Archive for August, 2020

New Hope

So… an exciting Thing is happening regarding my mental health situation.

A while ago (pre-lockdown), my lovely Dr told me about some medical trials going on for those with ‘treatment-resistant depression.’ I appeared to meet the criteria, so she put my name forward.

This is the project – Brightmind (I keep wanting to call it Brightburn, but that’s a very different thing 😂).

I’ve had confirmation today that I’m pretty much their ideal candidate, and after the formal assessment next week (and MRI scan to check my brain), I can begin in early September.

I’ve kept this quiet until it was confirmed, and also because I should’ve started in February – but then the MRI machines became suddenly busy. The team at Nottingham University, working with QMC Hospital Nottingham, are super-keen to get working again, and their enthusiasm is really giving me hope.

Short version: this is like ECT (electro-convulsive therapy), but using magnets. So it’s not invasive at all and has shown a high rate of success. The last statistics I found showed 80% of improvement in patients, with the remainder showing no change. NO side-effects.

I’m hopeful. No guarantees, but any improvement is A Good Thing.

I will be updating on here, and possibly with videos as well. I’ve seen other folks on YouTube document such journeys, and their positive experiences have been a big factor in my going forward with this.

A Big Adventure is about to begin! Fingers – and everything else – crossed.

Also, before anyone says anything: yes, I’ve read ‘Firestarter’ and books like that. I promise to use any resulting superpowers for good. Including a clearer brain 😊

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Review: The Burnt Watcher

The Burnt Watcher Cover

This book was recommended to me by Nimue Brown, which kindled a lovely friendship with the author! I would say that any bias is unintended, but…

This book is absolutely in my Top 10 Reads of 2020. For a first-time, independently-published novel, it caught me up in its tale and I found myself trapped within its pages late into the night.

‘Five hundred years ago the old world burned and the Fear rose from the ashes and the Glass. Watchers knew the Fear and found the ways of fighting it, enabling the world to be built anew.’

This may be the calmest post-apocalyptic novel I’ve ever read. It starts long after the Big Catastrophic Event, and reminded me at first of Ellis Peters’ ‘Cadfael’ books: a spiritual man, injured in the course of his work and seeking peace and quiet, pulled into a mystery from a world he’d left behind.

Master Grey is a Watcher, trained to fight The Fear which destroyed the ancient cities and drove all survivors into the countryside. This is recognisably England, albeit with slightly changed names (watch out for the dangers of the M4 motorway!), with technology that is something between medieval and steampunk, born of practicality and without using any concrete whatsoever.

I love how Master Grey leads us through his world. He assumes that those hearing his tale already understand the foundations of his society, so doesn’t go out of his way to explain them – there’s little exposition here. He remembers events and people as they’re important to him, and so the reader is able to build the world he moves through it.

The Fear hasn’t been seen in many years, so the Watchers are now few in number. However, we soon learn that it has certainly not disappeared, but is working subtly in the background while humanity starts to forget. Yes, magic is present here, but in a very practical manner… and scoffed at by the ‘educated, civilized’ folk. Until they have need of it.

The author uses his own interpretation of folk magic such as ley lines and runes to create a very grounded spiritual tradition that quickly seems very natural. I’d be intrigued to see how the society of the book formed post-event, but at the same time it’s tremendous fun to figure it out myself.

There’s a few influences here, I’d guess, but all combine to make a fascinating world. From Cadfael we move to the Swiftian bureacracy of middle England, then on to ‘The Wicker Man’ (or even ‘Deliverance’), with shades of ‘Rivers of London’ and ‘Neverwhere’. I use these as hints, by the way – the book is absolutely its own creature – but if you like any of the above, you’ll likely enjoy this.

Before you know it the gentle pace has ramped up, and by the end is hurtling along as we read faster and faster to see how Master Grey will discover what’s going on, defeat the Fear, and how even more  damaged he might be as a result.

I understand that there is a sequel (or two) in the works, and they can’t come fast enough!

I love being recommended new books, and this is one Find that I’m happy to sing the praises of. Absolutely do seek it out.

The Burnt Watcher‘ is available for Kindle and in paperback via Amazon.

 

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Bricks

A YouTuber that I enjoy, Caddicarus, has been prefacing his lockdown videos over recent months by screaming ‘What is going on?!’ – because The World is Made of Bricks and he’s trapped at home. A (rather dark) comedy way to visualise his feelings about these crazy times.

And now, the world is slightly less Made of Bricks. We can go out! But after a visit to our nearest town a couple of weeks ago, we’re nowhere near back to Life Before just yet.

The feeling in the air was one of fear. Masks everywhere, I’m glad to say, and people doing what they could – I’ve yet to see any anger or nasty words, thank goodness. That feeling of tautness in the air, though, as if something bad (worse?) is about to happen…

The last few weeks have still been very difficult for me, health-wise. I hate talking about this really, as there’s always the voices in my head nagging away: ‘Oh, she’s off again. What NOW? You know people are probably sick to death of it by now. Why can’t you write something normal?’

These are absolutely all phrases that have been said to my face in the past, by the way. Which doesn’t help.

I’ve been wanting to write, but the words haven’t been coming. The World is Made of Bricks, and bricks aren’t very inspiring.

Then I think about this.

Years ago, there was a Handfasting where the couple used a brick as their wedding Stone, the symbolic foundation of their relationship. It was a brick that was part of the batch that had built their house.

Bricks are heavy, but they are stones crafted by us. So many people put tremendous emphasis on the importance of stones in magic, but those are usually of the sparkly crystal variety. Either way, stones have been taken from the earth that is where they’ve been formed, and brought to fulfil a purpose in our lives.

I write this in a room with exposed brick walls and floor. I can feel them beneath my feet right now. I loved this house for its natural floors, as I’d rather go barefoot given half a chance.

I’ve been feeling trapped during lockdown, and that feeling only worsened when I ventured out. I’ve heard people speaking of being ‘stuck at home’ as a time for reflection, and that’s fine, but humans are generally social creatures. We need to reach out sooner or later, if only to assure friends that we’re not actually dead or to go find food shopping.

The bricks overwhelming my mind aren’t safe places for me to hide. They’re crushing me, like a medieval torture. They’re preventing me from Doing, holding me in with the thoughts that tell me how much I should be doing, and how much I CAN’T do. This is hiding like a fairytale creature, in the dark of a cave, the opposite of what Summer should be.

The World is Made of Bricks, and turned upside down at the same time. Instead of being at my busiest, I feel as productive as a brick. I remember another reviewer describing how a story flowed as easily as a river of bricks (yes, that slowly). And yet…

People have been reaching out to me. I’ve been answering. Before I know it, conversations are being had – admittedly via internet Messenger applications, but I’m hearing how friends are doing, helping professionally or just sharing enthusiasm about a good book or knitting pattern.

This year has come crashing down, but we are slowly building it back up. The bricks might not look the same as they did before, but they are still the foundation stones to our world. No matter where we fall, the ground will be there to catch us. We can make our space what we need it to be. It just takes one brick at a time.

I’m still here. My inspiration is finding its way, peeking through holes in the wall, and I’m tremendously sorry for being so quiet. I’m doing what I can, when I can.

The world is changing and the new path isn’t clear yet. I can feel it trying to form beneath our feet. One step at a time, gently… gently…

Here’s that floor, and Fen, whose Gotcha Day it is today. Ten years ago, he came home with us as a tiny puppy. This is his room too, his safe space as much as it is mine. This is him right now, keeping an eye on me as I work. The bricks are cool on a hot August day.

We build our lives. Some parts are brighter or stronger than others, but we are still here. Some days that feels like a miracle, and I’m glad of how solid a fact it is.

Fen 7-8-20

P.S. I was also reminded as I wrote this of a song from years ago that I rather loved. It’s a Christian band, but take the meaning as you will. This is ‘Let it Be‘, by Superchick – a song about bricks.

Stay strong, my friends.

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