A Life in Pratchett #3: A Great Big Fish

DSC_0942 (2)If a gun was put to my head, or, more to the point, a match to my library, and I had to chose my favourite Discworld book my brain would go straight to Monstrous Regiment.

This is one of the books I think of as ‘grown up’ books because this is where  you can more clearly see the angry that Neil Gaiman talks about his article here.

It does all of the things that I love most about the Discworld books so well.

It takes an idea (in this instance heroine dressed as a boy) and pushes it so far to the extreme that before you realise it you’ve gone full circle and are looking back thinking that the insanity actually makes a great deal of sense.

The title is multi layered and so ridiculously clever when you get it. See here.

When you finish it you feel like you’ve been on an inner journey.  Every time I come out of Monstrous Regiment I want to go and adjust my socks. It’s a book that shouts out that you have to be yourself no matter how hard it is, or how inconvenient it is for everybody else.

It’s embarrassing for the high command that the country has been saved by a group of girls pretending to be soldiers.

And when those girls (who were not actually pretending. They took their shilling, didn’t they? They fought, didn’t they?) are sent home with a pat on the head, they make that work in their favour too.  It’s really all a matter of perception.

Be yourself. Without Fear. Without Apology and the day is whatever you want it to be (including an aquatic life form, or not, as the case may be.)

Thank you for your books Mr Pratchett. I’m saving The Shepherd’s Crown for when I need it most.

 

 

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A Life in Pratchett #2: Make the tea, Magrat

I am one of nature’s Magrats.  Not so much the watery eyes and lack of bosom, but my  attitude that puts me at the bottom of a social hierarchy.

lords and ladies

One of the reasons that I love Lords and Ladies so much is Magrat putting on the suit of armour over her tattered wedding dress.  I loved it the first time I read it anyway. The second time I remember thinking, uncharitably, that Magrat only really defeats the fairy queen because Granny Weatherwax is waiting in the wings. Granny has been playing the long game and she knows the power of stories.

People respect and listen to Granny. They are also terrified of her. She does not make the tea. I think that’s because she respects herself.

That’s the key, I think. Self-respect.

I wanted to be Granny Weatherwax before it became cool to be a bad girl.  And haven’t witches always been the ultimate bad girl?

Of course, turning a Magrat into a Granny is no small order.  It involves a daily rewiring of my system, and I’m not there yet. Then again, what is the point of going hell bent after a goal that is easy to reach? Sometimes though, if customers at work are giving me a hard time my eyes go a bit unfocussed and glassy it’s because I’m thinking, ‘what would Granny do?’

I don’t always follow through, because I don’t yet have the nerve at work to invoke a kick ass virgin with cast iron pride and the power of a kingdom at her fingertips. At the very least though, my inner Magrat will put her battle armour on.

Then you’d better watch out. Especially if I’m holding a hot cup of tea.

That’s two of my favourite Discworld books. Does anyone want to add theirs? Or do you have books from a different author that have inspired you?

A life in Pratchett #1: Million to one Chances.

Guards1Since Sir Terry Pratchett’s death on 12th March 2015 my Discworld books have been gathering dust.  Kind of melodramatic, I know, but the fan-girl in me needed the space to mourn in a way that wouldn’t make the other people around me feel uncomfortable.

Yes, I’m very considerate like that.

I broke the drought last month when one of my friends at work suggested Guards! Guards! for her book group and wanted help putting together questions for discussion.

Have I mentioned I’m considerate? I dusted off my copy with it’s dogged ears and old school Josh Kirby cover and…Whoosh! I was back where the dragon’s went.

An equally potent experience to the one the thirteen-year-old me had in the school library when she was drawn to a fantasy book with a blurb that made her laugh.

Was fantasy allowed to do that?

And, yes, that book was Guards! Guards!

I started reading.  I skived off double science.

Coincidence? Million to one chance? I never was good at maths.  Maybe if I’d been facing backwards and standing on one leg atop a whisky distillery?

Reading my first Discworld book was one of those moments that doesn’t so much open your eyes as blow the top of your skull off.  Yes, I thought, this is it. This is one of those massive smack you in the side of the head, rip out the inertia, holy cow, screaming naked in the wild moments that make you see the world differently. That make you different.

It wasn’t until 12th March 2015 when I read Neil Gaiman’s article in The Guardian on Terry Pratchett being angry that I really understood why I loved those books so much.  Anger is only a negative emotion if you don’t have the focus and strength of will to do something positive with it. The more I read of Pratchett – especially the later books- the more I realise that he is angry about alot of things, and really they are things that we should all be angry about. In fact it made me think that we should all be more angry about some of them.

However, Pratchett has the intelligence to make us laugh at social injustice, racism, sexism (most of the isms in fact) and abuse of power. He turns them inside out and shows us how truly ridiculous they/we are. More importantly, how we can subvert them from within.

Step up the now the most reluctant His Grace, His Excellency, the Duke of Ankh, Commander Sir Samuel Vimes. Take a bow.

In the Discworld we see not only what people are, but what they can become. The choice of course, is ours.

A book can change your life. Plus, the Discworld is the reason I wanted to be a writer, but I guess you knew that already?

Who is your inspiration? Who is your hero? Who wants you want to grab life by the throat and go for it?

 

 

 

 

Three Burlesque Lessons for a Better Life.

Generally, I am coward who likes to sit behind a book seeing the world from the safe vantage point of someone else’s eyes.

Pixaby - CCO

Image courtesy of Pixaby

I find it bone meltingly terrifying to initiate a conversation in a room full of strangers, or to break a routine that, in my mind, will throw me out of  control. If I lose control of my life then the zombie apocalypse may as well happen.

Fortunately, I know I need help. Occasionally I will confront my fears and find the power to do something I have always wanted to do.

Last year I did not one burlesque course, but two.

 Yes, the woman who hates initiating a conversation in a room full of strangers decided that taking her clothes off in front of them would be easy peasy.

Of course the clothing removal didn’t start until about week four, and by then we weren’t so much strangers as casual acquaintances who happened to know what each other looked like in suspenders.

Suspenders are evil, slippery suckers. I do, however, love my corset. Of course I could never quite get it off in time to the music, and there is absolutely no way you could bend down and tie your shoe laces while wearing one of them, but it is the most beautiful, impractical thing I have in my wardrobe.

My inner fairy tale princess loves it. It’s soooo pretty. Look at the frills. I’m going to run up a mountain and sing a song about it.

My inner feminist, however, is thinking – How dare I? Corset equals wicked, rib-crushing weapon of the patriarchy.

My inner rationalist, is like, girl, you’re over thinking this. Just enjoy it already before you forget the choreography and land on your arse.

This is just one of the reasons I’m so messed up. I over think everything. Corset quandary aside, burlesque helped me with that.

  • Life should be fun,

Seriously? What is the point if it isn’t?

Whether you’re trying to concentrate on the choreography while managing a feather boa, or starting a new job, or going out or staying in. Don’t be so afraid of just enjoying what this moment has to offer.

  •  Life is a mirror.

Just relax. If you are having a good time, so will everybody else. The teacher of the course always looked to be having the best time, and we did too.

  • Sexy is a state of mind.

Heels and red lipstick can help, but it’s all in your head. You don’t need to wait until the new exercise regime has kicked in, or until you’ve found a pair of trousers that actually fit. There is no excuse not to start being the best version of yourself, right now.

What have you done to confront your fears lately? And when was the last time you just let yourself have fun?

 

Kelpies vs. My Little Pony in Fan Girl Hell

Firebrand1

After reading Firebrand (the first in Gillian Roth’s Renegade Angels series) I desperately wanted a kelpie. I tried to explain this to my boyfriend’s horse mad, eight-year-old niece and received one of her most cutting eyebrow raises.

I fought on. Flesh eating water horse trumps My Little Pony any day.  Doesn’t it?

Apparently not. No one can be scathing like an eight-year-old only child who is used to getting her own way.

I pouted and retreated from the field. I was a fan girl in hell because I had no one to share this awesome thing with.

And the kelpies are awesome.

This book made me feel how I did when I was young and I first stepped through the wardrobe with Lucy, or out of the nursery window with Wendy.

In fact the human teenagers who find themselves in the world of the Sithe do refer to themselves as lost boys (and girls, I hasten to add – for kick arse heroines and villainesses look no further).

In essence, bad boy fairy Seth and his elder, not quite so bad but still heroically flawed, brother, Conal, must save the Sithe and human worlds from a wicked queen who just wants to be loved (and buy shoes).

This book had the promise of adventure tickling down my spine. It’s not just about catching the kelpies. The characters have to offer the beast an exchange for giving up it’s freedom.   It’s a battle of wills and finding a place of trust. It’s the ultimate warrior test, and just because you win doesn’t mean that the kelpie won’t then try to eat your loved ones at a later date.

The kelpies reminded me that if you want adventures you can’t ever afford to stop taking risks, or to sit back and navel gaze.   Life is for living, and you only live it to the full if you go and confront those dark fears that sleep in the fish pond of your mind, and use them to make yourself stronger.

So, kelpies or My Little Pony? Cast your votes. Or if you’d prefer a griffin,  dragon or unicorn let me know.

 

 

 

Thoughts on ripping off the fear plaster

Last week I was trying to explain to my niece why doing things that you are afraid of is good. Why, she asked quite reasonably, would you do things that scare you?

I had lots of good answers at the time, but I am a giant hypocrite. I can confront the smaller fears, sure. The big scary life changing things that I know I need to do to keep my sanity? Not so much.

No, this life change thing is one long road of creeping baby steps and sometimes it can be hard to keep focus and motivation going.

Honestly, I’m not sure of a quick fix way out of it yet.

I did have fun at Winter Wonderland’s unofficial opening though. My boyfriend got a pair of free wrist bands that got us free rides between 5pm and 9pm.

Of course, he doesn’t like the fast ones, and I have issues with height.

Shame to waste them though. We took it in turns to choose rides. I started off slow and took him on the pirate ship (we were the only people on there over sixteen.) He was not so kind and took me on the Ferris Wheel.

Can you see how tiny the people in the bottom left hand corner are?

tiny people.jpg

The mulled cider helped.

Before too much of the mulled cider was drunk, we were both buzzing. We’d come off rides with the endorphins pumping, and were wandering through the markets wrapped in each others arms and laughing like a pair of kids. It’d been so long since we’d done that.

So, facing fear is good. Ripping off the plaster may still not be the most practical or fair solution, but I need to start taking more risks. I need to do some of that volunteering work I’ve been talking about. More importantly, I need to be brave enough to let people down, and say a firm, responding ‘no’ to doing the things that are not helping me forwards, but instead tying me more firmly to the life that I want to change.

And I need to stop trying to do it alone. I need to be honest about saying I don’t want to do this anymore. Little help, please? I’m hoping these blog posts will, at least partly, make me more accountable.

So, networking is my next fear to face.  See the Careershifters article which has almost convinced me that networking is just like making friends.

And the Science of People by Vanessa Van Edwards is also becoming my favourite ‘I’m going to try that’ tool.

How Cheese can change your life.

When I went to see Phantom of the Opera it was because, you know The Phantom of the Opera and when a Travelzoo offer landed in my inbox it seemed rude not to.

My boyfriend had been advised that it would be cheesy. However, if you’re going to kidnap a girl, carry her off to your kooky underground lair, and sing at her in the belief that this will make her fancy you then cheese is a necessity.

Free food photos. Acc

Image courtesy of http://www.freefoodphotos.com/index.html

We were not disappointed. It was so very, very cheesy, and the Phantom was overdramatic to the point where I did want to tell him to get over it. Christine loves Raoul, ok? And there’s nothing more unattractive than a clingy guy, even if you are rocking the evening dress.

And Christine turned out to be very cool for a girl in a ruffled white night dress.  Although the fact that everyone was singing over the top of each other at the climax meant that I’m still not exactly sure how she managed to rescue her man and win her way to freedom. It still felt very emotive though and the tune was catchy.

And it’s still lodged in my head.

The star was Raoul though. He really looked like he was enjoying himself. Even when the noose was round his neck, he was clearly having the best time.

On the train on the way home I did annotate my programme (because, yes, I am one bad day in the office away from building my own underground lair) and as it turns out both Raoul and Christine were played by the understudies.

Inside my mind, I like to imagine that was the reason they were all having such a good time.  This was a rare chance for them to do something they loved, so they went for it and their pleasure was infectious.

And that’s what cheese (and life) should have more of.  Still not convinced?  Here are some life lessons I’ve learned fresh from the West End.

  1. All you need is love.

*Rolls eyes* ok, it’s not all you need, but it sure can help.  It makes people feel good, and it is a strong motivating force.  Even if all it motives on a daily basis is your partner taking the rubbish out because it’s cold outside. It may not be worth singing about, but still something I’m going to actively appreciate more.

coffee

    2. Baby, ain’t I good to you?

My friend once bought a book that assured the reader that it would have a happy ending.  I, currently up to my eyeballs in Grimdark, snorted.  My friend took me to task because she’d had a really bad day, her husband was out with his mates and all she wanted was to curl up and give herself the equivalent of an emotional hug. That sounded like a plan to me.  A regular nibble of cheese can make you feel good. It’s safe, tasty and used sparingly can nourish the soul.  I’m going to stop apologising for my own secret stash of Regency Romances.

      3. I am what I am

The best cheese is shameless.  It knows what it is and will deliver with wry good humour and unashamed fun (just like Understudy Raoul).  It’s a strange kind of authenticity in a medium that is bent on manipulating you into feeling every time the music swells, but hey, you knew what you were signing up for, right?  And cheese doesn’t care what you think, it just wants to live happily ever after.  More of that, please.