Category: writing

Granada On

About Granada, Spain: tips and tricks for the urban explorer, extended visitor or people simply living in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

(This is a review I posted to Amazon Kindle about this book, I liked it enough that I thought it also belonged here – go buy the book)

A confession, I bought this particular book on Granada because I had visited the city previously and attended a conference hosted by the author to whom I struck up a relationship. Since I knew he had written a guide I purchased that when I returned here on a holiday. There is a natural bias towards someone we know as a friend which I feel is now mitigated by this confession.

Granada On is not a guidebook in the traditional sense of the word. There is no index of places to eat and no direct listing of places to visit with accompanying scaled down aged stock artwork. If you are looking for a book to tell you exactly what you should look at and where, then Lonely Planet et al. have a guidebook for you.

Granada On is so much more than that. It is a history, a passion, a conversation. Juan takes us on a journey flicking between the history of the city, region and country and his own experiences. We meet him as a child and share his early understandings and return with him as an adult to re-visit those memories.

We wander, we meander, we stroll around the city not as a tourist looking for the trappings of some common experience, but as friends, as lovers sharing a passion for this beautiful location.

In his fluid writing style Juan encourages us to meander as much through the book as we would the city. Jump in and around its sections as you prepare to visit and while you are here. This guidebook will help you appreciate the reasons for why the city is as we see it today.

Unlike other books Juan will also take you on a personal, and reflective, stroll along streets literally laced with art. He discusses the graffiti (of which he is a huge fan) and the mindset of the people who created the magnificent city you are in.

To an English ear the prose is clearly from someone whose first language is not English. In this book that is a genuine plus. The writing is clear and fluid, Juan is an accomplished writer in English, but its structure and word choices are not standard they come from a more musical tongue and the rhythm and metre of the sentences match a pseudo-romance tongue.

This lyrical use of English adds to the books genuine authenticity, its conversational tone from a local, you could be walking down a cobbled road awaiting the next reveal of architecture, or a personal anecdote, or a cultural trinket. Juan helped me to picture the places, to feel and experience them, without even being there.

But Granada On, it is a ridiculously low price, and read it, dip into it, and use it to guide you around Granada. It will prepare you for the attitude best taken on visiting this region, reveal trinkets and details only a local would know (and even some details that they are oblivious to). Then, when you return or move on, return to it again and relive being here.

(Visited Granada in 2015 and 2017)

Note Bene: While visiting Granada this year we had the luxury of spending some time with Juan and his wife (and if my memory wasn’t a sieve I would recall her name). It was then that we discovered the real source of Granada history as he was corrected about his local knowledge from a real expert :).*

  • He got one small fact about a fountain incorrect when talking to us and was swiftly corrected :).

Doughnut: A Eulogy in Two Parts – Fit the Second

Memorial Service Eulogy

[On 21st April 2017 my friend of 25 years died after a long and complicated period of illness. She and I shared a friendship that I find hard to easily explain, but it is enough to say that she was very dear to me. Jane asked that I spoke at her Funeral (on 5th May) and at her Memorial Service (7th May).

Since publishing part one I have discovered that this is apparently National Doughnut Week. I think Jane would have loved my timing and the fact that I was oblivious until tagged on Social Media.

I have published my eulogies in honour to my friend and for those who could not be in attendance… I miss you Jane.]

 

“You lived what anybody gets. You got a lifetime.”
[Reference not spoken, just the quote (Neil Gaimen: Sandman)]

It is a curious thing, to give two eulogies. It might seem like one too many but for Jane Harvey, and for me I always used Jane Haggerstone, but she was also always the SuperHero name that I gave to her, ‘Princess Planetary Pants’, it is an immeasurable number of too few things I want to say, all to her.

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”
[Reference not spoken, just the quote
(Lewis Carroll: The Walrus and the Carpenter)]

So this is the sequel to Friday’s thoughts when I spoke at Jane’s funeral and I told a story about a cake. Today I want to talk more about Jane as I knew her than I did on Friday but I still have an anecdote about her to share.

I met Jane in 1992, we were both at University, and I would loved to tell you that it was a friendship immediately forged in steel and bonded with granite.

But it wasn’t.

I think, and I cannot be one hundred percent certain with the mists of recollection, I found her a little cold, or maybe aloof. Clearly intelligent, clearly sarcastic. But maybe too insightful and too engaged on her own self.

For her part I think she thought I was a bit of a pillock.

But within the first two years of meeting I learned she was a very special person.

Caring, is what she embodied, and she could be so without be patronising.

Jane genuinely felt for the world.

It is why she believed so much in the National Health Service, to the ideal of healing without asking for recompense.

Jane was a believer in social responsibility and a duty of care.

Jane was a person who exhibited what I would like to call random acts of kindness. She would reach out seemingly at random to help someone or be kind to someone without thinking why, without even needing to know them.

Jane was genuinely empathic. She could look at you and instantly know if you were in need. If I was sad or bursting with a secret joy, Jane would know I wouldn’t have to say.

And Jane had a biting intellect.

She was academically smart but she did not use it as a platform for a state of one-upmanship. She was able to hold a deep understanding of subjects, concepts and ideas that were newly introduced to her and be able to discuss and examine them.

But the main use that Jane put her intellect to, was to understand and be insightful. She had this manner that made you question and search yourself with the sole intention of making you better at being yourself.

I learned to respect, admire and hold dear this caring intelligent person over many months of getting to know her better.

For her part, during the same time, I think she learned something about me as well.

It was that she was right.

I was a bit of a pillock. But at least a loveable one.

You can shed tears that she is gone
Or you can smile because she has lived
You can close your eyes and pray that she will come back
Or you can open your eyes and see all that she has left
[Reference not spoken, just the quote
(David Harkins: She Is Gone (He Is Gone))
]

Now, I should warn you. I was given some specific tasks by Jane in talking to you today.

One was that I should wear pink and be shocking, which I have achieved, and perhaps, also, to berate you if you are not equally as shocking. So as I look at you now I am making a mental note of all those who are not wearing something exuberant for her.

A second was to make sure that you all at least smiled, if only briefly in recollection of her.

My role is to stop you being, as she would put it, ‘bloody miserable buggers’.

Since I am a master of bad jokes and this is an inappropriate point I have to say what do you call a doe with no eyes. I have no idea.

Jane wanted me to share some joy with you. If she was here we would be wildly inappropriate in our comments to each other, in fact I could hear most of her comments in my head as I wrote both of these eulogies.

Jane was a deeply happy person. Or at least that was the face she chose to share.

She did not like to burden people with her own troubles. It is why her choice of entertainment was things that were fun. She felt the need to be filled with joy and to spread that joy to others.

But it didn’t stop her from telling people if they were wrong, silly or in need of a swift kick up the backside.

One of the main things Jane and I bonded over, where our friendship rooted itself was in the love of art.

Jane was a person who loved a range of different genres of theatre, comedy and literature. She was also a deeply passionate soul and so was drawn to art and visual stimulus along with the written and audible.

Jane had the deep philosophical insight to examine and interpret art, often seeing different meaning than others might. She was one of my biggest fans and loved my own personal stories, poems and even the parodies that I flippantly wrote.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
were sitting in a pub,
to the Walrus, called the Carpenter,
`give my poor belly a rub,
for I have drunk enough,’ said he,
`to fill a whole bath tub’.
[Reference not spoken, just the quote
(Mark Keating: The Walrus and the Carpenter[2])
]

She believed in me when I could not. She believed in people and that they could be the best person.

Jane wrote herself and I regret that she didn’t have the time to write more as she had an insight into the human condition that she was able to express well in story form.

There was a tradition that when we would meet, whether it had been just a week, or if many months had passed, we would talk and chew the fat and go until the dawn was lightening the sky. It was easy to talk to Jane and was easy to listen to her.

Jane and I would talk often through the night. We were weave talkers, drifting across subjects and ideas, using memories and snippets of research, to be wandering minds that occasionally threw out pieces of distracted wisdom and bad jokes.

To jump in with eyes closed but heart open.

Soon as she was gone from me,
A traveler came by,
Silently, invisibly
He took her with a sigh.
[Reference not spoken, just the quote (William Blake: Love’s Secret)]

I want to tell you a short tale about Jane now, and this is all about a hole.

When Jane became very sick, or at least admitted to herself that she was very sick and much of her life and career changed she went through a period of great emotional upheaval.

Or at least that is how it appeared from the outside.

To those of us who knew her it is more than that, it was as if she turned that very insightful gaze upon herself and knew she had to change in an irrevocable way.

During this period she returned to her faith and decided to be re-baptised.

When this happened Jane asked me to be at her baptism. Jane knew what my personal beliefs were and she knew about my own past. For my part I knew that this was deeply important to her and I felt privileged to be asked. So clearly I was there for her.

At her baptism she gave a short speech that has stuck with me all these years because it was so important and said so much about her.

She would forgive the vagaries of my memory as I let you know this is broadly what she said without being an exact recital.

‘When I was a teenager I felt that I had a hole inside me, a hole I couldn’t describe but it had always been there. Just as if something was missing.

So I went to college, to learn how to be a nurse to try and fill that hole. Although I learned and became a nurse the hole was still there.

So I had relationships. I believed it was because I was not fulfilled with love. So I loved deeply, I did love enough it seemed to fill any hole. But even with someone I loved, the hole was still there.

I filled my life with my career. I had a job and I tried hard at it. I learned more and reached out for more experience. I tried to make the career fill the hole. But the hole was still there.

I travelled, I visited faraway places and searched for meaning in the new locations and experiences. But still the hole was with me.

I had a world filled with social desires. Of dancing, singing and groups and entertainment, of friends and fancies and yet this did not fill the hole, the hole was still there.

When all of that went away. When I was sick. When I cried in the night and when I was lost the hole was still with me. But no larger than before.

The hole was still there.

Then I found God. And the hole that was in me was suddenly filled up and I felt whole.

That’s when I knew that the hole that was there was where God belonged.’

Every Night & every Morn
Some to Misery are Born.

Every Morn & every Night
Some are Born to sweet Delight.

Some ar Born to sweet Delight,
Some are born to Endless Night.

We are led to Believe a Lie
When we see not Thro’ the Eye

Which was Born in a Night to Perish in a Night
When the Soul Slept in Beams of Light.

God Appears & God is Light
To those poor Souls who dwell in the Night,

But does a Human Form Display
To those who Dwell in Realms of day.

[Reference not spoken, just the quote (William Blake: Auguries Of Innocence)]

For me, now that Jane is gone, I feel the world, perhaps even the universe, has a hole in it. A Jane shaped hole. She was so unique it feels like it cannot be filled.

And at this time I feel there is a hole in my heart. It may be filled with memories that I know must fade, but it is there and it hurts.

But Jane already showed me what to do with my hole, she spent her life showing all of us.

I will fill that hole with joy, and love for my family, my friends, and for random others.

That is all it seemed my friend wanted, what she wanted from all of us.

To love and be loved and to share that joy with others.

Do random acts of kindness for her.

Smile, wear bright and gaudy colours like pink and purple and orange.

Tell an awful joke or two and at some times, be wildly inappropriate.

Over these two eulogies I told you about a cake and a hole. Just for her, a poor dad joke pun. A cake and a hole, I made a doughnut.

If I should die before the rest of you
Break not a flower nor inscribe a stone

Nor, when I’m gone, speak in a Sunday voice,
But be the usual selves that I have known.

Weep if you must
Parting is hell.

But life goes on.
So sing as well.
[Reference not spoken, just the quote
(Joyce Grenfell: If I should die before the rest of you)]

 

Doughnut: A Eulogy in Two Parts – Fit the First

Funeral Eulogy

[On 21st April 2017 my friend of 25 years died after a long and complicated period of illness. She and I shared a friendship that I find hard to easily explain, but it is enough to say that she was very dear to me. Jane asked that I spoke at her Funeral (on 5th May) and at her Memorial Service (7th May).

I have published my eulogies in honour to my friend and for those who could not be in attendance… I miss you Jane.]

“Farewell to thee! but not farewell
To all my fondest thoughts of thee:
Within my heart they still shall dwell;
And they shall cheer and comfort me.”
[Reference not spoken, just the quote (Anne Brontë)]

I have two talks to give about Jane this weekend and together they probably make a doughnut.

Even before Jane became desperately ill we had discussed funerals and in particular what would happen if one of us outlived the other.

It’s not that we were morbid or anything, okay maybe a little, we were goths after all.

We just discussed it as we knew by then that our friendship was going to last a lifetime, in many ways it already had.

I believe at the time we had always hoped it was in some far distant future when we were very old and could be disreputable and maybe spit in the street or swear fit to burst. We could have at least worn purple.

It is at this point that I should scan you all to make sure there are no sensitive ears, and as Leigh would say ‘apply a filter to my speech’, I can see there are small children so I can’t be too blue. Many of you know that Jane could use a profane word if required to make a point but she would not wish me to offend the young’.

‘Right Markie’, Jane said, ‘I want you to smile for me.’

‘And I want you to tell bad jokes. it is, after all the, only type of joke you know.

There were these two goldfish in a tank, and one of them turned to the other and said ‘Do you know how to drive this thing?’.

Tell dad jokes and make people groan, otherwise they’re gonna be a bunch of miserable Buggers.’

‘Also I am choosing you to talk as there is a high chance that you’ll screw this up and make people laugh a little anyway.’

[The original written version used ‘Bastards’ and ‘Cock’ but was changed to help facilitate the observance to sensitive ears.]

Another job I had was to wear pink.’ I can’t stand to think that everyone will just be dressed in black, I love pink, something bright and shocking is what’s required. I hope that people are wearing pinks and oranges and purples.’ is what she would say.

‘Also Keating I want you to say something different for me. Just say something about me. I don’t want this to be a sad litany of what I had achieved or how much I did something or another.’

‘Tell them a story. Tell them something they may not know, it does not matter if they do know it. I want it to be how you saw it. How you knew me. So today for her, I want to tell you about a cake.

Think of this as I tell you this story. We all meet people as we pass through life:

  • Sometimes they make a great impact and are with you for a long time;
  • Sometimes they make a small impact as they pass you fleetingly;
  • It will be no surprise to you that Jane changed me a lot.

When we left college and Jane moved away to the south we kept in touch. For many years we had a tradition that we met up at least at New Year and also usually in the summer for a week as well.

Mostly it involved travelling and staying with the other person, or their parents and I am sure John can attest to how often we crashed his house. We just liked having a laugh.

One New Year’s eve Jane rang and told me should would be late. She would be there for New Year but would be delayed because she had to bake a cake.

I said fine, knowing that I was getting cake and Jane made a tasty sweet treat.

She arrived, late as advertised, and we settled down to talking, laughing and telling of probably awful jokes. After a while I asked about the cake.

‘Cake’ was her reply in a slightly surprised voice.

‘Yeah, you said you were baking a cake? I thought we should eat it to balance all the soft drinks we have consumed!’

‘Oh that wasn’t for you.’

‘Ah’. Now I wasn’t upset, may be a little at this point. I like cake, I liked Jane’s cake especially lemon drizzle cake with custard.

‘Sorry,’ I said, ‘I thought you were getting us all cake, I went out and sourced some custard.’

She smiled and laughed a little, ‘we can still have the custard.’

I of course got to asking who the cake was for, ‘well,’ she says, ‘each year when I come up here I use the Toll Road, and it occurred to me that the poor buggers on the toll road have to work on New Year’s Eve which has got to be pretty miserable. So I made them a cake.’

As I tell you this now it still stuns me how Jane’s mind used to work.

She had such a great deal of empathy for her fellow human beings.

People she had never met

People who were being paid to do a job.

They were in her heart and in her thoughts. She made them cake to cheer their New Year.

“And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow’d to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.”
[Reference not spoken, just the quote 
(Byron: She Walks in Beauty)]

Some people are with you a long time and have a great affect on your life.

Some are with you fleetingly and have almost none. They might, sometimes, change you in a subtle way.

Jane was a rare individual. She could be with you for a fleeting moment and yet make a great difference.

Imagine for a moment being the person who receives a cake as a gift from a total stranger just to cheer your day.

A small thing that can have far reaching meaning in an otherwise dreary time.

Jane exhibited what I like to think of as random acts of kindness. Part of me hopes there was some greater, more subtle plan.

In reality I know it was something else.

It was that Jane was an exceptional human being who thought far greater than most people, who truly cared beyond herself. It made her a rarity.

“But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!”
[Reference not spoken, just the quote 
(Byron: She Walks in Beauty)]

To end today I am going to follow a tradition and misquote a favourite writer.

‘She was my friend. Take her for all in all. I shall not look upon her like again.’.
[Reference not spoken, just the quote 
(Shakespeare: Hamlet)]

Write A Day 2

Back in March, in my last post, I mentioned that I had been doing a writing challenge in 2015 where I would write at least a page for each day in a small journal. It’s the start of 2016 and I haven’t really blogged much here (though i have managed to blog significantly to my company blog and news pages). I can happily report that I completed my challenge.

So the three things I set out to do (not resolutions but goals) in 2015 that I completed:

  1. Write a page for each day in a journal; Completed.
  2. Write one Haiku for each week; Completed.
  3. Complete 50,000 words in november for Nanowrimo; Completed.

I didn’t complete the two other writing goals I had set myself, but I had a feeling that I wouldn’t as the whole wish list was pretty large. However i do feel very proud of what I have done.

So what now? Well I have already announced to some friends that I have at least one goal for 2016 and I will let you all have another here. I will be publishing the Haikus I wrote in 2015. They need a little editing and a little cleaning but I will publish them as an eBook. I will likely make this available for free to download with a donate if you like link. The idea of a pay what you want appeals to me for the poems, there are at least 52 of them with a few others spread around. This is on the list for release sometime around Easter to Summer. I hope to let you know more soon.

-mdk

 

Write A Day

Back in December Leigh published the following blog all about the diary challenge that she had recently completed and how you could do the same.

It was a call to action to all of us who want to write and sometimes have an issue in finding the time or the motivation.

The basic story is that a few years ago Leigh decided to fill a page of a diary each day with writing for a single year. Life, of course, didn’t make things easy and it took her more than the one year to finish the diary. The important part is that she finished the diary. The really important part is that in doing so she not only achieved a goal but she built up good habits about just writing.

Writing isn’t easy and it isn’t natural and people who say that it is are generally not telling a whole truth. It can become more practiced but it is not easy, and I am not so sure it should be. In order to write you need a lot of motivation, you need to make time and you have to be prepared to keep at it. Like any skill it generally improves with practice. Sure, there are some people who find it easier than others, some natural advantages from evolution, upbringing and attitude perhaps, but even they say probably don’t say it is easy.

I have had some issues with my motivation. I haven’t been writing fiction or even wanting to write. I haven’t felt like even writing my diary entries. All of that was not making me happy.

I did motivate Leigh to publish her call to action to inspire people and I know it has done so as they responded and I have spoken to some about their efforts (keep at it guys, if you miss days don’t stress). If you missed the 1st January don’t worry. I would say that you can start anytime in the year and now is likely a good time to start as you can pick up a diary for less cost.

As for me. I don’t generally use my diary except for work appointments and the formal tasks that I live my life by. I don’t really find the format of a diary condusive to writing for me. It reminds me too much of my structured work and community life.

I like note books.

I like journals.

I like mixed media.

I like the book I bought to try and write every day this year.

I have done so every day this year.

I write a page each day, probably less than 200 words so fairly light. Sometimes I write a little more, sometimes a couple of pages. I write poems and draw sketches in there as well. I have wrote every day so far. Sometimes I have written more than once a day.

On the one day I missed, I wrote twice on the following day to catch up. That was once, I don’t feel it was a fail, but I made sure to think about what I would write before going to sleep even though I was too tired (and a little drunk) to write, and then wrote it the next morning. If I don’t have my journal with me I write in any A6 book I can find and then tear the pages out and put them in the journal later (yes I am bloody odd, thanks for asking).

I was inspired, you see by these words:

“If the diary challenge has taught me anything it’s how to get over that fear of the blank page.”

I am not really scared of a blank page I got over that, but I am for sure tired of never filling one of them. I got tired of looking at a blank page and just not caring if I wrote on it. I wanted to kill my de-motivation. Also, I kinda liked the idea of somethign as crazy mad as this:

“It would be difficult for me to give a break down of exactly what is in the damn thing. At least 1 complete script, 50,000 words of a novel, and many many many short stories, flash fiction, ideas, characters, bits of novels, plots and poems. There are zombies, pirates, aliens, apocalypses, angels and demons, bond villains, parallel universes and a lot of weird Christmas stories. Sounds like the best book ever, right? Well it wasn’t all fun. There’s at least one page describing my fishtank, some shockingly bad poetry, and some filler days that are just my RPG characters having arguments with each other, just to mention a few of the pages I’m less proud of. But it’s done.”

So I want to thank my beautiful, and slightly bat-sugar-insane, wife for inspiring me. I am one sixth into this crazy challenge and I am two thirds through my first A6-ish mixed page journal. For the curious types I use these journals for writing and sketching in, love them.

 

 

‘the violence calls up silence’

 [This is the second of two stories written for the Lancaster and Cumbria Nanowrimo groups first creative writing challenge]

Ed looked into Lily’s eyes and saw nothing. Once they were filled with laughter, love, intrigue and sometimes sadness. Her eyes were truly the gateway to her soul and would reflect every inner thought. In the throes of passion and in each tumultuous fight he would know her inner feeling just by looking into those green seas.

Seas, the ever shifting landscape that they both loved, it is why they stayed in Blackpool. For all its cheapness, bright lights, wailing sirens, dilapidated arcades with wind-faded signs and streets littered with bargain shops. They loved the seas, the winds, the dunes near to Lytham, it was change and decay in equal measure. Like a fading relationship filled with contradiction and melancholy. You could come to Blackpool and just let yourself merge into the miasma of broken dreams and empty promises. Here you could let things fade away slowly hanging onto a facade filled with wild smiles and madness with nothing underneath.

Even in the days of Austerity, with its investments culled and ambitions slaughtered the town survived. Every boarded shop and for sale sign patterned with a thousand billboards and stickers, moated in vomit. Empty holes like the sockets where teeth once stood. The rest of those teeth kept all bright white and artificially straightened to hide the decay inside, the rotting core and receding gums.

Blackpool was a period piece that was condemned repeatedly yet still survived. A dinosaur with the tenacity of a turtle, out evolved but still plodding along cocooned in a hard shell. That was what Ed and Lily loved. To them it was a treasure, a peasant in a toilet who knows that even princes have to piss. Blackpool was not restrained by its past, it was proud and even mocking.

Blackpool saved them. It brought them back together all those years ago. They had returned to this town, near to their birth and closer to their hearts than each other and had found themselves. The fading matched the shift in their lives. The decay, hidden beneath the apologists polish, a match for the hole in their lives.

But the ever-shifting seas, the sands and the skies.

The rich red skies of morning, the deep reds of night, had rekindled a deeper understanding. They saw themselves as a part of the tapestry, they were matched to this scene and as Blackpool’s fortunes shone and dimmed, so could their love. But is still went on, the tides would never stop, the winds would blow, the skies shift and the world would turn and they could see that together.

But now her eyes, those emeralds highlighted beneath the gathering brows of age were dulled. They no longer shone, or danced with laughter, they no longer held that love for him.

But he held no love for her.

Ed had loved Lily more than he knew. He had held her in his arms through all of life’s rich melody. They had come to understand each other’s needs so perfectly that they could explore the deeper relationships. He knew that he would stay with her until the end of his life, that without her life itself had no value. He just did not want it to be so soon.

Endings are inevitable, not even the universe would last forever. Lily had said that mankind’s destruction was itself and she was right. It was man who made the compact with the forces of darkness and unleashed the hell upon the world. It was man who sold his sould to the devil of science. It was science that created the virus and Hell the creatures that caught it.

As the world went insane and the virus spread Ed and Lily had prepared for the end. they had shored up supplies and built defences and held each other in the dark as the lights all faded and Blackpool went dark. But they could not hold out for ever.

The creatures did not stop, did not pause, did not feel. Finally the barricades fell and they came in and Ed and Lily fled, here to the seafront, to their special place in the dunes, to look at the seas and watch the sunset of mankind. But even here in the stillness they had come.

The creature had launched itself at Lily but Ed had got to it first. The fight that followed had been beyond belief, even now Ed could not believe his own anger, hatred and fear. He had taken the life of a woman, an infected near dead creature, but still a woman, a mother or a sister, a daughter at least.

But she had already killed him first. She had bitten his arm and transmitted her filth into him. Impregnating him with a hateful seed that would turn him into a monster. Lily had cried and held him as he started to turn and in his last moments of conscious thought. Before he became an unthinking thing, a zombie he had made his decision. They would be together still.

That was when Ed had bitten her, had sunk his teeth into her flesh drawing blood despite her screams, impregnating her one last time.

Ed looked into Lily’s eyes and saw nothing. Just the milky white of death as her limbs twitched and she lurched upwards. Deep inside of him the last of his humanity went away, and milky-eyed he stood next to her and stumbled across the sands.

* Zombie, The Cranberries

‘It’s In Your Head’*

[This is the first of two stories written for the Lancaster and Cumbria Nanowrimo groups first creative writing challenge]

‘The Zombies are coming out of the sea, no need to breathe, won’t tire, don’t stop. They’re walking remorselessly up the beach as ther waves crash around them. There are thousands of them, the whole beach is swarming with them, maybe there are millions, some are crawling with limbs torn, twisted or missing, some merely the few remnants of flesh held together by a will to feed.’ Ed paused and looked into Lily’s eyes.

‘Don’t worry. Thankfully holding the Tower is key to the strategy devised to turn the tide of battle. The perfect place to hold from. We can defend the lower levels and if we need to we collapse stairwells and retreat to the top, if, and I mean really when, they breach our defences.’

Ed saw her look, ‘don’t worry, we don’t need to hold out for long, the answer will soon be discovered, the cure that will turn the tide of battle.’

‘Ed,’ she said softly, ‘I came here to talk about us.’

‘Us, this is bigger than us right now.’ he held her hand, ‘but it will soon be just us. This is so big, this changes everything, the whole world, after this no one will ever be able to see Blackpool the same way again.’

Lucy closed her eyes and looked down from the cafe on the fifth floor of the tower, out across the promenade towards the sea. The skies were grey with small white clouds skipping beneath, playful in the blustery winds.

‘We haven’t known each other long,’ she paused.

Ed smiled and filled the silence, ‘I know,’ he laughed, ‘it was great, I mean amazing, it’s why I had to bring you here, to see this.’

‘To see what?’

 ‘The setting for end of the film,’ he laughed and stood, ‘the first one. Its going to be awesome.’ Ed looked at her, ‘I still cannot believe it, yesterday I was just a struggling writer, then I get told I am going to be a movie writer and I celebrate and then, you. You are the most beautiful girl, this is perfect.’

‘Ed,’ Lucy looked at him, ‘sit down.’

‘What’s wrong,’ he smiled at her, ‘last night was perfect, don’t worry I won’t let fame split us up.’

‘Ed, stop,’ she looked around to see if anyone had heard her raised voice. An old couple and young parents with small children waiting for the soft play to open. They did not seem to care.

‘Ed,’ Lucy looked at him, ‘I was just,’ she looked out at the sea. ‘it was just that I was always interested by you, I like dreamers, I like people with ideas and so when I heard your news, and the music, the food, the drink. I was just swept up by it, on a tide I guess.’

‘It’s a tide that will build, baby,’ he laughed.

‘Tide’s go out.’ She sighed. ‘This isn’t Dawn of the Dead, the bloody tower is a bad defence, trap yourself in a single location with nowhere to go but up and limited supplies.’ Lucy let a breath escape in frustration, ‘and what about food, power, water, the bad place to be in the event of a bloody fire. Stupid. There is also no bloody point to the rest of your story.’ She shook her head, ‘I mean, zombies! Gods. No understanding in the bloody zombie apocalypse crap of either the word zombie or apocalypse.’

‘The only zombie story that came close to being worthwhile on film was the original, though I liked Shawn for the laughs and Dylan Morgan, who you look a bit like. In books, World War Z and I know that’s your favourite movie, you told me twenty times already, and I hated it.’

‘You see that’s where you fail. That’s why we are not meant to be and this was always just one night. Grasping for the fantastic instead of looking at the world with all its in-built complex wonder and seeing the true beauty in the mundane. Ed, what’s wrong with a simple story why does it have to be fantastic.’

‘Here is something for you to consider, you know my love of words so I looked things up. God bless Google and Wikipedia. Zombie isn’t undead, it is a sleeping draught used as a punishment, a toxin from a fish. It is a form of religious paraphenalia and nothing to do with animated corpses or fast moving infected people.’

‘On that note, how do you get a cure for being dead, surely the whole point is there is no cure, just to further pick at your story, not that I don’t think people will watch it, there’s about a million Resident Evils and they are beyond dumb.’

‘As for the other part of that couplet, apocalypse never meant end of the world, Ed. Not until the fourteenth century when a bunch of zealots used it to apply to Revelations. It wasn’t part of the Bible until we rewrote that book in English.’ She let a small smile pattern her features, ‘the beauty is in the word, apocalypse isn’t destruction it is knowledge. It is the lifting of the veil, a revelation, an understanding, not an ending. That’s why this, the whole story, this phantasmagoria is just facile. You are simply riding a zeitgeist with no real understanding of what things mean.’

She stood and looked at him, ‘it was why we were never really meant to be, you look only skin deep, beauty to you is astonishment, the amazing, exciting, brilliant,’ she looked out at the beach, ‘not the shifting twists of sand that flit on a windy morning. Not the ever changing skies that have more wonder than anything constructed in a Hollywood basement.’ She buttoned her coat and smiled at him once more, ‘it is why our brief affair is over, consider it an apocalypse where the only zombie was relationship.’

* Zombie, The Cranberries

A Pair of Zombie Stories

My local Nanowrimo group is running some challenges throughout this year via our facebook group. We are writing some short stories to keep in the nano mood and to continue the energy.

For me this is really helpful as I failed Nano last year down to being too damned busy to write. This was very demoralising and something that has been irking me greatly.

So the challenges are at least some blessed relief.

The idea is to write a story based on some similar conceptions. Our first challenge was 500-1000 words, the Zombie Apocalypse, Ed and Lucy and Blackpool.

We needed to write a story using those basic similarities. These are writing challenges to keep skills fresh and not great works of art (well mine are at the very least, I shouldn’t say that for others). I have decided that I will publish some of them to this blog.

So for the first challenge I wrote two pieces, and expect to see them soon on here.

Doing the Write Thing*

Twenty-twelve (or two thousand and twelve if you like to be pedantic about the pronunciation of mathematical notation) was a good year for me in terms of writing and blogging.

In total I wrote over one hundred and fifty different pieces for blogs this year, including an eight thousand word epic post on the first twenty-five years of the Perl programming language.

I did start to feel demoralised that I hadn’t blogged enough and then I remembered that I do maintain a large number of blogs between family, personal, company and community and when added together the number of posts is quite significant, about three a week is a good number.

I also managed to fit in two different books and the Nanowrimo, though the two books were a completing of one and a re-edit of another, even still with my busy schedule this was a feat I think. This year’s Nano story is already undergoing an edit and being read in serial form by my wife so there is hope that I might do something with it as it is the first in a short series of linked stories that I am planning on writing.

I am hoping to up my quota for the coming year and I will probably do a short piece like this on what I achieve at the end of the coming year. If you keep watching you may read it. One thing I will be doing is keeping a closer watch on the number of articles I write so I can have a set of figures to present and maybe make graphs and charts with (I like pretty charts). We shall see.

ttfn…

 

* Yes it was an awful pun I do apologise.

Back to the Grind

It has been a while since I was writing regularly to this blog. The world of social media and Twitter seem to have taken me in their grasp and I have left the longer pieces to dwell in the recesses of my mind, well hopefully this will change and I will take the thrust up again.

I have been writing some long pieces, alongside the Tweets and Status updates, I have managed to keep writing to the per.ly blog and the Shadowcat News page, but not so much on the personal side.

This month I also wrote a really long (about 9,000 words) article on the 25th Anniversary of Perl that today made it to the front page of Slashdot, for which I am a little happy – not too much that might crack my modesty circuit and remove me from the Bashful Societies Yearbook.

Screen Shot 2012-12-19 at 16.07.42

Anyway, that’s the few status words updated, hopefully there will be more soon.