Z is for… Zoom

Day 30!

I’m so shocked at how fast April has gone. It really doesn’t seem two minutes since I saw the A to Z Blogging Challenge on Talli Roland’s blog and thought it sounded fun… What was I thinking?!
Well, ok, it was fun. I’ll do a more thoughtful post in a couple of days when I’ve recovered, but initial thoughts are mainly that I’m really really pleased that I finished it. It’s been hard at times to come up with posts, but it’s also been great to know that I’ve got a good few words down nearly every day and not all of them total waffle!
I’ve launched my ebook, my husband’s business, celebrated my daughter’s first birthday, had a few rants and done a couple of stories I was pleased with. So all in all a successful, if speedy, month!

Now zooming onto the next challenge – over at Sally Quilford’s blog we’re launching into May You Write Your Novel. Think NaNoWriMo at a sensible pace – 80k in 80 days. This is around 1000 words a day (obv!) which I want to aim for anyway, especially as I really want to get this first novel finished and start on the next one which is driving me crackers!
So don’t worry, I’ll not be posting everyday now but I’m hopefully using MYWYN (My Win, how cheerful!) to cheer myself & other loons on to get some great word miles under our belts.
Thanks for putting up with me this last month!

“You Look Beautiful”

In case you’re reading this from a cave in Outer Mongolia, you may not have heard that today is Royal Wedding day. There are a million different things I could witter on about here. We had a lovely time watching it, with friends’ as our kids played at princes and princesses then started beating each other up. The crowds were impressive, the Queen and Prince Philip doing well at 85 and 90 respectively, and Princess Catherine’s dress was stunning beautiful and exactly the kind of style I’d have liked myself.

But I think the most touching moment for me was when she first joined Prince William at the altar. You could clearly see he said “beautiful”. Now, he could have been talking about the flowers, the Abbey, or even his Granny’s hat, but it’s more likely he was talking about his wife-to-be. This article agrees with me.

That, for me, was the fairytale moment; the dream moment. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how many guests are at your wedding or what they think of you (and she has guests more than most brides to worry about) nearly as much as your husband’s reaction. That moment wasn’t scripted or rehearsed or said for the benefit of the cameras, and it wasn’t thinking about repressing tender feelings because of royal etiquette  – it was a spontaneous reaction to seeing the woman he loved.

It’s what I wanted to hear from my husband on our wedding day (and I did, in case you’re wondering); it’s what I imagine every woman throughout history wants to hear from the one they love and I’m so pleased Kate Middleton as-was heard it from her bridegroom.

“You look beautiful.”

X, Rated

X is an ex-tremely ex-asperating causing many ex-pletives trying to think of a post for the A to Z Challenge. I’d go so far as to say it should be ex-peditiously ex-pelled from the alphabet, but that may be a slight ex-aggeration.

So in desperation, and we’re talking scraping the very bottom of the barrel here, I’m raiding the dictionary and trying to think of a passage that contains the first X words from the dictionary (Ten. I meant Ten. See what I did there? And I’m not including that in my list.)

The words are: X-acto knife, Xanadu, Xanax, xanthine, xanthoma, xanthophyll, X chromosome, Xe, xebec, Xenical (this is Oxford Concise 10th Ed).

Here goes…

Xavier replaced his X-acto knife with a sigh. He’d spent hours cutting the model pieces and his wrist was aching. He briefly imagined himself in Paradise, his own private Xanadu where Xanthia made him Sex-on-the-beach cocktails every hour and the only models he bothered with were the blonde bikini-wearing kind. He popped two more Xanax, then considered briefly and popped another two. The anxiety attacks were getting worse and he snarled as he pushed the paradise image a little further away, since he wouldn’t even be able to get on the plane without going into meltdown. Xavier stretched as he stood and wandered over to the window. Xanthia had left some document on the desk that she was working on; some essay about xanthines. She’d always been the scientific one while he was more creative. His reflection in the window caught his eye and he rubbed absently at the xanthoma on his arm, the redness from his fingers temporarily overpowering the yellow patch before it glared angrily back at him. It echoed the trees outside, being devoured by xanthophyll, their leaves glowing red and orange and yellow even though it was only September. He wondered what it was about chemistry that fascinated Xanthia so; maybe it was something to do with her X Chromosome. It was one of her favourite jokes that men were not all there – a chemist’s joke, he thought sourly – and maybe that missing piece was the factual, analytical skills Xanthia excelled at. A bottle of Xenical stood on Xanthia’s work, covering up a sentence about Xenon. Funny, he’d always thought she made up those words. They sounded like some trashy sci-fi novel where the author had strung random letters together to form names and language. He looked over at the picture on the wall, of a pretty xebec on sparkling turquoise water, and began dreaming of his Xanadu again.

Phew! Now, if anyone who does writing advice blogs wants to use this as an example, I’m willing to negotiate…

Post Script:

If you really can’t be bothered to look up the X words, I’ve done a very concise summary here:

X-acto knife: utility knife with very sharp blade

Xanadu: imaginary, wonderful place

Xanax: trademark for Alprazolam (anxiety drug)

xanthine: Crystalline compound formed by…yeah, I’m bored already too (not a scientist!)

xanthoma: irregular yellow patch on skin formed by depostion of lipids

xanthophyll: yellow or brown pigment causing autumn colours of leaves

X Chromosome: If you don’t know what this is you need to refresh your basic biology. The joke, of course, is that XY (the male combination) looks like it’s missing a leg from the 2nd X in XX (female).

Xe: the chemical Xenon

xebec: a small, historical three-masted ship

Xanical: drug used to treat obesity.

Vengeance and Vaccinations

A guest post by Miss E Brown

I have a tale, dear reader. A tale of warning – do not trust ANYONE.

Today started like any other. I got up around five. Apparently Big Bro used to get up at that sort of time too but age has weakened him; not to the extent of the Parents, of course, but still. It has fallen to me to get the household going and without me I don’t know what they’d do (Sleep, probably – Ed.).

So, anyway, I go about my business. I personally don’t see what’s wrong with a little redecoration of the rooms. Pink yoghurt makes a very satisfying streak on the sofa, and has a great and profound statement about the state of civilisation if you take the time to consider it. And what is the point of them buying me toys if they stay packed away?Birthday Girl posing

Anyway, Mummy must have been feeling a little under the weather, poor love, as she just didn’t enter into things in the right spirit at all. She really started coming loose at the edges when I tried diving. Have you ever done that? You shout to be helped up onto the sofa (give it a couple of months and I’ll be able to do it myself but for now I have to put up with ridiculously short legs) then bat your eyelashes very very fast with a beaming smile. While the Responsible Adult is recovering from the dazzling onslaught, leg it to the other end of the sofa and, well, dive off. I don’t know which is better, the adrenaline rush as you free-fall through the air or the sheer comedy of the Responsible Adult throwing themselves to grab your legs as theirs flay wildly in the air. Fantastic.

We passed the morning quite happily this way, mixed in with a little teasing as I pretend to stick my head down the toilet, then took Big Bro to nursery where once again Mummy stopped me borrowing some of the nursery crayons. Spoilsport. I was practically angelic (*chokes* Sorry. Ed.). Ahem. Practically angelic the rest of the morning, had my lunch, shared everybody else’s, blissfully content in the knowledge that even if I’d gone a teensy bit close to the edge a couple of times, Mummy and Daddy instantly forgive and harbour no grudges.

Shows what I know. I get tucked up in my car seat, have a little doze and arrive at the doctors. I flirt a little (always good to keep in practice), attempt to explore the corridors and then we get waved into a room with a smiling lady and a slightly maniacally-smiling Mummy. Judas.

She actually HELD ME DOWN while the nurse stuck a needle in my leg. Did you get that? SHE HELD ME DOWN. My own mother. What vile vengeance even those we love most will stoop to.

I don’t know what they put in me, but if I’m abducted by aliens in the night, remember dear readers: I told my story. Don’t forget me (as if we could. Ed.).

Unheard Voices

This is a quick-ish post, in response to some family circumstances that I’m sure are echoed throughout the country.

We are hearing left, right and centre about cuts being imposed on the UK that Margaret Thatcher only dreamed about. I’m sure she’s a very happy lady now – I guess I should be glad that someone is. While I’m upset about many of these cuts, targeting culture, education and the vulnerable, the ones that are really despicable are the ones that target those without a voice, who go unheard.

My brother is one of these. He is severely disabled with Downs Syndrome, although I’m not entirely sure he’d consider himself so. At 33 years old he has his ideal life: he has a part-time residential place, so he is able to keep an eye on my mum and dad while at the same time having the independence of his own space with carers he can flirt with as much as he wants (and he is a terrible flirt). He goes out on activities with his daycare provider, including trips to bowling or the beach, usually involving a visit to McDonalds. He has karaoke nights and he can spend as much time as he likes with his beloved tapes and DVDs. He has very limited verbal communication but he can make his needs known.

So what’s the problem? Well, the Social Services department that “look after” him allocate funding for his care. Their cuts, which they are ‘forced’ to make, are impacting on services to the disabled. They have two choices: cut residential care or daycare. Daycare is a luxury, so that’s the first to go. Seriously, his daycare funding is being cut – not in so many words, the wording is that responsibility for daycare provision is being passed to the residential providers. Of course, these foolish residential providers are focusing their resources on making sure the residential care is as good as it can be, how frivolous of them. The residential care at my brother’s home is very good – the carers are lovely, they balance independence with safety very well for some very severely disabled men. So they can’t really cut that standard of care; it’s obviously important to make sure these vulnerable people are well cared-for. The option then is for families to pay for the daycare. This is all well and good if they can but the fact is that many families can’t pay. Residential care is not free, there is a small amount to contribute, and many families of disabled people have had other costs to factor in – perhaps special equipment, or shoes, or large-size nappies as children have taken longer to use the toilet or specially-built wheelchairs or bikes.

Or maybe these adults shouldn’t go into residential care, they should stay at home with their families (and obviously some will prefer it that way – I’m talking here about those who don’t. Who want the degree of independence for their children and themselves that is generally considered the ‘norm’ when children grow up). Then they get the daycare and activities and social inclusion they need. What happens when families die or are too old and infirm to care for their disabled relatives? Well, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. They could perhaps go into some sort of institution – I know, they could do small jobs in return for their keep. A House where they do Work, maybe. Anyway…

So, for a lot of people, the choice is between safe, independent and quality residential care, or daycare. These people will be safe and cared-for but they will be indoors, with limited activities and usually unable to make the decision to go out for the day – in effect, prisoners in a safe and caring prison. My brother’s quality of life will be severely eroded. He is only 33 – he has a whole lifetime ahead of him to spend in this way. In fact, it’s akin to shutting the disabled up in the institutions where they were once considered to belong. I thought we’d evolved past that?

I used inverted commas around the word ‘forced’ before in relation to the cuts, because I don’t believe the cuts are forced at all. For one thing, there is abundant evidence that our national debt is nowhere near the level of crisis that is being portrayed. This excellent article by Johann Hari is a good starting point. For another, I can think of several alternative strategies to cutting funds to the most vulnerable of society. Maybe cutting spending in the military for a start, or taxing those who can afford it. Taxes – there’s a can of worms. The only generation to have benefitted fully from the Welfare State are those now busy axing it.We want state welfare, we just don’t want to pay for it.

When my husband’s nanna was dying, I got very upset about the lack of care given to her through a declining NHS and a lack of investment in training for medical staff in terminal care and basic nursing (NB I am not saying nurses are ‘bad’ – I am saying there is not enough training or funds or staffing levels to enable them to care properly). I know a suggestion of raising taxes would be greeted with outrage by most people, but we have among the lowest rates of taxation in Europe. Higher taxes, properly managed, could pay for those libraries, schools, nurses, doctors, care for the disabled. Are we really that selfish as a nation that we’d rather save some pounds now than look after those of our families and neighbourhoods who need help? Really? That is so sad.

And in the meantime, the needs and voices of people like my brother, those who will suffer more, are being unheard.