The Good, the bad and the just plain ridiculous

a.k.a. 2013 a year in review.

The Good.

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The Boyfriend at Loch Ness

The highest point of the year for me came in August, when I was accepted as a reviewer for Crimesquad.com after meeting up Chris Simmons, the man behind it all in July.  Crimesquad is a cracking website with regular reviews of all your favourite new books, and a huge archive of previous reviews so if you’re looking for a worthwhile opinion on a book it’s a great place to look.  If you’ve never seen the site head here to check it out, and if you’re interested in my reviews, you can find some of them here.

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Other highlights of my year were all mainly travel related, there was a week roaming round The Highlands of Scotland and Northern England staying with good friends, and even spending time at the Inaugural Crime & Publishment weekend in Gretna Green.  Of course Crime and Publishment wasn’t the only inaugural event that I got to attend this year, being in on the first ever IcelandNoir was also something I would never have missed for the world, and it left me with some wonderful memories.

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The Harrogate book haul.

Finally there were the usual annual trips to both CrimeFest and the Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate, which always bring with them happy days, and my favourite thing of all free books.  This year was a record haul with just five books purchased, but twenty five brought home.

The Bad

The year started off badly with the loss of my beloved 94 year old Grandmother, a little over a week in.  She was a wonderful woman, the most remarkably positive person I ever knew.  Sadly the trauma was made a little harder to bear due to an uncooperative work colleague of the Boyfriends meaning I had to attend the funeral alone.

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A beautiful soul

I’ve had  a fair few lows as the year has gone on but I’ve come back from most of them relatively unscathed, and I have a plan in place for 2014 to try and avoid getting into the dark places in the beginning.

Of all the long running bad things, this rant was possibly the best.  The catalogue of errors faced when I bought my car was shocking and irritating, but the response to Rant the Fifth being published on the interchoobs and posted on twitter was great.  17 minutes from tweet, to initial phone call, rant resolved the next day.

The Just Plain Ridiculous

Doing this journey.

Twice.   In the same day.

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a 1,027 mile round trip just so I could have a specific breed of pedigree cat.

Another of those things you do…

if any of you remember this post  you might be wondering why I am mentioning it right now.  The thing is I’ve gone and done it again.  This time I have signed up for a six week course from the University of Strathclyde.

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More information is available here.

Yes! We will be there.

Back when I was at Crimefest in May, I became vaguely aware of an event that was going on in Iceland later this year. I thought little of it.

Whilst I was at the Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival, known simply in crime writing circles as Harrogate, I heard more about IcelandNoir.

It caught my attention, a little.

Holidays for the boyfriend and I are currently on a not about to happen basis. It has been almost three years since our last overseas holiday, and since then we’ve only had one other break away of at least a week, when we travelled round Scotland and The North, back in March.

Our next planned foray overseas was to be in 2015.

The thing is I can’t wait until CrimeFest next year to see some of my friends again, and it’s too long to go without something to look forward too.

We would normally go to FantasyCon, hosted by the British Fantasy Society, but this year, since the UK is hosting World FantasyCon, it’s too big a thing for us, and also at the wrong time in my shift cycle for me.

The alternative, or so we thought, would be Bloody Scotland, but again the timing is ill-fitting with my shifts.

Then a friend told me they would be attending IcelandNoir. Then another couple of acquaintances also mentioned they would be there, and my mind began to churn.

How long is the festival? How long would we need to go for? How much would it cost to go? Could we afford it? In short? We couldn’t go, was the first answer I came up with.

Then my heart got involved, which in turn inspired the money talks, the what have we gots, the what can we do withouts, the things coming up, and the things coming in….

The talks finally ended in a maybe, just not yet. Lets get some potentially large bills out of the way and see what happens.

Then I got a phone call out of the blue. The result of which means we ARE going to IcelandNoir, we are going to strike at least two things off the Boyfriends Bucket list (already off mine) and yes, as of today we are both registered with the festival and we WILL BE THERE.

W00T!!!!

June Photo Challenge

Here’s the guide this months photo challenge. As usual you can follow my progress by following JoKawasaki on Instagram, or by checking out my blog The Day Watch.

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I don’t get to do this often enough.

I don’t get the time or the opportunities to enjoy doing what I really love. Sitting around with friends or family, just drinking, chatting and whiling away the hours.

I will be doing a lot of this over the next weekend.

Alien Sky

I never get tired of playing around with this app.

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I took the original shot when the Boyfriend and I were at Thorpe Park last week, just after we had come off this roller coaster. I liked the idea that this signified just about the exact point that the big adrenaline rush kicks in.

Road Trip

The Boyfriend and I are heading off on holiday on Friday for a week driving round Scotland and the North of England catching up with rarely seen friends.

It’s our first holiday together since we went to Egypt in 2010, and with both of us off for two weeks, it’s actually the longest time we have spent together since we met way back in 2008.

It may well all end in tears….

(but we’ll try not to think about that shall we?)

Well that was….

Not the day that I was expecting. The much anticipated and built up meeting was done and dusted in one hour and fifteen minutes with little in the way of conversation or questioning beyond, “oh you work there, do you?”

I felt a little let down.

But enough of the underwhelming meeting.

I have today navigated myself around London Town, on my own, and more importantly in the rush hour commute with just a couple of wobbles to show for it.

Wobble the first came as I was carried out of the late arriving train onto Paddington platform with little or no clue as to where I was going next, so I stood, centred myself and swore at my phone as I tried to work out which tube station I needed to get on, and where I was supposed to get off.

Wobble the second came as, once I had located where I needed to go to get on the tube, I waited on a cramped, people filled, tiny piece of platform (because of building works) and tried not to fall forwards onto the track.

Once on the train I actually impressed myself. Despite feeling like a more tightly packed thing in a vacuum packed packet of tightly packed things, and having the tube driver from hell, who insisted on violently jerking the train on a regular basis I made it where I needed to go.

After my meeting I discovered I was in luck with my timing of my trip. A twitter fiend I had been trying to meet up with for not just a long time, but the first time was also at work, and was less than a five minute walk from where I had been at my meeting.

It was not only nice to meet up and have something to do while I waited the four hours for my train home, but it also gave me a purpose, a place to go. I think if I had been at a loose end and simply meandering around to kill time I would probably have had a few more wobbles. Simply because it would be too much to cope with being in a busy, crowded place, alone, for absolutely no reason whatsoever.

So I enjoyed the best two hours I have ever spent in a tuve station. Sitting drinking tea in the back office, chatting over everything and anything, while watching the daily life of a tube station on the CCTV monitors.

After that I did something I do alot, but didn’t think I’d ever do, if that makes sense. I went off to the pub alone for lunch. I don’t usually think about it because it’s something I do all the time at home, but a strange pub, by a tube station in the middle of London, I had once thought was a never going to happen scenario.

Hiding behind my laptop and the pubs free wi-fi, I grabbed a quick snack, treated myself to a pint of beer and whiled away another quick 45 minutes before heading for my train home.

I did feel a wave of apprehension beginning to build again as entered the station and tried to work out where my train home was going to be, but it soon passed.

Now I’m on the train.

I am on my way home. My feelings are mixed. It feels strange to have coped so well on my own. It feels good, but it also makes me wonder why I have been so nervy in the past, and why I can’t do it so well when I have people with me.

I don’t know is the honest answer, but for now I am going to be happy with being better. Better for knowing that it really isn’t so scary after all and yes, I can do it all on my own.

Facing my fears – tomorrow is just another hurdle…

I’m a big believer in the fact that you can only get over your fears by facing them.

One of my particular issues is crowds. I can’t stand them. Too many people in a bar will make me leave, a crowded room will have me in palpitations, and suffering from shortness of breath. Sometimes even walking round a busy town can have me so scared that I have a major panic attack.

The worst of these was a few years ago on my birthday. The boyfriend had arranged for us to travel by train for the day to Cardiff, as the city was special to us because it was the place we had spent our first full night together, many moons ago. What both he and I had failed to do however, and as a result now do religiously, was to check what was going on.

We should have realised on the train that morning. Once we had managed to squeeze ourselves through the door and find a spot just big enough for the two of us to fit into, what we found  was that the rest of the sardines in the tin can with us were all wearing either the rugby strips of Wales, or those of Cardiff Blues.

There must be a match on we thought to ourselves, “not to worry”, the boyfriend said as I concentrated on my breathing for the whole of the hour long train journey, “it will soon pass once they get into town, they’ll be off to the ground.”

As it turned out however he couldn’t have been more wrong.

As we left the train station the crowds were far too large to just be for a standard rugby or football match, and by the time I’d been herded through the tunnels out into the city streets, I was well on my way to a major panic attack. Already thinking about just turning straight round and going home, the boyfriend encouraged me to ‘face it head on’, and carry on. So I tried, and I managed half a mile, before the simple act of missing crossing the road at the same time as the boyfriend left me on the verge of tears and clinging to a lamppost as if my life depended on it.

I was terrified.

It took one kindly woman checking if I was ok, a boyfriend back to the rescue, and a bizarrely quiet pub less than fifty feet from where I stood to help me reach some semblance of normalcy again. It was then that we discovered the size of our faux pas in failing to check what was going on, and what was to inevitably give me one of the biggest challenges of my life in just getting through the day. You see, there were a few things going on in Cardiff that day, not least of which were….

A protest march by the Welsh & English Defence League
A counter protest march by United against Fascism

Wales  hosting the Springbok’s, in a rugby match at the Millennium Stadium

oh

and as if that wasn’t enough,

the Stereophonics live in concert at the Cardiff City Stadium

but, fear crippled yet determined, I made it through the day.

Since then I have tried to be proactive in facing my fears. An impromptu trip to London with the boyfriend to meet friends, on a Bank Holiday Monday in May, had me walking hand in hand with both the boyfriend and my best mate (also male) in order to keep me calm. It got me looked at a fair old bit but, hey it’s London, that’s the norm right?

I faced the crowds that were at London Super Comic Convention 2012. Crowds that were especially large, not just because it was the inaugural convention, but also because it was being supported, and attended by Stan Lee, and was to be the first time he had been in the UK since 1973. There was no, way I was going to miss out on a chance of seeing him!

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(yes, that’s a real photo by the way, not just photoshop)

I’m also tackling my fears in the classroom, with courses in personal impact and confidence, and with hypnotherapy too. I’m doing pretty much anything I can find to help me to get to the point where I can do this. I’ve spent a lot of time talking about my problems, admitting them, facing them, working on all aspects of me, and my fears.  I am trying to be better, but until now I’ve always had a crutch. I’ve always had a friend, family member or the boyfriend holding my hand to help me deal with my problems.

Tomorrow I take the next step.
Tomorrow I am in a meeting in London for work.
Tomorrow in order to get there, I am catching the packed commuter train to London.

On my own.

Tomorrow I have to navigate rush hour on the tube to get across London.

On my own.

Tomorrow I have to walk into a room filled with industry bods that I have never met before, and be pointed out to everyone because of who and what I represent.

That bit I am doing thankfully with the help of two people I do know, but the rest? That’s all down to me.

Think of me tomorrow.

I will be scared, I know it, but it’s just another hurdle. Isn’t it?

Deconstructing personality

in order to Construct Conversations, because that’s what I’ve been doing for the last two days, attending a course on constructive conversations.

Yes, I actually went on a course. Me, the last sort of person you want to be on a course with youm because I don’t see the point of courses. This time though, I decided to leave my sceptical, what’s the point? can’t be bothered with this shit part of me at home for a couple of days.

The result?

I had an enjoyable couple of days, and actually learnt quite a lot. Instead of spending two days role playing difficult conversations as I expected, we spent two days pulling apart our personalities, understanding what made each of us tick, how it can reflect in the things we say and do, and how people who are different may react either well or badly to our own personal styles.

I certainly have plenty of new skills to practice now, and I’m hoping I can keep up the positive attitude I came away from the course with long enough to ingrain these skills in my psyche.