Best Laid Plans


Do you plan your life out to the letter? Do you see your life as some sort of map to follow, whereby you carve out many paths to lead you on to something specific?

You do? And how does that work out for you? 

I have been told that planning in life is a good thing. By planning we gain control of our lives, we have something to work towards, we can succeed instead of floundering. 

Well, in my experience, this is nonsense!

Some things are just out of our hands, we cannot control them regardless of what plans we put in place.

Just when you think you know your life, if you ever allow yourself to be assured of such things, this is when a curve ball comes right at you with gargantuan force! 

Life is made up of the unexpected, I have always known that. I have never really relied on or been assured by plans. They provide no guarantee that things will run along smoothly. They are only plans, and not exactly divine intervention! 

So, why do people make plans?? Why do they swear that such things can guide you and help you control events? Why do they lie?

Best laid plans are always laid to waste eventually. This is where fate comes into play.

I am always then reminded by a saying my great-grandmother used; ‘If something in life is meant to be it will never pass you by’. Exactly! 

We may not always understand why things happen, but they do, and no amount of planning can prevent them from coming to fruition. 

So, plan all you want, but sometimes life has alternative plans for you. Remember this, and you won’t ever feel too disappointed! 

 

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Blog Tour


Blog Tour:

A writing friend, Paula Read AKA Champagnewhiskey, tagged me in a blog tour. Paula is a writer and environmentalist, cloud gazer who is located somewhere in France. Her blog is diverse and interesting, of course it is also a great read! Just like Paula, I don’t usually comment on my writing via my blog, although I obviously do write, but lately it hasn’t been as often as is usually normal for me! Anyway, I will endeavour to write about my writing, so thanks for tagging me Paula!

Upon What Are You Working?

I have a habit of skipping from one project to the next. My writing habits match my reading habits actually. Generally I have to be in the mood for whatever it is I read, therefore I often have five or six books I switch between, so to it is the same for my writing!

I have been writing a ‘trilogy’ novel since I was 24, which could be categorised as horroresque, I suppose. I also write short stories, which again have the hint of horror about them, and of course the political press releases and columns I write currently for my work.

How does your work differ from others in the genre?

Well, that I can’t answer! Every writer likes to think they are unique, yet, in reality we are all influenced by what we read and enjoy. I’m not so bold as to claim I’m new and fresh and funky! I haven’t reinvented the wheel here! In my case I know I have a good stock cupboard in my mind, whereby the words and styles of other authors linger as reference points. Authors such as Stephen King, Clive Barker, Ramsey Campbell, M R James, Robert Bloch, James Herbert, Shirley Jackson and so on and so forth, have been part and parcel of my reading and imagination process since I was tiny! I wrote because of these authors, which might seem sacrilegious to you folk out there, but horror was my first love. Horror made me enjoy reading, and writing, well before Charles Dickens or Emily Bronte ever did. Therefore, these horror authors laid the foundations of my writing style.

If I say one thing about my work or style though, I do like to think that I don’t write artificially, I.E, it’s not just regurgitation of other classic horror tales, regardless of the influence they have had upon me! I also like to remember that horror can be horror in any context, it doesn’t have to be some surreal and fantastical plot or circumstance to unnerve. My style/genre is true to me and what I know and feel; it is always my story, told my way.

Why do you write what you write?

Well, either I write short stories or have to live with a running commentary going on in my mind! I write because I hear, visualise and feel my characters. I can be out walking, and will pass someone or someplace, see something, and without warning I’m inspired and a story begins weaving its way into my mind. From this point I think about the characters and I flesh out the plot. In doing this the characters world becomes stuck in my world, so, I have to write it down or face hearing voices! Does that make me crazy?! Probably, but it works to inspire me, and it always makes the story/plot/character more real to me. If I can’t hear my characters speak to me, then I can’t write the story.

How does your writing process work?

Sometimes I finish a writing project straight through to the end, depends on the length of the story really. In the case of my trilogy novel, it has been some years of editing and rewriting, but amazingly, after what could be a year break from writing it, I can pick up the plot and carry on! As I have said, my characters talk to me! They are ghosts intruding in my reality, and they never shut up!

Usually I do a rough draft of a story on my laptop first, which I then edit until I am finally happy with it. I sometimes write in notebooks too. I love the written word, pen to paper, so often I will scribble an idea or even edit something whilst I am taking a flight somewhere (I’m never without one of my precious notebooks and favourite writing pens)!

I write anytime and anyplace, literally. I have woken up at 3 a.m and been struck by an idea, merely from looking out of the window at a car passing by! If an idea buzzes around inside my head, well, I have to write it down regardless of the unGodly hour or how inconvenient it might be. I must confess, I even used to write my stories whilst at work! No one ever knew, and it was a great way to escape the dull working day!

Who am I tagging?

Well, I’m tagging all of you out there. If you feel so inclined to participate in this Blog Tour Q&A’s then just do it! Please let me know though, as I would love to read what you answer! This might be the lazy option, but cut me some slack as I am writing this on my iPad, and you know I think it isn’t the best tech for long winded writing malarkey!

 

“Spotted”


I must admit, reading about “Spotted” in the news once again came as no surprise to me. Sadly, it seems everyday a new wave of internet indecency or nastiness becomes part of the norm.

And, make no mistake, the materials posted upon “Spotted” are particularly grotesque. But, I still have to question; aren’t such materials in many ways merely an expression of freedom, and of being human?

In truth, it is completely normal and part of everyday life – men and women will look at, talk about, fantasise about and trade lewd comments/pictures of the opposite sex. They don’t need the internet for this either.

So, I have to ask – how far is too far on the internet?

And, has “Spotted” reached, breached and exceeded the limits?

For those of you who don’t know what ‘Spotted’ is, allow me to provide you with some shockingly foul-mouthed quotes which illustrates it clearly (warning – profanities follow);

That blonde haired girl who just walked into the 2nd floor of the library is fucking banging – ‘Spotted: Reading University Library’ (3718 likes).

To the dirty skank… for gods sake buy some new leggings!! jesus christ! i can see your minge! [sic] – ‘Spotted: Swansea University Campus’ (2407 likes).

To the girl talking about harry potter. i think your arse might be a horcrux, im gonna have to destroy it tonight – ‘Spotted: Kent Uni Library’ (4209 likes).

These comments are typical examples of what “Spotted” has to offer. Male university students and their velvet tongues, produce one disgusting comment after another, and it is shrugged off as a type of compliment that their female peers should enjoy receiving.

“Spotted” pages are in fact part of the Facebook family. They are pages that encourage students to write comments and messages about their peers, which are published anonymously by page administrators. Many of the pages target specific universities (each page supposedly run by a student at that institution), with hundreds of different pages appearing on Facebook. Many of the pages have been liked thousands of times.

The “about” sections of most of the pages innocent enough, they encourage students to share funny incidents, grievances or secret crushes, but the reality is very different. Many of the pages consist of heavily sexualised and offensive comments about students’ appearance and sexuality, and female students are targeted with particularly misogynistic comments.

To the stuck up slut who looked at me as if I’d just slipped a finger up her grandma… –‘Spotted: University of Portsmouth Library’ (7460 likes).

Some posts include images, seemingly uploaded without the subjects’ knowledge or consent.

A current post on the ‘Spotted: University of Essex’ page (3955 likes) shows a young woman sitting at a computer, apparently unaware of the fact that her underwear is exposed above the waistband of her trousers, or of the fact that she is being photographed from behind. The caption on the photograph reads: “Nice bit a crack in the reading room.” [sic]

Another picture featuring a female student, again taken from behind and apparently without consent, appears on the “Spotted: Coventry University” page (4097 likes), captioned: “Asian girls and their asses though.” Several of the posts nastily blend racism with sexism.

A post appearing on the ‘Spotted: Hotty in Hartley Library’ page (3493 likes), displays a picture of a female student from behind, and asks fellow students to identify her so the poster “can get on that”.

Many posts inform female students what their male peers would like to do to them, or are doing while watching them:

To the girl on the c+ floor with the red toshiba laptop… i was sitting next to you a few hours ago. I literally couldn’t take my hand out of my pants the whole time. [sic]

To the hot girl sitting opposite me on level 3, do you mind if I have a cheeky danger wank whilst looking at you?

To the sexy brunette on the 4th floor, will you be my girlfrien? I didn’t add the D because you’ll get that later.

 Others veer from sexual objectification towards bullying:

 To the girl in the floor 4 toilets, you’re not Niagara falls, at some point you’ve gotta stop flowing.

The fat bird standing by the printers on the first floor. Don’t want to shag, but could really do with a cuddle.

Is it all in good fun??

A National Union of Students study reveals that 68% of female students experience sexual harassment during their time at university, and one in seven are seriously physically or sexually assaulted. These statistics actually shocked me; I didn’t know this was the case, and I doubt many female students (current or future) would know either.

So, how harmless are such pages if they feed into a wider student culture which increasingly treats young women as sexual prey?

And, do such pages merely demonstrate, and ensure that sexual harassment infiltrates every part of the academic arena to the point that there are no limits?

I then wonder;

Does “Spotted” encapsulate a new culture of objectification, harassment and misogyny?

How can this freedom of speech be curtailed, or, should it be?

Is “Spotted” just boys being boys or is it more sinister than that?

If you or your daughter were on the receiving end of such grotesque comments, how would you react?

All I can say;

I am thankful “Spotted” didn’t exist when I was a student. It was daunting enough entering the new environment of a large university, leaving home, being frightened, unsure and anxious over everything. I certainly wouldn’t have appreciated contending with this form of bullying and harassment too.

“Spotted” is childish, dangerous, aggressive, soul destroying and cowardly; not the best way to demonstrate what a UK university education can teach you.

Perhaps, a little less lady spotting and a little more studying wouldn’t go amiss.    

The Servitude Of Service


I possess a fascination for all things historical, but especially those things which relate directly to my own family history.

Unlike most of my peers I took an avid interest in the stories that my grandparents, and great grandparents imparted to me about our families lives. They talked of a different time, a different world, but nevertheless what once transpired, what became collective experience, created a sort of ripple effect upon the lives of subsequent generations. This impact was so severe, the effects remian evident today.

My family is of mixed heritage and fortune. Some are Irish, English and of course Welsh. They have been rich, poor, immigrants, miners, ladies maids, officers, gentlemen and in business. Some have lived abroad and others never left their home town. They spoke foreign languages and played musical instruments, skills which they never thought to teach to the next generation.

In all of this history, throughout all of the stories two threads were always woven the deepest; poverty and domestic service.

Apparently one in ten of the current UK population had an ancestor who worked as a domestic servant. Not so surprising I think considering the perpetual imbalance between wealth, the staunch class division and poor educational standards of the past, if not the present too.

Poverty was, and is of course very real. Although now there are mechanisms in place to help alleviate such misfortune, in my grandparents and great grandparents lifetime this was not always the case. It was a very real threat to be poor, to be below the bread-line.

People couldn’t survive on benefits, they didn’t truly exist as we take them for granted now. People had scant opportunities if they were poor, often becoming a domestic servant or indeed being admitted into a workhouse was their only option.

When people now think of domestic service, the imagery which might spring to mind is the popular Downtown Abbey series or, as I prefer the 1970s British television series Upstairs Downstairs.

Yet, neither of these programmes are a true reflection of what life was like as someone else’s servant.

Below stairs gossip, flirtation, autonomy, opinions, democracy, individuality, freedom, holidays, good food, parties and camaraderie are all fictitious story lines to create good television.

A servant was seen as the other, them, the underclass. Even looked down upon by fellow working class people in other professions.

Servants new their place. They didn’t deign to question their place or to challenge their betters in society. They were the silent majority in the UK workforce.

Mistreatment was normal. Sexual, physical and verbal abuse was common place, and not always at the hands of their ’employers’ either.

Servants were often under paid, they held no employment rights, they ate left overs, were permitted no free time or holidays, no sick leave and no entitlement to medical care. They could be sacked for illness or any minor misdemeanour without reference, they couldn’t marry, their wages would be docked for anything broken or food wasted. They were controlled by their masters and mistresses, but also by the strict hierarchy of the below stairs staff chain of command.

Plus, it was a 24/7 365 days a year job or grind, with no real scope to develop or progress.

The life of a servant in comparison to other people in other forms of employment was vast. Being a servant was a different kettle of fish. Nothing compared then or now to what these people experienced and were subjected to.

A good servant would be deferential, know and accept their place, display loyalty, follow unquestioningly, never be seen to want or expect more, surrender themselves to be used and abused.

All of this indoctrination still lingers somewhere in my genetics, so much so, it frightens me! Yet, it doesn’t inspire me to listen or to comply, but to rebel.

My families history in service heralds as a warning. It made my family question their status, life, desires and wants. They were not comfortable ‘doffing’ their cap to their betters. Subsequent generations learnt the lessons of those in service, they were inspired to be the complete opposite of what their heritage and ancestry had told them to be. No longer were they content to be seen as somehow less of a person because of their class. They wanted their children to achieve, to be educated, to progress to go out into the world and claim a stake of it for themselves.

This whole rebellion against servitude in service still remains, as I have stated previously. I know it is derived from, and linked to my families experiences as house-maids, laundry-maids, ladies-maids and cooks. I suppose such ingrained ideals and attitudes just can’t be over-thrown at once, they tend to make an impression.

I look at my ancestors lives and still think; no one will treat me like that, I won’t be anyone’s servant.

I suppose this attitude should be celebrated, but, it also has a sting in the tail. It could be seen as a ‘chip on my shoulder’.

Any time I perceive I am being treated like an underling, I cannot accept it, it infuriates me. I have actually left jobs because I felt as though I was being treated like a servant and not an employee! No, I was beaten or whatever else, but sometimes employers do treat staff like usable and abusable, never ending resources. They often forget we are humans with rights. It can be all too similar to how servants were treated in the employ of Lords and Ladies. The echoes of these times too close for my comfort. In my opinion the attitude of the ‘master of the house’ hasn’t altogether left society, merely mutated into another form of abuse of power.

Sometimes though, I find myself envying the servants life. It was certain, it was a path deemed destined and people knew nothing more. Their aspiration were not as complicated as ours are today, their disappointments therefore not as many. It was what it was, a means to an end.

All things considered we look back with the luxury of hindsight, and think that they had to be thoroughly miserable. Yet, I actually believe they wren’t.

Who are we to really judge their lives on our standards! The other side of the coin can present another set of questions; is it better to be master of your own uncertain life, or a servant knowing your place, your path? Or, is it the case that we are all merely servants conning ourselves into thinking we have miracously become the masters? What in fact are we masters of? In reality how far has society fundamentally progressed since the time of domestic service?

Servants and masters, masters and servants; isn’t it all really the same thing in today’s world?

Here They Come, The Pretentious Ones.


A few months back I set myself a challenge of sorts, perhaps it was more of a quest! The motivation behind this ‘quest’, well I wanted to immerse myself more than I had previously decided to, within Madrid social spheres. Basically, I hoped to meet new and interesting people, to maybe form friendships with.

Well, as some of you may recall, I have achieved this. I joined countless meet-up groups, circulated, discussed and had fun. I met people I have remained in contact with, people I now call friends, and others, others I actually don’t want to meet again!

This is social trial and error!

I suppose by the very nature of being social, you cannot pick and choose who you meet! I quickly began to notice that I was coming into contact with one type of individual though; time and time again the pretentious ones would make themselves known.

So often, whilst in tne company of others, this characteristic reared its ugly, boring, childish, poisionous, carefully applied and maintained, self absorbed head.

One human characteristic I abhor, and freely admit I have no time to pretend I am interested in indulging, is pretension.

I am used to pretentious people though, I have experience in dealing with them on countless occasions; from being a student at school, being an employee, a friend and so on. Unfortunately pretension is, and always will be, here, there and everywhere; hiding in full view amongst people of all ages and backgrounds. Just like a sociopath / psychopath, the pretentious ones exist in quantities the rest of us would be surprised about!

It seems that everyone has at some point in their life, had to associate with a pretensious individual.

Why is pretension so terrible though? Well, the pretentious ones spoil and pollute not only social occasions. They turn all gatherings into a competition, a school-yard, a charade, a stage for them to flex their pretentious muscles and exert their superiority on the ‘simpletons’ surrounding them.

Yet, I ensure I remain aloof and thoroughly unimpressed by what others might deem to be high intelligence, grandeur, intimidating wonder, superiority or whatever else. I have no patience to sit, listen and feed the ego of the pretentious ones!

In my experience, there is definately something about ‘the arts’ that attracts this type of person, drawing them out from the woodwork in droves.

Intellectualism and creativity is great, but by being these things does it have to then delete all the ‘people skills’ a person might possess? Why do the pretentious ones suddenly forget they are human, only human, just like all the other flesh and bloods walking about this humble pile of dirt! I don’t understand why they adopt an attitude of superiority, when we are all learning, all of the time! None of us are impervious!

In fact though, experience dictates that such people actually feel, but conceal, a deep seated sense of insecurity. They doubt themselves, their choices and their social status; hence their attitude, their carefully applied and mainained persona, their pretension.

They battle to be seen as ‘cool’, but I only see insular, boring, supercilious, restricted and fragile.

Why do the pretentious ones derive comfort in shunning the genuine and real though? Why do they prefer not to celebrate individuality, and refuse to delve into enjoying life? Why do they restrict themselves so tightly? Why the charade? Why the fakery? Why act as though nothing is capable of impressing them, everything is passé, why be supercilious and bored by it all – even though they haven’t really actually lived!!

Why impose this on others, socially?! How social is that attitude, NOT very!

I really don’t understand why pretentious people tend to like, and pursue activities they feel identifies, and associates them with being seen as an intellectual! I doubt whether they enjoy ‘the arts’ as much as they profess they do. I feel they say they like such things to fit in, to be part of a crowd. Whether this crowd is categorised as elite or not, it is still a crowd, rather like being back in school!

Intellectual and creative pursuits are not just for the pretentious people of the world. Although amongst their cliques, the pretentious ones excel at being priggish or ‘posh’. They work to belittle, and deny anything that doesn’t fit with their ideals of what is ‘in’, what is cool, what is creative and intellectual.

They ring-fence intellect and creativity; constraining them, exerting their influence and pontificating about what they believe these things to be. Basically removing what these things symbolise fundamentally; freedom, change, diversity and so on.

What is this attitude if not one belonging to someone from a high school clique, a teenage wannabe?

They tell others what is acceptable, how to behave, function and think.

People never grow out of this pretentious behaviour either, and no one confronts them!

I just don’t get it! I just don’t like it! I just can’t tolerate it socially!

What has happened that people just can’t have fun, be silly, mess about, admit they are wrong, laugh at themselves and just live! What is wrong with that? Why can’t they be intelligent, creative and interesting without being so conceited, and self absorbed? Sometimes it seems as though they can’t smile through fear of cracking their face!

Honestly I can’t think of anything worse, going through life worrying how you appear, ignoring people and things you deem beneath you. Basically, these people are so stiff they seem dead already! This is NO way to live! No way at all! All things considered, I actually feel quite sorry for the pretentious ones. They are so constraint, they cannot change, they are stuck in a rut and can’t escape. How very sad.

NOTE: Before people critique my writing as judgemental and stereotypical, I have to state I don’t deem all intellectuals or creatives as pretentious people. I am discussing certain people, certain situations from my experiences and via my own opinions. I am not judging or commenting on ALL creative and intellectual people, merely some!

30 Days Of Change


Interesting concept; in 30 days you can either adopt a worthwhile lifestyle choice or delete a negative one from your world.

In just 30 days we, the humble human, can be re-programmed!

It doesn’t take a lifetime then? No, just 30 days. So, a Leopard can change its spots? YES, I suppose it can if you think 30 days is all that is required to change!

In ‘Try Something New For 30 Days’ Matt Cutts talks about how he begun embarking on his quest to change, in, you guessed it, ONLY 30 days. He also talks about how the tasks then grew in difficulty, how they challenged him and what profound changes actually occurred.

Inspiring? Well, I think so 🙂

 

The ‘talk’ is really short so; please, please, please watch this link!

Try Something New For 30 Days

Let me know what you think; are you willing to take the challenge?!