Sunday, January 5, 2020

Deep Sleep and Vivid Dreams.

The new year has brought heavy sleep. Although I set my alarm for 6.30 am, it has actually only woken me about three times in the past two years as I seem to automatically wake about 30 minutes before it goes off. The past couple of weeks, however, I have regularly slept until 7.30 or as late as 8.30. And then on my first day back at work (alarm set, of course) I woke at 6.05. I think the back of my brain instinctively knows I need to get up for work.

And it has, for the most part, been deep sleep. Much deeper than I usually have.

I think this is partly the time of year, as we have very short days and long nights. Partly it was my body recharging after a year of work and the trip down under, and partly just because I could sleep in and didn't have to get up.

Interestingly, this has brought vivid dreams as well. I won't give too many details or specifics as I know some budding psychology students will do their best to psycho-analyse me.

  • I dreamed I was invited to a party at Bob Dylan's house. It was a lot of fun, and he sat off to one side, not being bothered and simply enjoying himself. I did chat to him briefly.
  • I dreamed I was back in Japan, where I was supposed to see an ancient book, but they wouldn't let me see it. The people in charge were connected with the Yakuza, and killed a Japanese man who asked for the same book. They let me live.
  • I dreamed I was with a group of people when one of them received a letter informing him it was time to go. Kind of a Logan's Run thing. He had to find the entrance to the afterworld, and once we did he said goodbye and off he went. There was no sadness.
  • I dreamed Paul Young (the 80s pop star) visited us at our home. Also there were some colleagues from work. We had a great time, and he signed an album for me. I have no idea where this came from. I liked his music, but haven't listened to it in a long time.
  • I dreamed about an incident at a swimming pool, which I can only catch glimpses of and don't recall all the details.

And last night, for the first time in ages, I had a lucid dream. I really enjoy these, as I can explore and create adventures. I can never control every detail, but can at least guide and direct them. Last night's, however, was very unusual. At first I could control it, but then it wouldn't permit me to do what I wanted, or anything. Instead I had an experience that I didn't expect. Something I'm still trying to understand. (And no, I won't share - see the comment above about amateur psychologists)

I have looked at dream interpetation books and websites in the past, but they generalise. You dream of a goldfish, it means this.  But what if the dream was about a goldfish that was blue and 20 feet long, while riding a bicycle?  Surely that changes all he meanings.

Or sometimes, a cigar is simply a cigar, and dreams are purely our brains re-organising memories and creating narratives to entertain us. Whatever they are, I sure enjoy them.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Back in the UK.

I've been back a week or so, and the trip panned out pretty much as I had predicted. I even had a Chiko Roll and enjoyed it.

It was wonderful seeing my friends, family and former colleagues. The one thing that surprised me was how much the staff at my school had changed. It is 20 months since I last visited, and it was 18 months before that. The changes this time were far greater than the previous time, which is logical, I suppose, as you become further removed in time. I went to a morning tea, and I didn't know more than half the people in the room.

On the way back I stopped in Abu Dhabi for a couple of nights. First to break up the long flight and reduce jetlag before returning to work, and second to have a bit of a holiday somewhere new after a hectic two weeks at home catching up with people.

I really enjoyed it. I loved every second. The food was great, the people were friendly and helpful, and there was so much to do. I could easily have filled another couple of days. The Louvre Museum and the Old Fort were definite highlights. Brilliant.

One of my favourite moments was simply heading off the main road and wandering in sidestreets until I got myself lost. That is something I try to do in cities I visit. Sometimes you find the most remarkable places and people, and this adventure was no exception.

And the absolute bonus for me was being upgraded to a suite instead of the room I had booked. I had three rooms, a huge TV and sofas. That was cool.

Thank you, Abu Dhabi. I will return.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Up, Up And Away.

I fly out to Australia tomorrow. It's been almost two years since I was home. I'm really quite excited about the whole trip, especially catching up with family and friends.

I'll be staying with my parents in the house in which I grew up. The house has changed a lot, so it's not quite as nostalgic for me as it might be for others returning home. There is nothing there which was mine from my teenage years, for example.

I will visit my old school, where I was a student and then a teacher before I moved to the UK. It's only a couple of hundred yards from my parents' house and is home to many of my best friends. It's also earmarked for rebuilding, and parts of it, including the staff room, have already been stripped. This will be the last chance to see it as it was.

My hometown is a bit of a sleepy hollow, but I know it well, having grown up, taught and policed the area. It has changed dramatically in the last 50 years (we moved there in late 1968) and I will be interested to see what has changed in the last couple of years.

I'm also looking forward to a couple of food items you can't get over here. Vegemite is readily available, I love Tim Tams but don't yearn for them, and you can get kangaroo steak here if you look for it (I haven't).  No, these are not the things I miss. What I really long for is a dim sim or two.

Dim sims are a uniquely Australian take on Chinese dumplings. They're cheap, they're nasty, and they are completely wonderful. They can be served steamed or deep fried (always deep fried for me) and they're something I've been craving for the past two months.

I'm also looking forward to a Chiko Roll. Yes, I know. They're usually awful. They seem like a good idea until you have one, then when you do buy one, you remember why you haven't done so in a long time. And I think I might buy a meat pie - Australian style.

I've rented a car this time so I will have more mobility, be able to go further afield and visit people I didn't get to last time. Already I have plans to drive out west to visit and old friend, and then up north-east to visit my brother. I do love a good road trip. MP3 player at the ready.

Tomorrow I'll be in the air, and I think that's the only thing I'm not looking forward to. It's a long haul, and the airlines continue to dehumanise their customers by decreasing space, offering fewer services, and charging for things that should be included.

I'll see you on the other side.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Move Close To The Fireplace.

Winter is coming, which it is, and isn't any sort of reference to Game of Thrones.

It's getting colder, the days are getting shorter with dark mornings, and the leaves are falling. I've already had a couple of icy mornings where I've had to scrape the windscreen. Firewood has been delivered, which means the Chateau Cameron is cosy in the evenings, and we're eating more soups and stews than in the warmer months.

Christmas, as a festive season, seems more real here.  Growing up in Australia, Christmas always seemed out of place. I remember watching The Proposition, the Nick Cave film, a few years ago. It's a gritty Australian 'western' and is very much a commentary on the hostile landscape and environment in which the colonists and convicts lived. Here's the thing - they simply didn't belong, and I seem to recall dialogue along those lines. One scene that stands out is the family trying to have a traditional English Christmas lunch in 40c heat while being swarmed by flies. It belongs firmly in winter, and is very much a northern hemisphere festival.

Oh, and that in no way, shape or form suggests I never enjoyed Christmas in Australia.

But once again I am reminded of Marigold by Steeleye Span. (From the Sails of Silver album)

When the marigold no longer blooms
When summer sun is turned to gloom
See the forecast winter snow
See the evergreen that lonely grows
Move close to the fireplace
Neglect the garden
See the ground harden
At a ghostly place
The golden summer sun is silver now
The fruit has fallen from the bough
The season moves to chestnut time
Toffee apples, treacle and mulled wine
Quilts and furs and woolens gay
You wrap around you
But the cold confounds you
On an autumn day
Stout and strong the walls of home and hearth
Curtains drawn against the draft
The rake has reaped, the blade has mown
Nights draw in to call the harvest home
The quiet of a heart at rest
In peace abounded
By love surrounded
Here the home is blest

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Publishing Again.

Did I mention I have a new story coming out? I'm just not sure when.

I sold it earlier this year, and I think I blogged about it at the time. It's a good fantasy story - which isn't a genre into which I delve all that often. I originally wrote it for a themed anthology - unfortunately, I had missed the words "urban fantasy" in the original guidelines, and there was nothing urban about this fantasy. Once the submission period had closed, I realised my error. I emailed the editor, apologised, and asked for the piece to be withdrawn.

At least I looked like a good guy in front of that editor.

It's had some close calls at some really good markets - received positive personal feedback at a pro-market, but never quite got there. Until this sale.

The editor likes it. He told me so. He also suggested it might end up in either an anthology in October, or a magazine in January. Well, it's almost October, and I haven't heard anything, so I guess we'll see it at the beginning of next year.

Keep your eyes out. I'll let you know when it's out.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Yesterday.

As a Beatle freak, I'm sure many expected I would rush to the cinema to see Yesterday, the latest Danny Boyle film. I love a lot of Danny Boyle's work - Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire, 28 Days Later, Sunshine and even caught his stage production of Frankenstein in London.

The cinema is no longer the cheap pastime it once was,  and so I save my trips to the cinema for the spectaculars, those films which need to be seen big. Star Wars movies are a prime example. Unfortunately, everything about Yesterday screamed 'Saturday Afternoon DVD'. I had only seen a couple of reviews, had no spoilers, but the marketing and the one short clip I saw on TV suggested this had little to do with the Beatles.

I waited. And I'm glad I did.

It was pleasant enough, or as Douglas Adams might have said, mostly harmless - a straightforward rom-com with some Beatles music as background. The writer, Richard Curtis, made no attempt to explore the social implications of a world without the Beatles. Even when the main character (and I've forgotten his name) goes to visit John Lennon, they spend seeming hours walking on a beach discussing a quiet life. Not once does he ask if he played music, wrote songs, ever played in a band, knew a guy called Paul. Not once.

Much like the guys in Coldplay, Ed Sheeran seems like a nice guy, but, unfortunately, he can't act. In much the same way Coldplay's music doesn't appeal to me, neither does Sheeran's. His songs are nowhere on the same level as anything by the Fab Four.

I guess my biggest concern was that nothing else in this parallel universe seemed different. While the Beatles didn't create the 60s, they certainly surfed the crest of the wave - appearing as though responsible for much of the change that occurred. But surely there would have been other differences if they never existed.

Would music have developed the same way without their influence?  Remember, at that time bands didn't write their own material, and guitar groups were on their way out.

Another point. Everyone seems to pause when hearing a Beatles song for the first time - overcome by the instant brilliance. Much of the Beatles music is contextual, rooted solidly in the time it was written and recorded. Would those songs still have the same impact if they were new nowadays? And that main guy (still can't remember his name) goes from playing empty pubs to festivals in what seems a few weeks.

Overall, a pleasant little film. Curtis and Boyle could have been more insightful and incisive but chose to play it safe. Not one I'll be adding to my Beatles collection, or ever watching again.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Other Worlds.

I've just arrived home from a wonderful writer's workshop in Nottingham. Organised by Alex Davis, the force behind Edge-Lit in Derby, Other Worlds had four guest presenters, published authors and specialists in their subject. Mark A Latham presented on Planning & Plotting, Andrew Bannister on Politics & Science Fiction, Sophie Draper on Psychological Thrillers and Charlotte Baker on Atomspheric Scenes.  In between and around all this, Alex ran sessions on a range of aspects regarding writing and the publishing industry.

Thank you all.

Even though I have encountered some of this before, I always manage to find new take-aways. And this weekend there were plenty of those from all guests. New ideas, new techniques, things to consider, and pitfalls to avoid.

But it's the participants who can make or break these workshops. We had an excellent crew, with a high level of involvement, no-one dominating the discussions, and a level of mutual respect amongst us all.

A few others had likewise chosen to stay overnight, so I was able to have dinner with Martin, Aly and Alex. It was a fantastic evening of laughs, shared stories and experiences. And like any other group of writers, it soon turns out there are mutual friends.

Thank you for your time, and for inviting me to join you for dinner.

Of course I'm re-inspired - that's what happens on these weekends. Now all I have to do is make the time to start writing again.  Like everything else, it's a matter of priorities and making a choice.  Choosing to write rather than watch TV.

I choose to write. Unfortunately, I have a few very busy weeks coming on. Events and commitments which cannot be shifted.

Let's see how I go.