case of the "stolen goods" conviction, the woman concerned was given the package of food by a friend. Somebody needs to explain to me how it is in my interests - or any of the publics interest - to charge people who are desperate for food with a crime? Tell me how grinding down someone already scrabbling to survive, already choking on the constant fear that comes with constant hunger, with that fucking rat scrambling and chewing at the base of your brain, makes this country better, safer and stronger?

Here's a thought. Pass a law that states that instead of filling the giant skip behind your store, you use the same people and time it takes to fill it and hand that food out to anyone who needs it. Set up a schedule in the front of the shop that people can see. The excuse that some of the food is dangerous doesn't wash: if it was good enough to be on your shelves at 9:55, it's good enough to hand out at 10:30 to the guy who hasn't eaten in three days. If you do have food on your shelves that is poisonous, you should get hit with jail-time and the mother of all fines. Anything that's left can get collected by the agencies you've carefully ignored. Anything that's left will result in a fine to the shop, and the records will be audited, along with spot inspections.

And here's another thought. If the people running the country do not do something to raise the folks currently struggling into a situation where they can improve their lives, instead of grinding them down harder and faster, the UK is going to turn into the same pressure-cooker that we're seeing in other parts of the world. We had a fun taste of it during the riots a couple of years ago. Personally, I don't want to see that happen again, and neither does anyone with an ounce of sense and sanity. But if you take everything from people, including hope and dignity, they have nothing left to lose, and that is incredibly dangerous. Using the results as an excuse to clamp down on civil liberties will not address the underlying problem.

It isn't too late to turn it around. In another year, it may be. At the moment, the divide between the haves and have-nots is a yawning chasm. If someone doesn't built a bridge over it, we will end up with an overt class war; of the "eat the rich and bury the poor" kind.
Pressure-cookers and rats. It's a very bad combination.