Slimming World friendly Prawn & Mushroom Couscous Stir Fry

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My mother and I have joined Slimming World in a desperate attempt to combat our weight issues. I’ve never been this fat before, and I hate it. I’m determined to shed the blubber no matter what it takes.

Being the ever adventurous type, I decided to experiment in the kitchen and see if I could produce a decent, quick lunch that doesn’t break the S.W rules. I can confidently call this dish a roaring success. It is syn free, so you enjoy as much as you like. The basis is frozen prawns and veggies, not fresh ones. Frozen ones contain water, which will leach out during cooking. That liquid is what we want. If you must use fresh, add a bit of vegetable stock.

Ingredients:

Frozen chopped onion

Frozen sliced mushrooms

Frozen sweetcorn (and any other small frozen veg you have or fancy)

Frozen prawns

Garlic if desired

A sprinkle of Soy Sauce

Tarragon

Couscous

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Give your frying pan a couple of squirts of fry spray. Then add the onions, mushrooms, frozen veg and frozen prawns and cook for a few minutes until the water leaches out. Add the garlic, tarragon and soy sauce and continue cooking in  the liquid for a few minutes until everything is cooked through. Add enough couscous to absorb the liquid. It will absorb the liquid fairly quickly, so you will know whether to keep adding more or not. If everything becomes too dry, add a little water or spare stock if you have any kicking around. I was able to add half a dozen large teaspoons of couscous to make the perfect consistency. Put a lid on the pan and turn off the heat. Leave for a couple of minutes while the couscous absorbs the liquid. Enjoy with salad or veggies of your choice.

INCOMPETENCE AT DOCTOR’S SURGERY – MY ONGOING STORY

I live in Hampshire, UK. I am registered as a patient at Stokewood Surgery, Fair Oak Road, Fair Oak, Hampshire, UK. Telephone 023 8069 2000 (for those outside the UK, remove the zero at the front and add 44).

I have a spinal injury. It is called a Pars Defect and I received it when I was attacked in the street by a stalker when I was 17 years old. Until November 2014, I have always been able to live a reasonably normal life with my injury, and was employed and paid my taxes for all those years.  By November 2014, my injury had made holding down a full time job, impossible and I was forced to give up work and begin the trauma of claiming benefits.

It is a horrendous rigmarole claiming benefits, and to cut out the majority of the boring stuff, I was given a benefit called ESA – Employment Support Allowance. It is the same benefit that used to be DSA – Disabled Living Allowance. In order to get my ESA benefit regularly, I have to provide the DWP – Department for Work and Pensions (the folks who hand out the benefit money), with a sick note every six weeks. In order to do this, I have to ring up my Doctor’s surgery a few days before the sick note runs out and tell them I need a renewal. They won’t renew a sick note before a day or two before the old one runs out, but the DWP requires a new one the day after the old one runs out. This means that the couple of days before the sick note runs out, is a time of worry as I rush to get the new one sent off in time to reach the DWP. If the DWP don’t receive the new one, or if it arrives later than the day after the old one runs out, they stop your benefit. This is a stupid way of doing things, and typical of how the British government is doing things these days.

My sick note ran out on 13th April 2015. I rang the surgery to have it renewed on 9th April 2015. I was told that because my doctor (Dr Wilshire) was on holiday until 14th April 2015, it could not be renewed until he returned to work. They also told me that no one else could sign a renewal for me.

The DWP sent me a letter reminding me of the need to send them a renewed sick note by 15th April 2015. They do this every time, and it is very helpful as sometimes I do forget when a sick note is reaching the end of it’s time.

I complained at the surgery and explained that the DWP need the new sick note by 15th April 2015, and that if they don’t receive it by then, my benefit will be stopped. I explained that if my benefit is stopped I will lose my home as the rent will not be paid. The girl assured me that she would get another doctor (Dr Lloyd) to sign a renewal sick note that I could pick up on 13th April 2015.

The sick note was NOT there as promised when I went to pick it up on 13th April 2015.

I rang this morning (14th April 2015) and asked for confirmation that my sick note would be there today for me to pick up. She would not give me that confirmation and told me she would see if the Doctor could phone me sometime this morning. I am now forced to sit here and wait for an alleged phone call that I seriously doubt will happen. Even if by some miracle, they do give me a new sick note today without a fuss, I cannot get it to the DWP by tomorrow’s deadline. This means my benefit will be stopped after tomorrow and I will be unable to pay my rent or council tax or any of my utility bills. My landlord will then evict me from my home and I will be on the street.

Thank you Great Britain. I’ve worked all my adult life and was attacked by a madman as a teenager but carried on working as best I could with a painful and inoperable spinal injury. I’ve paid my taxes and never committed a crime. I’m a white, English, single, middle aged, female, and as such, I’m of no importance to this government. As I walk the streets and try to find somewhere dry and safe to sleep, away from rapists, drug addicts and murderers, I will be considering who I would vote for if I was allowed to vote, which as a homeless person I won’t be, of course.

If I am not homeless by the time the general election happens, I will be voting UKIP. It won’t help me in my situation, but it might help someone from experiencing what I’m living through, in the future.

Because of STOKEWOOD SURGERY and their incompetence, I will now lose all my benefit, which is my sole income. This means my rent will not be paid. This also means my council tax will not be paid. Not paying rent and council tax means I will lose my home and become homeless.

For those who live in the area, I would advise you NOT becoming a patient at Stokewood Surgery.

 

The (not quite) Definitive Guide to Females in Fiction

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So you’re writing a novel? Making a movie? A TV play maybe? Whatever type or genre of fiction you’re creating, the chances are good that you will be including female characters. Women play many roles in works of fiction and their presence is a necessary part of a balanced dynamic within the team of characters. In order to make your work of fiction both entertaining and plausible, your females must play the correct roles in the correct way. Those male writers out there wishing to create the best work possible for their audience, creating believable female characters can be a nightmarish task. Men find women difficult to understand in their real lives, so creating believable fictional ones is an added layer of anguish that they don’t need. Writing any work of fiction is hard work, so anything that can make the process a little easier is welcome, right?

In order to help those male writers negotiate their way through the minefield that is the female, I have drawn up the following Guide to Females in Fiction. I have separated the guide into the following sections:

The pre-teen female.

The teenage female.

The beautiful young female.

The plain young female.

The older female.

The alien female.

This guide is written from the point of view of a male team leader.

The pre-teen female.

The very young female child character will be  streetwise and emotionally strong way beyond her years. She will be clever and show the sort of basic common sense that always tends to evade her older counterparts. As the dominant male, you will probably be her father or her mother’s long time boyfriend. Discipline is not your forte, and she will never obey you when you tell her what to do, but will always do her own thing. This will tend to get you and your team into all sorts of trouble, but she’s a kid and you won’t mind her undisciplined outbursts.

Often, she will be the only one who knows what’s really happening and will have to resort to all sorts of tricks to get the rest of you to realise your new best friend is really a spy, a monster is hiding out a few yards beyond your camp, and that you really can’t trust Sheriff Jones after all. Neither you or your team will believe her, of course, until she single-handedly saves the whole team despite being only seven years and four months old.

Despite loving her Mother, she will be a daddy’s girl and she will view her place as being at your side during your most dangerous adventures. Being streetwise and clever, she will have no problem stowing away in a trunk of equipment to ensure she gets to accompany you on your latest mission. The more emphatically you explain to her that it’s too dangerous for her to come with you, the greater will be her determination to disobey you. Helpful tip – always be sure to thoroughly search all boxes of equipment, and never leave rugs piled in the back seats of vehicles.

If, once you discover your stowaway, you find she’s brought along her pet dog, you will need to be even more on your guard than ever. That dog will run away at the most inconvenient moments, and she will always run after it, even when it’s in no danger and even when she and all of you are in great danger. Yelling at her to stay hidden will do no good. She will dodge bullets and monsters as she follows the little hairy guy, and you will be forced to follow. You and your team may very well suffer injury and loss of life while hunting for the girl and dog, but due to her age and your secret admiration for her self-reliance, you again decide not to discipline her.

The child will, of course, become a captive of your arch enemy. This will force you and your team to divert from the mission in order to rescue her. Once again, you will probably suffer injury and loss of life. Your team is shrinking by the minute. You need not worry about her safety though, her charm and streetwise abilities will ensure she practically rescues herself and/or charms the pants off your arch enemy. The offending dog will help her in this. His sudden new found ability to understand the most complicated of verbal commands will ensure he is able to ensure her escape and incapacitate the bad guys. Having initially wanted to get rid of the dog, you will now begrudgingly accept that he deserves not to go to the pound after all.

As you are no longer with her mother, she will constantly try to find you another girlfriend. She will, of course, easily find the perfect woman for you, whom you will have always failed to spot yourself.

Your team members will never complain about her presence, or the way she keeps fucking up the mission. They will each love her like their own, and she will be on first name terms will all of them. You will trust them all with her implicitly, despite the fact that several of them are time served criminals and all of them have not had so much as a sniff of a woman in weeks.

The teenage female

The teenage female will always be an angst-ridden mess. She will either be a goth or a sex kitten, but whichever guise she adopts, her emotions will bring you and your team nothing but trouble. Her anguish will be a direct result of your treatment of her while she was growing up, combined with her reaction to you having divorced her mother.

Her presence on your adventure will be caused by her mother’s need for time away from her troublesome teen, to go on holiday with her new beau/complete a new contract at work/help her sick father or whatever. Having been dumped on you for the summer, she will resent your presence and regard your mission as a heap of crap.

The teenage female will think the new man in her mother’s life is a jerk, but she won’t tell you that. She will pretend he is the greatest thing since soft toilet paper, just to make you squirm. You will, of course, fall for this badly hidden artifice every time, and the guilt will ensure you do exactly as she wants, thus almost killing your whole team and scuppering your mission. She will refuse to believe your warnings of danger, and will happily put everyone in danger on multiple occasions. Due to your guilt at being a shit father, you continually refuse to discipline her.

She will be permanently plugged into earphones, through which she will listen to heavy metal/punk music to avoid having to listen to you. On occasions, she will spend hours texting her friends on her mobile phone.

If she has adopted the goth guise, she will get herself a criminal boyfriend and have him tag along with you all. You size him up immediately and warn her about him, but she ignores your warnings and indulges him just to annoy you. Pretty soon, he will rob you and try to make off with his ill-gotten gains. The loss of expensive equipment ensures you and the team are trapped in the middle of nowhere and can’t call for help. If you yell at the teenage goth female about this, she will say she hates you and run off after her criminal boyfriend. This will force you to go after her, thereby delaying your mission and causing further danger to all team members. She is your daughter though and going through the hell of her parents’ divorce, so you don’t mind really.

If she adopts the sex kitten guise, she will dress in figure hugging clothes that always expose her midriff and burgeoning cleavage. Your team members, all red blooded males, will never get turned on by her and you will never have cause to worry despite her inappropriate attire around them.

Like her goth counterpart, she will have earphones and the same tuneless music and ever present mobile phone, the latter of which she uses to moan about you to her friends.

She will have a boyfriend but you don’t like him. He will have once been a bit of a lad, but that is all in the past, he’s a nice guy now and only wants the best for her. Despite his continual reassurances, you refuse to trust him and try your best to keep him away from her. You will fail, and when your mission reaches its dangerous climax, it will be he who rescues the situation and helps ensure your survival. Only then do you realise he really does want only the best for your teenage sex kitten daughter, and welcome him onto the team.

As you are divorced from her mother, both of the teenage female types will have unresolved emotional issues with you. This will make itself apparent during your stilted conversations, during which she constantly accuses you of not understanding her, abandoning her, not caring etc. These conversations usually end up with her stomping off in a huff, earplugs in place and Metallica on at max volume. This also applies if her mother is deceased, forcing you into a position of permanent father.

At first, you will deny her claims, and when the conversation reaches the yelling stage,  the sex kitten teenage female will run away with the newly nice guy ex-convict boyfriend. Once she and the boyfriend get into trouble, she will realise she made a huge mistake. The monsters/bad guys with guns/landslide/tornadoes will however, ensure she can’t get back to you. Never mind, the ex-convict, newly nice guy boyfriend will keep her safe. This is usually done shortly before he returns to save your sorry ass.

The teenage female brings with her a lot of emotional baggage. She will claim to hate her mother for dumping her on you. She will claim to hate you for leaving her and her mother. Despite these normal teenage turmoils, her streetwise knowledge and partially remembered science project will be the only thing to ensure your mission’s success.

 

The beautiful female

She wants to come along on your adventure. You don’t want her to, but like the pre-teen female,  she stows away and you don’t find her until it’s too late to send her back. It may be that she’s the only one with enough money to finance it, so you reluctantly agree. She could be a reporter from some backwater newspaper or your nosey neighbour. Whatever her position in life, she wants in and she’ll find a way to get what she wants.

Once firmly ensconced within the team, she causes nothing but trouble. Despite being told to keep quiet, be careful, stay here, don’t touch, listen carefully, she will wake the monsters, get lost, get kidnapped, get trapped inside somewhere, and all manner of other scenarios. All the time she’s doing this, she will believe she’s doing the right thing and not once will she realise that she should’ve just done as you told her and sat down and shut up. You and the team will be forced to waste time and resources searching for her, losing vital equipment or supplies, and getting at least one useful member of the team killed. Despite being a total nuisance to everyone all of the time, you won’t mind because she’s beautiful and you’d like to have sex with her.

She will scream a lot at times when silence really is the best policy. Despite this habit causing the bad guys to find your hideout and/or the monsters to wake up, you won’t mind because you want to have sex with her.

She will fall over when running away from monsters and bad guys.

She will argue with you and denounce your mission as a waste of time, but you still want to have sex with her.

She knows you want to have sex with her, and might use your attraction to her advantage. While you’re having sex with her, another couple of your team members are dying. You mourn them, but ultimately you don’t mind because you hope to have more sex with her.

Your mission might necessitate you venturing into an environment where the average daytime temperature may be forty below zero. There may be mountains to climb or seas to swim across, creatures to wrestle, icy winds that blow down buildings and all manner of other horrors. Despite this, she will wear nothing more than a bra and g string with high-heeled boots and spiky leather wrist cuffs and will never complain of being cold. The acres of exposed flesh will never show so much as a single goose bump. You and your team members wrapped in layers of fur and leather should be in awe of her ability to withstand the cold.

She will never be troubled by the demands of a menstrual cycle, will never need to pee or shit, and will not end up stinking like a camel in a Turkish sauna. Her legs and armpits will remain hair free during the weeks of your mission, her mascara will never run, her facial skin will remain flawless and spot free, and her lips will display a constant rosy blush.

Once your mission is over and her antics have cost you every one of your far more valuable team members, you will marry her.

 

The plain female

The plain female will make up for her lack of looks with knowledge and skills that will help ensure both your mission’s success, and your team’s survival. Not having the burden of being the love interest means she is free to be a contributing member of the team. Her specialist knowledge and skills will do this for her and will more than make up for her lack of beauty.

Her presence will come about by accident. She will ‘stumble upon’ you and the team while in the midst of almost losing your lives and will use her considerable knowledge and/or skills to save your sorry asses.

You will not want to have sex with her and this will enable you to appreciate her skills and quickly realise her potential as a permanent member of your team.

She will know you don’t want to have sex with her and will be content for you to value her for her knowledge and skills.

Her lack of beauty will not bother her, for she has always been more interested in science/martial arts/astronomy anyway.

She will never wear makeup. Her hair will most often be kept short, but if not, then it will always be tied back in a low ponytail or braid.

Despite her lack of beauty and subsequent lack of experience in romance, she will be uncannily wise in matters of the heart and will issue forth pearls of profound wisdom which ensure everyone’s relationships with everyone else thrive.

Her lack of beauty enabled her professor father to indulge her in a superior education of ancient arts and obscure mystical practices, at which she excelled. When he died in mysterious circumstances whilst in the far east, she inherited his journals that furnished her with yet more specialist knowledge.

Her father was spurned by the scientific community because of his weird beliefs and she has suffered by association. This experience gave her personality a hard edge and an ability to endure far beyond that of the beautiful female.

She never speaks about this earlier part of her life and she refuses to discuss the ‘awful things’ she has seen and come into contact with. Despite this reticence, she just happens to be exactly where you need her, when you need her, so that she can translate the artefact/explain quantum physics/reprogram the positronic brain of the artificial intelligence/mix the correct rare herbs/ predict the planetary alignment, which you need in order to succeed.

Once you and your team return from this current adventure, you don’t hesitate to offer the plain woman a central role within your team. She accepts without hesitation because she secretly loves you and knows you won’t survive long without her knowledge and skill.

She knows you don’t want to have sex with her, but she lives in hope.

 

The older female

The middle aged older woman comes in two main forms. The first is an embittered hag. She mourns her lost youth and rails against ageing. She might be financially comfortable, but the money brings her no joy.

She will always wear far too much makeup in an effort to hang on to her lost youth, and will wear clothes more suited to a female half her age.

She will engage in sex with much younger men. She knows they are after her money but indulges them anyway for she knows that she is no longer the younger, more beautiful female. Once they tire of her and leave, she becomes an enraged harpy intent on ruining them for the rest of their lives.

She will fall in love with you and chase you shamelessly. Despite your protestations, she continues to chase you and may grant sexual favours to your team mates in order to gain access to you or information about you that she might use to her advantage.

You don’t want to have sex with her. She knows this and hates it.

She will drink far too much, usually because of some past hurt by a man she used to love who deserted her.

She will have a beautiful daughter with whom you will be in love, but she will not want to let you near the girl. This is because she’s jealous that you don’t fancy her instead of her daughter. If her earlier attempts to gain information about you bore fruit, she will use this in an attempt to convince her daughter that you’re not worth a damn.

If you continue to refuse her advances and pursue her daughter, she may try to thwart your plans or even try to kill you.

The second main type of middle-aged female, is the wilting waif who sobs a lot. The very act of living life terrifies her, and she needs her controlling husband to guide her.

Her controlling husband is often the central bad guy, but she will never believe it of him. After all, he’s always guided her and given her a good life. He can’t help it if she makes him angry sometimes, he works hard and brings in the money.

Her main reaction to problems is to drop into a chair and sob. With constant reassurances, she will dry her eyes and look to you to sort everything out for her.

She is a burden, but she is so nice that no one minds.

You don’t want to have sex with her.

The old, older female also takes two main forms. In one form, she is the landlady, the domestic help, the airplane passenger who comforts the scared beautiful female, the grandparent who spends most of her time reminiscing about her younger years.

The second type of old older female is the wise old crone. The ageing queen of her tribe, she rules with a firm hand and is the sole repository of knowledge of ‘the old ways.’ With her death comes a new age of modernism in the tribe, which often involves some of your team members remaining and marrying fur-bikini-clad maidens.

 

The alien female

The alien female also has different forms, like those of her Earth counterparts.

The alien female child always behaves with impeccable manners. She has an excellent education and is well versed in science before the age of ten years. Her relationship with her parents is one of respect and obedience. She never yells or swears, but can sob if something really terrible happens.

The adult alien female will always have large breasts, which are clad in nothing more than the flimsiest gossamer. She will wear this garment through wars and picnics, in all weathers and in all environments. It will never become inadvertently dislodged, showing a flash of alien nipple for your delectation, despite her having to fight an army of huge ruddy-legged bog-swagglers on a daily basis.

She will happily discuss her species’ sexual practices without embarrassment and will express a scientific interest in yours.

She will naturally know nothing about kissing or Earth style sex, and it is your sworn duty to teach her. You will of course make sure she knows this is an entirely normal way Earth humans greet each other, to ensure she grants you as much time as you feel you need, to ensure she has learned this most vital inter-species communication technique.

She will always fall immediately in love with you. She has been waiting for decades for her planet to be invaded, just so she can meet her ideal man – you.  Not one single male on her entire planet is good enough for her affections. Nope, you’re the one, buddy.

Despite having a far superior intellect, she will allow you to convince her to put her entire civilisation at risk to save you, just because you do that weird kissing thing she finds so amusing.

You may lose team members on her planet, who choose to remain behind with their new wives.

She wants you to stay with her but you realise that Earth needs you more. You have a tearful goodbye, during which you promise to return one day. She believes you and remains unsullied for the rest of her life, not knowing that you were fucking the beautiful Earth female just days later on the journey home.

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So there you have it my friends. The (not quite) Definitive Guide to Females in Fiction. I hope you find it helpful and educational. To those men out there writing fiction, know that your female characters will follow in the footsteps of those given life by generations of writers before you.  I leave it up to you to decide whether that would be a good thing or bad.

Movie Review – Interstellar

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Like many science fiction fans, I’ve been waiting for this movie with much anticipation. It has been hyped as the best space opera movie in years, with every superlative you can think of attached to the write ups and trailers. It came out on DVD and Blue Ray here a couple of days ago, and I watched it yesterday with my mother. We were both very excited to finally be getting to see this much hyped phenomenon, and settled down with our coffee and Belgian Buns with broad grins on our faces.

There are three distinct ‘acts’ in the movie. The first act lays out the back story and sets the scene for our hero, Cooper, to leave Earth in search of a new home on which to settle. I felt this first act to be far too long for the movie. Whilst interesting and pertinent to the story, it makes the whole movie drag a little. There was one point where I was suddenly afraid the movie’s makers had fallen victim to the, “little kid stows away to be with her dad and then wreaks havoc,” trope but to my complete relief, they didn’t.

The second act is Cooper’s flight from Earth and the team’s experiences in space. They navigate the wormhole and arrive at the new galaxy, whereupon they have to find three planets previously identified as possible alternative Earths, and investigate them. A single astronaut was sent to each of the three planets some time previously, and Cooper and the team must rendezvous with each one. Of course their carefully laid plans go quickly awry when the female member of the team takes it upon herself to disobey orders. This causes the loss of a team member, and the loss of twenty three years equivalent Earth time, but she doesn’t seem concerned and Cooper quickly forgives her. This is my biggest complaint about the movie.

In real life, a highly trained astronaut would never disobey orders to such a degree with such losses as the result, but it is one of the most widely used tropes in movies. Seriously guys, can’t you think of anything original when you make these films? This was a huge black spot upon my enjoyment, and one that as an author I find unforgiveable. This second act ends with Cooper apparently lost to the black hole.

The third act brings the whole story to a nice close and ties up all loose ends quite well. Without spoiling it for anyone, the scene inside the black hole with the ‘physical time’ environment is rather a stretch for anyone’s belief and smacked of what I have come to recognise as that typical American shmaltzy aspect movie makers find so necessary these days. Even my mother, who has a degree in physics, raised her eyebrows at that series of scenes. Never mind, I understand the need for poetic licence just as much as the next person.

The ending sets us up nicely for a sequel, which I feel confident will be forthcoming. That one, if indeed it is made, should be even better than this one.

Interstellar would have been far better made as a trilogy. Each of the three acts could have been gone into in far more detail if they each had a movie of their own, and suitable cliffhangers on which to end are there aplenty. The cutting necessary to cram such a lot of stuff into one movie means that details have been lost that would have smoothed edges and added a level of sophistication that is missing from the hodge-podge that is the single movie. The whole thing feels busy and crammed and is far too long at two hours and forty nine minutes.

I give Interstellar four stars. It was a tad over hyped, too crammed, and far too long.

Brand new interview – Detective Angelo Lamora of NYPD

I had the pleasure of chatting with Detective Angelo Lamora of NYPD yesterday. He stopped in to talk about the Gainsford Riot, and his experiences during those horrific few days. You can read all about the events no known as the Gainsford Riot, Angelo’s experiences, and how those few days almost spelled the end of humanity as we know it.

Click here to read Angelo’s interview.

Wandering Thoughts of a Writer -Book Feature

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I had the pleasure of having The Trials of Nahda featured on my good friend Rebekkah Ford’s blog, The Wandering Thoughts of a Writer. Click here to visit her fantastic blog. I hope you enjoy the feature.

Fluffy pyjamas and a day at the beach

Something happened today that has never happened before. Mother wanted to go out and visit Lepe Beach. We used to go there years ago; it’s a place she has loved for years. Today, I told her she either had to change her clothes, or remain in the car at all times.

Yeah, I was embarrassed.

This has never happened before. Although she’s never been the height of fashion, Mother would never have gone out in loud tartan fleecy trousers that look like pyjama bottoms. These days she doesn’t seem to care as much as she did. When I told her I would not walk down the street with her dressed like that, she was a little put out. We laughed about it, but she did end up staying in the car.

Some might think me harsh, but I see it as a little sign that she has begun to give up her hold on life. She’s 83 and due to her obesity, she’s quite disabled now. It’s as if, one by one, the little things that symbolise how we cling vibrantly to each moment of life, are being let go. She used to care how she looked when she went out in public. She used to take care to dress smartly and appropriately for a large woman, and we both used to express disdain at how women we saw out and about, were dressed. “I would never go out like that,” she would often say.

Well now she is, and it’s not just that I don’t like her dress sense. It’s what lies beneath that worries me. Do I keep trying to encourage her not to let herself go any more than she has done already, or do I just let her give up little by little? She’s a grown up after all, and has the right to make her own choices and live by them.  It’s just a shame to see how far she has fallen. It is true that there is no dignity in ageing, and even less in death.

Word of the day

MUTABLE – liable or subject to change or alteration

This is the perfect word for today. It has been a mutable day. I did have plans, but due to other people’s plans changing, mine had to. I have accomplished today though, just not what I had intended. Instead of a busy day, I’ve had a day relaxing at home and just doing home stuff.

Mutable is a more sophisticated way of saying changeable, but one must be careful when using it in a novel. The type of character who would use this word would be someone with a good education and of a certain class. This word brings to mind mature scientists and scholars, definitely not the type of expression an uneducated redneck might use.

When writing our characters personalities, it is important that their mannerisms, habits, lifestyle, and speech styles reflect their social status. Whilst it is a good thing to try to make your word choice more sophisticated, you need to ensure you do so in the right way to make your characters authentic and believable.

 What kind of a day have you had, and what is the most sophisticated way you can think of to describe it?

On becoming a superhero

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Are you a woman under fifty? If so, prepare to receive a surprise gift on your fiftieth birthday. This gift is something you may have spent your younger years wishing for, and believing you could never have. It is however, something you will find out is nowhere near as cool as you think it would be. I love a superhero movie as much as the next person, and have often thought it might be cool to fly like Superman or Ironman, have X-ray eyes, or the power to become invisible. Well you can become invisible, and you won’t have to undergo any horrible painful tests,  there will be no need to drink a nasty tasting concoction, and no scary injections of dreadful chemical mixtures. What must you do, I hear you cry? It’s simple, just be a woman over fifty.

This phenomenon creeps up on you without you realising until it’s too late and then, bam, you’re invisible with no way back. Like a spectre you glide into crowded rooms unseen by those present until you throw a cup across the room and scream. You queue in stores and fast food joints and when finally you get to the front of the line, the sales person looks right through you and serves the guy behind you. Your fifty plus year old joints complain more and more, but you will never get a seat on a bus because no one knows you’re there.

Hoping to get yourself a younger toy boy? Forget it sister. Unless you walk down the street stark naked, singing a falsetto rendition of The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins to get their attention, Most men will cease to notice you. There are some men who will notice you, but that will most likely be for all the wrong reasons. The fat, balding, paunchy, toothless, beer swilling, farting sofas will notice you, but only because they know that the younger and better looking chicks won’t give them the time of day. They’re trying to ‘settle for second best’ by trying it on with the invisible older women, and assume said women will be grateful for the attention.

I turned 53 a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve been aware of my superhero status for a few years now. My 83 year old mother and I have discussed this topic often and she reports to having noticed the same thing happening to her from middle age. She also informs me that this superhero status, once gained, is permanent. Once invisible, you can never hope to be seen again.  You are doomed to wander through your winter years like a ghost wandering a lofty mansion, the occasional grunt or shriek to shock people into wondering what the hell that noise was, and if their house is haunted?

This new found ability does have one or two advantages though, that help to temper the shock and disappointment. No longer must you spend hours wondering what to wear. No longer do you have to spend hours applying layers of make up. You don’t even have to bother shaving your chin or plucking your eyebrows anymore. Your middle aged spread can wobble unashamedly, and you can relax about the diet. After all, you’re now way passed such concerns. No, your priorities now are tracking down cut price life insurance deals, funeral plans, and dealing with bladder problems. The younger generation don’t know how sweet their life is, do they?

But of course, this is what society wants us to believe.

Why should we suddenly become invisible? What is wrong with our society, that a woman who has worked hard bringing up children, working, caring for elderly parents and useless husbands, is rewarded for her efforts with indifference and a yawn? Without us, the younger generation would not exist to enjoy the life they take far too much for granted, so why can’t they be grateful? Because that is the way of life today, that’s why. Old is a dirty word, something to be afraid of and avoided at all costs. In choosing not to notice us, they are admitting their fear of confronting their own mortality and the march of time. We cannot all be Judi Dench and Helen Mirren, with enough money to hire clever people who can help us come out from behind our cloak of invisibility. Most of us just have to accept that we no longer exist, and some of us will end our days alone, not found for weeks. Our mouldering corpses will still be sitting in front of the tv and finally, for a moment, we will no longer be invisible. The younger generation will shake their heads and mutter, “What a shame, how could an old person go unnoticed like that.”

Its seems the only way to stop this unwanted new superhero ability, is to become the neighbourhood weirdo, the crazy cat lady at the end of the street, the old bat who talks to her plants and probably has a body hidden in the cellar, “so the guy in bar told me.” Not all of us fancy any of those roles for ourselves. Most of us would like to be just as visible as we were when we were thirty years younger. We’re not asking for wolf whistles, (although that might be nice once in a while), we don’t want to be thought of as man eating cougars or new age converts embracing veganism. We want to be ordinary women, just like always. We want a smile, a nod, a “good morning.”

Is that really beyond the realms of possibility for a civilised society?

Happy New Year

I can’t believe how fast 2014 went by. I always thought it was an old person’s thing to comment on how fast the time is going, but now I’m doing it myself. Maybe that means that I’m now old instead of just middle aged. I don’t feel like an old person despite being 53 in a couple of weeks, I still feel 25 inside my head. I often look back and think, “where the hell has the last week gone?” It’s not just me experiencing this either, many people I speak to say it too.

2014 saw some changes for me, most of them welcome. My beloved car finally broke down and had to be sold as I could not afford to get it repaired. The head gasket had gone and I don’t have that kind of money. Having no transport meant I could no longer keep doing my job, which entailed me driving to different peoples’ homes to clean their house. This meant I’ve had to start claiming benefits, which is a laborious process designed to make you feel like a scrounger. It is taking forever, but I hope it will be all sorted soon.

My health problems have caught up with me more than ever before, and I spend a lot of time in pain. I have what is called a Pars Defect in my lumbar spine, which is now affecting my life far more than ever before. It seems to me that being forced to give up my job, which was very physical and left me in agony most days, was timely. It is nice having more time at home. Being able to lie in is a treat I haven’t experienced for years. It is a blow to my ego to  have to use a walking stick, but it does help a little so I try not to complain. I never realised how difficult it is to go shopping with a handbag, several bags of shopping, and still be able to effectively use a walking stick. It’s impossible, so I often find myself unable to use my stick. Luckily I can do the greater part of the grocery shopping online, which saves me having to haul too many bags on the bus.  That’s another thing, the bus fares around here are criminal!

2014 also saw my mother sell her house in Cornwall and move up here near me. I’ve been trying to persuade her for ages and am delighted that my persistence has finally paid off. She now has a lovely ground floor flat a couple of miles away, in a nice area near to all the amenities she did not have in Cornwall. It will also be nice to have someone to pop in for a coffee and natter a couple of times a week or go for a meal on a weekend. When she first announced she was moving away down to Cornwall, I felt very abandoned for a long time. It was weird and not something I expected to feel. It was not pleasant and although I got used to being so alone, I was always aware of how alone I was. She has been away visiting relatives for Christmas and New Year, so we will be out buying her some new furniture the moment she gets back.

My other excitement is that I am now a proud cat mommy. I named him Samelan, after the main character in my Sinclair V-Logs science fiction novels. He’s a beautiful stripey tabby and has the most hilarious nature. He has a foot fetish and will bite my feet and toes whenever I go barefoot, he likes playing football with his toys (and is a very skilled dribbler too), and is toilet training with the Litter Kwitter system. He doesn’t meow very often, but ‘trills’ all the time, and will reply when I talk to him sometimes. Every morning at 7am he wakes me up by trilling and batting me with a paw, after which he sits by my alarm clock as he knows I always reach for it to check the time before getting up. I’m fully expecting one day for him to learn to press the button on the top which lights up the clock face. I cannot express how much of a difference it has made to my mood, having someone pleased to see me, seeking my company, and eager for me to get home just to spend time with me. I’m sure he’s saved my life.

So what of 2015? I did make a New Year’s resolution to give up chocolate, and I am determined to stick to it. Rather than go on a typical diet as such, I have tried to introduce permanent healthy food habits, one at a time. Years ago I gave up sugar in tea and coffee. A couple of years ago I gave up milk in tea and coffee. Last March I gave up smoking, and this year I intend to stop eating chocolate in any form. It is an education trying to find desserts and sweet things that don’t contain chocolate. This substance seems to have infiltrated into every area of our diet. It’s even in breakfast cereals now, crazy. At the same time as I shall be learning to do without chocolate, I shall be eating more fruit and veg, which I already love so no problems there other than the cost of them. Once I have eliminated the worst stuff from my diet, I can turn my attention to reducing portion size. I hope to end this year with a far more healthy relationship with food, even if I have not lost a significant amount of weight (which would be nice too).

So far I have 2 novels to publish in the coming year. One is finished to first draft and the other will be finished to first draft within the next couple of days.  I shall probably participate in the July Camp Nanowrimo, as I have done in the past 2 years, which will take me to 3 books this year. I like to do 3 a year, it’s a comfortable workload for me.

I want to pay a little more attention to marketing this year. I am in the process of building a list of tweets that I can use with the new drip feed app I’ve found. Due to Feed 140 breaking down, I had to find another drip feeder, and Dropial is the only one I’ve found that allows you to build a list that will drip in a continuous loop. The only downside to Dropial is that it insists on the list containing a minimum number of tweets, so I’m busy building it at the moment. Once that is done, I want to blog more, and use all the other social media I am part of, a bit more often. I cannot afford to pay for advertising, so free social media is my shop window at the moment. I would like to do interviews, but no one is asking  – unless you’d like to interview me or do a spotlight for me?

One other thing I want to pledge to this coming year, is to begin re-editing and re-releasing my backlist. As time has gone on I have learned more, and I can clean up the early books and make them slicker and more error free. There is also one I want to do a new cover for. I want to do at least 2 of my older books this coming year.

As for other 2015 bucket list items, there’s always the following:

Meet Dwayne Johnson

Meet Vin Diesel

Meet Misha Collins

Have Peter Jackson talk me into allowing him to turn one of my books into a movie

Win more than a million on the lottery

Become a best seller for at least one of my books on Amazon

If anyone would like to help me achieve any of those items, let me know. In the meantime, I wish you all a prosperous, educational, and happy 2015.