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January 13th, 2008

06:19 pm - So long, LJ
My new blog is now live. Please visit [See below] for all your (occasional) blogging needs.

I'll be updating it much more frequently than I ever updated this one, I promise.

The old blog will not vanish, by the way. Not yet, anyway.

See you on the flipside!

Edit: The blog never happened. Life got busy. Plenty of other things online!
Current Mood: Exuent

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December 14th, 2007

01:31 pm - Moving house
My LJ isn't long for the world – because I'll soon have my own blogsite. It's part of a learning exercise: I'm building my own website for my freelance, and as the mighty Wordpress is all-powerful, I'll be utilising its blog features.

Expect more info soonish. Just remember: RSS is your friend.

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June 26th, 2007

06:58 pm - Je ne parle pas Francais
So I've just returned from a refreshing, if knackering, week in Spain and France. Time dilated wonderfully; I feel as though I've been away for much longer, though this hasn't cushioned the blow that is returning from temperatures in the high 20s to a partly flooded, stupidly inclement country.

I'm also not enjoying understanding what's being said around me. It was bad enough when it was American tourists stating the bleeding obvious; I tried to rationalise that, then gave up completely when confronted by my idiot compatriots. I have realised now that a holiday for me is as much an escape from the banalities of life. If I cannot understand the crap that people spout as I wander by, I am shielded from it. And if it's in a Spanish/Catalan/French/whatever accent, then all the better.

The only concrete part of my holiday plan was to relax. Relaxation subsided into boredom and then wanderlust with astonishing pace, so after two days in Barcelona I decided to, you know, visit a country other than Spain. And so I was off to France.

I do not speak French. That's not a burden to most, but I like to at least attempt a few phrases in order to appear to be other than the pig-ignorant tourist that I probably am. It's a peculiarity of the English-speaking world that we assume everyone speaks at least a little English, and in most tourist towns it's probably true, but I tried anyway and managed to avoid starvation thanks to a very basic guidebook and that old standby, hand gestures.

Carcassonne was infested with tourists, but that just meant I felt a little less isolated. The hostel had some genuinely good people, and also some genuinely dull people who were mostly inoffensive but just wouldn't shut up. I'd go into more detail but I'm not feeling particularly proud or comfortable about my distaste for certain accents or worldviews – there's more than a hint of xenophobia mixed in with the genuine complaint.

Béziers was less impressive. It's the twin town of my current home, Stockport, and I was curious to compare the two in an attempt to try to understand why towns are twinned. Physically, the two couldn't be much more different, though the local youth have a predilection for tracksuits. That's about where the comparisons between the locals and our homegrown fucktards ends. (I feel justified in saying this, for a change: the first person I met when I left the taxi this morning was a scally, who promptly ran up to me, shouted a load of barely intelligible nonsense, skipped in the air, and ran off. I'm hoping it was drugs rather than genetic predisposition that spawned such a joke, because I really don't want to find myself supporting genetic screening.)

Vegetarian food in France was... difficult to come by. Even the margherita pizza, the last fallback of the desperate veggie, contained ham. I survived on cheese baguettes and babybel until I returned to Barcelona and chowed down on probably the best (and healthiest) takeaway option in the world, falafel. Someone really should import the Maoz shops over to the UK – they'd work great.

Barcelona was great. Exhausting, crazy with people, very hot, but great – urinating woman in the street aside. I spent much of my time gawping at moderista architecture, and sighing at the fact only industrial magnates could afford to commission geniuses like Gaudí to create works of genuine beauty, when the rest of us have to accept anonymous, abysmal abstractions seemingly devoid of character or any kind of thought beyond the need to provide accommodation. That and modern architecture – eugh.

I have a Barcelona metro card that's good for two or three journeys, if anyone is interested.

I also did some serious reading. Monsignor Quixote was an enjoyable if lesser work by Graham Greene, and I probably missed the refererences to its literary namesake. Enduring Love left me wondering whether Ian McEwan confuses clarity of thought for good writing. There's no denying that he can write, but to what end? No individual could surely be as clinical and aware as the main protagonist in this novel (and in Saturday, for that matter), and while the concept is strong and some of the writing is sublime, it feels disjointed... more of an essay than a finished novel. I'm in no position to comment, but it's left me wanting to read some of his earlier stuff to see where the McEwan who wrote The Cement Garden became the person who writes so well but seems so wholly detached from the reality of human behaviour. Or maybe that is the point.

I picked up The Picture of Dorian Gray in Barcelona for a reasonable price, and will be attempting to devour it as quickly as I managed my holiday reading, but judging from today's return home and subsequent online immersion, I suspect that it won't happen.

Epilogue? More holidays, more often. And more reading.
Current Mood: tiredtired

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May 14th, 2007

02:59 pm - If this continues I'll have to make my own chocolate...
This from the Vegetarian Society's website:

    "The Vegetarian Society is extremely disappointed to learn that Mars favourites such as Mars, Milky Way, Bounty, Snickers, Galaxy, Twix and    Maltesers are now all unsuitable for vegetarians. At a time when more and more consumers are concerned about the provenance of their food, Masterfoods’ decision to use non-vegetarian whey is a backward step. Mars products are very popular with young people and many will be shocked to discover that their manufacture now relies on the extraction of rennet from the stomach lining of young calves.

    Please contact Masterfoods Customer Services on 0845 045 0042 to express your concern."

I suspect they've underestimated the impact this will have on their sales and general public image. They may reconsider when sales begin to slide, but in the meantime I'll be forced to eat Ritter-sport until I'm sick. It's a tough life.

Current Mood: In need of chocolate

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May 10th, 2007

07:18 pm - The end of articulation
Oh gods.

There's too much to do, too little time to do it, and no energy or enthusiasm to even begin. I've just had a week off work to recover from general exhaustion and all I can think about already is the weekend and whenever I'm ever going to get a holiday. And it's not like my job is even that demanding!

In other news, the world of bookselling seems about to collapse in on itself. Borders is up for sale, Waterstone's is doing a combined dumbing-down/closing-down horror-show, independpent bookshops are closing at a faster rate than ever before, and WH Smiths is... well, when was the last time anyone actually chose to buy a book from Smiths? Blame supermarkets, blame the publishers, blame Amazon, but heaven forbid we blame the complete idiots that abolished the net book agreement.

Okay, so that last bit was vaguely articulate.
Current Mood: draineddrained

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January 19th, 2007

01:32 pm - I have been relocate
I have finally moved into my own place. Drop me a line if you want or need my new address. Offers to help decorate or build flatpack furniture will be happily received.
Current Location: Work
Current Mood: flatpacked

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October 11th, 2006

11:28 pm - Tunnel at the end of the tunnel
Three days late, 8,000 words overwritten, bits of it in need of a thorough edit, and probably riddled with typos (spellcheckers can't handle strange words unless you tell them to remember them FOREVER, it seems), but it's done. Sort of. I need to expand a section on the main character, but that feels like a stroll in the park (obviously not a park round here) in comparison to the monster I have just finished creating. My thanks (and condolences) to the project manager for his patience and support over the last few days.

Now there's just the small matter of another massive project to complete before the end of the month. I really could do with a holiday.
Current Mood: exhaustedexhausted
Current Music: Radio 4 weather bulletin

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October 9th, 2006

04:22 pm - The screeching sound of deadlines passing over one's head
Panic, Messrs Morrissey and Marr. Panic indeed.

I've spent much of the last four days in front of my computer. Quite a lot of that time has been spent working, but a significant and shameful chunk has also been spent procrastinating in any way possible. You name it: excessively long emails and posts on forums, an urge to look up some TV show that I've only watched once, even writing that letter of complaint to my ISP that I've been avoiding for some months - it seems I'd rather do anything than the job in hand.

So what's the problem? Simply put, I left it too late. Two days into the writeup I realised there was going to be little hope of getting it finished on time, even if I found the enthusiasm to work constantly. And the chances of that happening were non-existent.

So I called in a few favours, several cans of Red Bull and other caffeinated beverages, and attempted to get on with it. I somehow hit the word count but was several pages short of covering all the stuff I wanted to. I gave the project manager a call and explained how I'd be late, which he reassured me was fine.

Then I began to panic a lot. For an hour or so I became morbidly convinced that I'd done completely the wrong thing, that my client wouldn't offer me any more work and my freelance work would dry up. I was descended upon by a vision of myself, ten years from now, a pathetic, morbidly obese failure living at home, rarely leaving my room, posting crap on fansites and getting beaten badly at online games. As visions of failure go, it may seem pretty mild but it was rather too close for comfort.

Then the caffeine kicked in and I spoke to my project manager again. No need to panic, the stuff I'd done was good and with a couple of very minor tweaks everything would be okay. It was like a switch had been flipped in my head.

Unfortunately for me, it's the same switch that seems to control my urge to procrastinate. Must... continue...
Current Mood: caffeinated
Current Music: The Sound - Jeapardy

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October 4th, 2006

05:44 pm - Writer's Blog
I'm currently going slightly mad over the amount of freelance work that I've taken on. My own fault, of course - but I'm still too new at this game to be turning down work, especially when it's not something you've done before but would like to do a lot more of in the future.

Project one is deceitfully straightforward. I have to read several books and make notes as I go through them. This will form the basis of an outline for a more detailed 'gazetteer' of characters, locations and events. I've done the reading and note-taking, and am currently in the midsts of writing up my notes. Which would be fine were the deadline not next monday. Several thousands words need to appear, as if by magic, and quickly. I know I can do it but a large chunk of my subconscious would rather I did something less 'challenging', like read endless websites about all things geek, or stare aimlessly into space. My back's killing me, too - damn office chairs!

Project two is more exciting, less intense, but definitely scarier. I'm doing a full-on edit for a manuscript. I've got some experience in copy-editing (and a virtually untouched, rather expensive correspondence coursebook sitting on a shelf) and proofreading, but the substantive stuff is a little more challenging. I've partially convinced myself by looking through the ms that it's going to be easier than I think; I'm only there to ensure consistency and rewrite any particular clunkers (and there are a few), and anything more invasive will probably be frowned upon by the project manager.

So why is it at times like this that I feel completely in doubt as to my writing ability? Neither project requires me to do more than I do in my day job, and yet I can feel the despair even when idly thinking about it. I feel like I need my own Paul McKenna to give me a thorough hypnomatising as to how great I am - feel the fear and do it anyway, not brick yourself! Ah, at times like this how I envy people who only doubt themselves after things go wrong.
Current Mood: Stymied
Current Music: Blondie - Denis

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September 16th, 2006

11:32 am - A brief history of the last twelve months (part two)
Green moomins, morons from Hull, self-loathing, despair and SNES games - that was the end of 2005 for me. The freelance proofreading helped me more than the job centre ever did, as did the volunteer work I did at the Basement.

The Basement is a vegan café, book shop/library and art space run by volunteers, with the aim of providing a base for local activist groups. There's a wonderful mishmash of people, both intellectual and otherwise, all vaguely hoping for the same vague thing, and serving good food in the process. I started out by helping at the book shop, both to keep my hand in after Borders (as nebulous a reason as anyone could come up with) and to negate the icky feeling I got from working in the 'real world'. After I was sacked I got slightly more involved with this and NUJ stuff, though I felt too down to do much more than the occasional few hours' work and attend some demos.

After my first few times helping out it became clear that the book shop did not attract that many people; the real help was required in the kitchen. I did what I could - wash the pots. I eventually started taking on other duties such as serving and taking orders, and even making coffees and juices. Truly my meteoric rise in the Basement is attributed to the fact that I can actually operate the coffee machine. Flippancy aside, it helped keep my head screwed on.

I went back to Instituto Cervantes and did another Spanish course. I told the people there that I worked as a proofreader, which was only half-true. I applied for jobs with the idea of working part-time and building up my freelance work. I even managed to have some social form of a social life and - heaven forfend! - went on a couple of dates.

Then things started falling into place. I landed some freelance work, which led to a job. I'm still there now. It's not perfect, and for an awful long time the stress of commuting to work for a pretty poor wage, and the responsibility of actually doing some writing for a living, was all too much. Weekends kept vanishing into freelance too.

The last few months have been a blur of non-summer. I'm currently hideously over-subscribed with work - including my first writing commission and several different clients all offering me work. It's still not enough to live off, but should the current trend continue I will be able to seriously consider going totally freelance in a few months' time. I can't wait.


The above is, quite clearly, nothing more than the bare bones of my last year. It's probably missing a few ribs and several vertebrae, and I'm fairly certain that the coccyx doesn't go there, but you'll get the idea. I'm not very good at this kind of writing, and it doesn't make for very exciting reading, but I wanted to explain my absence away to LJ for narrative purposes and for those (very few) people who I know on here. Normal service - occasional pretentious mini-essays and musings on life with the occasional display of wit and the more-than-occasional 'woe is me' moment - will now resume. I hope.
Current Mood: Digging the camomile tea
Current Music: Television Personalities - She Can Stop Traffic

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