Mutterings, musings and general brain flatulence.
|Here be mushrooms|
Challenge: Congratulations on making it to the last day of the competition! What was your favorite prompt from the last month? What was the most rewarding aspect of participating in the competition?
I think my favourite prompt was either the writing about mythical/sci-fi creatures that could actually be real, or the fill the war chest with three new prompts. I really liked the creativity of thinking around the mythical/sci-fi option and the flexibility of choosing my own prompt. Someone suggested a choice of prompts (particularly for controversial subjects) and I think that's a very good idea. There were some days when the prompt just didn't mesh with me or I found myself getting very repetitive as (for me at least) several of the prompts overlapped - I've talked about food, travel and pets an awful lot this month.
However, I have managed to write, if not every single day, then very nearly for a whole 30 days. I haven't had a writing streak like that for a while. A long while. The challenge has motivated me and forced me to sit down and write something, even if just a line. And for that reason alone I think I'm gonna sign up to this sort of thing more often. So thank you 30DBC
Challenge: What did you like / dislike about where you grew up? What do you like / dislike about where you live now?
I grew up on a very rural farm in the West Country. As a young child, it was idyllic; we had an enormous garden with an ancient orchard at the bottom. Mum was a stay-at-home mum and loved crafts and nature, so we were always doing things like making kites, mushroom hunting or blackberry picking. We had a string of farm cats that we tamed (if a farm kid ever tells you to put your hand in deep between bales of straw, don't. Feral kittens have a nasty set of claws and hiss like demons) to such an extent that they'd follow us everywhere. We'd walk across to the next farm once a week to collect fresh milk or climb the hill behind the house in the summer to check on the reservoir water levels (dad tried to keep the farm off the mains as long as possible) and the cats would follow about ten feet behind the whole way.
One winter dad brought home three pigs he couldn't foster onto another sow (dad had a real knack for pig farming; he'd get litters of 12-14 piglets from a lot of his sows (context, 6-10 is fairly standard), and if the sow couldn't feed them all, he'd foster them off on another (again, context, a lot of pigs won't take other piglets). Well, it was like Christmas had come early. For several weeks we had these, initially, tiny piglets growing in our kitchen by the Rayburn. They needed constant bottle feeding and although we knew perfectly well they'd end up back on the farm and head off to slaughter once big enough, we adored having the piglets in the house. We used to say goodnight to them before bed every evening and race down to see them before school the next morning.
And creep down the stairs late at night to watch when we knew mum and dad were carving up half a pig he'd brought home to butcher. I swear the only reason we weren't allowed to watch was because the kitchen was tiny and dad knew sister and I enjoyed sword fighting a little too much....
But that being said, as we got older living on the farm became a nuisance. We were miles from our nearest friends. There was no reliable bus service and dad was always to busy to provide lifts (mum died before we were teens). Living on the farm became more like a medieval prison than an Enid Blyton novel. We used to walk miles just to get the (extremely unreliable) bus into town and miss on sleepovers because dad worried about our school grades.
It took me moving to university and having a city centre campus to realise how much I loved the countryside. I wouldn't trade my uni years for anything, but it's very telling how quickly I moved back to the West Country (unusual for professionals in the UK) after graduation.
I now live on the outskirts of a small village; within walking distance of the local town, but surrounded by fields and farms. It's the perfect compromise for Best Beloved who wants to be able to walk to pubs and restaurants (thanks covid) and me who wants zero neighbours. Our house is near the end of a very narrow lane, with fields at one end and the village pub at the other. The church we got married in is a one mile stomp across the fields (Best Beloved and his ushers actually donned wellies to walk to the church. BB's very urban cousin taking a self with some Devonshire Ruby cows is still one of my favourite wedding pics) and the coast is a thirty minute walk the other way. And in between are several pubs and foodie places.
Challenge: In your entry today, write about one of the most frightening moments of your life.
I'm an arachnophobe. I like most animals and the ones I don't I can normally shrug off with a meh of indifference. But spiders terrify me.
For context; I have African sun beetles I've brought on from fruit beetle grubs and handle them without any problem. I have a pet African pygmy hedgehog, and they are insectivores (not obligate insectivores, in that they die without bugs, but they easily become malnourished on even the best kibble and/or meat diet); so regularly have wax-worms, crickets, and locusts in the house. On her behalf, I've also bred cockroaches, mealworms/darkling beetles, and morio-worms/super beetles.
None of these bother me (okay, I'll admit I don't pick the roaches and morios up with my bare hands; the morios are supposed to have a horrific bite and the roaches are just to fast.).
So spiders really shouldn't be a problem. Right? Right?
Nope. Cue my stomach churning and whole body shudders at the sight of a house- or wolf-spider. I can't help it, believe me I've tried. I lived by myself for several years and trained myself to deal with it (I've lived on farms and in rural areas most of my life, another reason I should be fine - by UK standards, I've dealt with some monsters) - but it invariably means death to the many-legged one. Either washing them down the plughole with several litres of water or sucking them up into the vacuum cleaner*. I want to be able to scope them up in a glass and put them outside. Thankfully Best Beloved is more than happy to play gallant knight.
Best Friend is also arachnophobic, and she claims she got a lot worse the two years we lived together. In 2015 we went traveling in South America together and got to spend three nights in the Amazon jungle. It was astounding. And more than a little scary. Apparently if you shine a torch in the eyes of a nocturnal predator (like a cat, or as it turns out, a spider) it's eyes glow green. After dinner the first day, we went for a quick night hike around the lodges. There are a LOT of spiders in the Amazon. I cannot even been to describe how many eyes (spiders have eight eyes, but I think only four of them reflect green) shone back at us on that very short walk.
If I did, you'd assume I was exaggerating. I'm not. Think of a number. Double it. Treble it. How many figures have you got? If it's less than four digits, keep going...
Our guide was also insane. In a good way. In a there's-anaconda-in-this-area, that-track-on-the-bank-there-that's-an-anaconda-track, our-little-canoe-is-about-eye-level-with-the-track, let's-jab-the-track-with-our-oar-and-see-if-the-anaconda-is-nearby sort of crazy. Day two of being out in the jungle and he walks us past a small hole in the ground, maybe the size of a golf-hole.
It's either a scorpion or tarantula nest, he tells us with excitement as he pokes a stick into the hole to 'see what comes out.' It's a tarantula. Of course.
Next day we walk past the hole again and he grabs another stick and asks who wants a go. Everyone steps back smartly. I'm too slow. To transfixed at the idea we're that near a tarantula nest again.I'm an arachnophobe. I'm also very, very stubborn. BF smirks and says I won't be able to do.
So I'm standing there, in the freaking Amazonian rainforest, poking a stick into a known tarantula nest because BF said I couldn't. The guide thinks it's hilarious (he knows I don't like spiders) and explains that the stick won't upset the tarantula, it'll either scuttle past and come out the hole (not an option I'm happy with) or it will grasp the stick and pull back.
It will what now?
So there I am, in deepest, darkest Peru (with no Paddington in sight) playing bloody tug-of-war with a real life tarantula. It was *only* a baby (mama apparently wasn't home), but let me tell you, when that thing appeared my entire body went wet with cold sweat. I can't remember if my heart beat faster or just froze, but I do remember the prickle of sweat on the crown of my head, slicking all the way down my back, and arms, stomach, and legs. It was 34 degrees C and I was so cold. The others all seemed suddenly very far away and my peripheral vision melted away as I found myself focusing on nothing but this tiny circle blackness. At a guess I'd say it was about half to two-thirds the size of an adult, but when it grabbed the stick and pulled back.... I was paralysed for several seconds. The strength of that thing. Sweat was running down my back and legs in rivulets, which was probably just as well, because my mouth was suddenly bone-dry.
I remember tugging back at the stick, more out of instinct that conscious thought, and watching not-so-icny-wincy yank on its end. Just writing about this is making me shiver and feel cold.
Somewhere, BF has this all on video ("you are the ONLY person in the world I would stand this close to a tarantula for" - hang on, it was you that got me into this mess....), but I've never seen the footage. There's no way I could watch myself do that again. And besides, I'm guessing she was shaking as much as me.
* My sister blows me out of the water when it comes to spider disposal; the hot bleach down the sink is bad enough, but it was the freeze-it-with-hairspray-then-use-the-cigarette-lighter-and-spray-deodorant-to-incinerate-it that lost her her rent deposit.
Challenge: We need your help filling the Challenge War Chest with prompts! In your entry today, write three of your own 30DBC prompts and then choose one to respond to.
Do you (currently or previously) have any pets? What made you pick them and what would be your dream pet? If you don't have any pets, discuss your opinions on pets - are they not for you, are they not permitted where you live, do you disagree with the principle, do you want them but not yet?
You are hosting a dinner party. Who is coming and why? You can have historical and fictional, but you must give some detail.
You've woken up with a superpower. What is it and how is going to change your life? Bonus, everyone has woken up with a superpower; are they all the same superpowers? How is society going to react and change?
So the current pet list comprises of two parrots (Tali & Summer), one hedgehog (Millie), several African sun beetles, and six giant African land snails. Growing up, we had a string of farm cats (inc Peatie, Smokey, Boaz, Fonz, Squeaky, Ruth), a collie-cross (Bosun), finches/canaries, gerbils/degus (mostly my sister's), two other parrots (Harry & Akeira) and a rescue cat (Tinks) and a rescue hedgehog (Luna).
Oh and quail, piglets, cockroaches (no seriously, I was breeding them for the hedgehog), and tropical fish/aquatic snails and a little crab called Colin...
When I write it out like this, it sounds insane. But (apart from my first year at uni, in student accommodation), I've always had some sort of animal around the house. Harry was a tiny little parakeet, barely bigger than a robin. I had him for ten years. He died in my hands several years ago, suddenly and completely without warning - a heart attack I suspect. He was old for his species, without being elderly. I bought him shortly after my eighteenth birthday and (apart from that one year at uni when my dad cared for him) he was my inseparable little housemate. He had his wings already clipped when I bought him, and I learnt a few years later that if you clip a bird's wings too early, their chest muscles don't always develop fully - leaving them more prone to heart disease later in life.
Since then, I've always been a advocate of doing research before getting a pet and never impulse buying an animal (I went back on this one day and ended up with four Giant African Land Snails. They turned out to be runts, i.e. have very poor genes and lead short (but hopefully happy) lives. I did a lot of research before continuing with GALS). Which is why, although I pester Best Beloved on an almost daily (certainly weekly) basis for a puppy,* I'm only ever teasing him. We both work long hours, and although the birds are used to it (I've had Taliesin and Summer longer than I've had Best Beloved) and Millie actually prefers it when we're out** getting a puppy would be both selfish and stupid.
Perhaps in a few years, when we've started a family and one or other of us is working less hours, we'll seriously consider a dog (I'm holding out for a Rottweiler***, but hoping to compromise on a Newfoundland). I also point out of a regular basis that the family holiday park would be vastly improved with a pack of llamas or alpacas. I've even offered to look after them
* I'd actually rather a kitten, but know when I'm beat. He'll agree to a dog when it suits our lifestyle and is fair on the dog, but he doesn't like cats and will never cave on that.
** Damn h'hog is my spirit animal; eat, sleep, get really angry when anyone approaches.
*** Only partly because it'll annoy the hell out of BB, I want a really girly or old fashioned name like Daisy or Mavis. Why yes this is my 55kg black and tan ball of muscle, and yes she only answers to Princess Ivy-Bluebell.....
Challenge: What’s the best or worst practical joke that you’ve played on someone or that was played on you?
I don't really play practical jokes or pranks all that much. About the only recent one, was for my boss's birthday last year, I did hit the master light switch (after making sure there were no patients or customers in the shop) and started screaming. She came tearing into the room to find us all singing Happy Birthday by the light of the candles on her cake. I thought she'd been having lunch in the tearoom next door, but it turned out she'd gone to her office which was the other end of the hallway and had nearly sent herself flying in the dark.
It was my birthday a week later and she tried to pull the same stunt in revenge. Needless to say it didn't work a second time round.
Challenge: Write about some of your most memorable vacations. Where did you go? Who were you with? What was your favorite part of the trip?
I love travel. Absolutely, utterly adore exploring new places. I imagine it's a backlash against my childhood when we went away on a family holiday once a year, always to one of the two same places (either a caravan park in Wales or a B&B farmstead* in Somerset). Any other holidays were invariably staying with other parts of the family.**
I was in my twenties before I had my first passport.
That being said, my very first trip abroad was to China for a month. Two of my uni friends (both post-graduates, whilst I was a fresher) were from Beijing; both returned there to live after graduation, the one immediately after and the other a few months later. Vivian, the second friend, invited me to come and stay with her family for a while. We met up at Heathrow and flew out together; my first ever flight on anything bigger than a four-seater and it was fourteen hours on a Boeing 747
We arrived in Beijing severely jet-lagged. So much so in fact that Vivian had forgotten all her native Mandarin and was staring round the airport bleary eyed trying not to cry. Somehow (there wasn't much English on the signs) I managed to find our way out and re-unite her with her parents (who spoke almost as much English as I did Mandarin. i.e. bugger all.).
Beijing was a baptism of fire. Almost everyone over the age of 40 that Vivian introduced me to, spoke no English. Her grandmother (possibly the tiniest, wrinkliest little old lady I had ever seen), wondered around the flat in just a small pair of cotton shorts complaining about the heat, muttering at the newspaper (she couldn't read), and finding it completely incomprehensible that I was a fellow human and yet spoke no Mandarin. Nainai was probably the biggest culture shock I've ever had in my life, and I suspect I was to her too.
*We lived on a farm anyway. So whilst this was nice, it wasn't exactly exciting.**Most of them lived on farms too.
Challenge: What do you do to improve your mood when you are sad? If you are frustrated or angry, what is your secret to feeling better?
Well, that is and it isn't true. I've tried keeping diaries and journals over the years - from Dear Diary types to travelogues to bullet journals to blogs on various platforms. And nothing ever seems to stick.
Don't get me wrong, I love my bullet journal. When I remember to do it.
I love writing up travel adventures. But I give up halfway through the holiday.
I quite enjoy pontificating on my thoughts of the day or, on that rarest of things, when something's happened that I think other people will actually want to know about as well. Only that doesn't happen very often, and I sound pompous to boot.
That's one of the reasons I signed up to the 30 Day Blogging Challenge; to have some sort of external impetus to sit down and write something every damn day and maybe even force myself into something resembling a habit. Who knows, maybe this time it'll stick.
In the past I've had no difficulties writing diary entries on days when I'm in a raging foul temper. It's easy to write when I'm frothing at the mouth, and it's much less painful than punching the wall.* But that's another reason diary-writing and I don't seem to get on. Whenever I've looked back over previous diaries, the entries seem to dry up after a week or two and then there's this big long gap followed by visceral hate-fueled rant followed by another gap until the next phlegm-flecked bust for fury. It makes me sound like an angst-ridden emo, and I'm far to bloody-minded for that lark.
My other go-to for anger is the "I'm going for a Walk." Capital W required. This is the I'm-too-angry-to-sit-still shaking-with-adrenaline borderline hysteria anger. Okay, forget the borderline bit. There's something about being able to storm off and just walk and walk and walk until your mind stops fizzing and those ghastly tight bands around your chest start to loosen and you can breath properly again. Admittedly this is all making me sound rather psycho - I promise I'm far too lazy to lose it like this is often. But well, it's like a dam; once it's built up long enough.....
As for feeling sad or generally low, unfortunately that's a lot more common for me. Mostly I keep my depression under control, but - particularly during the winter - general moodiness and feeling down isn't all that unusual. If I can, I'll just stay home for the day and keep myself to myself. I can pretty much guarantee that'll re-set me for the next day (did someone say introvert?). But frequently staying home and keeping a low profile isn't an option (I have a public facing full-time job), in which case I'll try and ride it out. Spoiler, it doesn't normally work......
Coffee and chocolate help, but it's normally my lunch break that fixes me; I'll hide away for 30 minutes and read whatever book I have handy, praying that I go back to work at least civil and sensible.
Again, I find exercise is a really good therapy for feeling down; I love hiking and swimming, and although I don't feel like doing either when I'm down, if someone coerces me, I feel a lot better afterwards. Funnily enough, writing doesn't seem to help so much with general sadness - it's great to lift me out of a depressive episode if I'm having a series of bad days, but not so good for actual sadness or grief. Reading (which I guess is more passive) seems to help me a lot more.
*never a clever idea. You either end up with very sore knuckles or a hole/dent in the wall that means someone else is about to get mad too.
Challenge: Write about your earliest memory. Try to describe it in as much detail as possible.
My absolutely earliest memory is throwing a tantrum at my mum.
Well, actually it's her calmly talking me out of myself afterwards. I can't remember what I said, only that I hated being an only child and having no-one to play with. For context, we lived on a farm several miles from the nearest village and none of the other houses scattered around the immediate area had young children (I think there may have been teenagers further up the road, but I can't be sure).We had an enormous garden and mum was an avid gardener. If it was sunny, or even just not raining, she was out doing something.
At the very bottom of the garden was an old Bramley apple orchard. Not the sort with spindly trees you can stretch your hands around or pluck apples from, but ancient old gnarly trees that topped thirty foot and if you wanted the apples you needed a big long stick and a hard hat. Later, we had tire swings hanging from two of the trees and dens galore.There was a sort of no-mans-land between the garden proper and the orchard. Mum had planted a string of tiny little fir trees, that my whole childhood never grew more than a few feet high, as a border. And between our garden and next door was a wall of pine trees that were great for climbing in. But were the pine trees ended and the fir trees started (there was no our-garden, your-garden divide in the orchard, we just didn't play further than certain trees) there as an enormous camellia and a something-else-but-I-don't-know-what. They overhung each other to make a little dead patch of ground underneath where nothing grew. A perfect little den for a sulking toddler.I remember hiding under the camellia and mum (not a petite lady) having to crouch down and peer through the leaves to talk to me.
I remember being utterly furious that I didn't have anyone to play with (mum didn't count, because she spent most of her outdoors time either gardening or helping dad on the farm). It may be a phantom memory - but I'm sure I remember mum being quite amused by the whole scenario. This memory was a spring-summertime memory and I'm only two and half years older than my sister, so I must have been either nearly or just turned two.
Either mum was pregnant at the time, or she and dad took my tantrum very seriously,* because little sister was born the next February....
*I spent the next six or so years asking if I could go back to being an only child.......
Challenge: What food or dish have you never eaten but would really like to try?
I've been really lucky with both food and travel (and to me, they go very much hand-in-hand). I utterly love trying new foods, and as a result, there aren't many things that I know about that I haven't tried. Whenever I'm faced with a new food I want to taste it (note to self, jellyfish and guinea-pig are definitely-been-there,-done-that,-never-again foodstuffs). Of course every time I travel to a new place I find something on the menu I've never heard of (ahi poke and trout ceviche now make my mouth water just thinking about them).
But I guess the only thing that springs to mind for having not tried and would really like to, would be grits. I still haven't (even with the help of Google) quite worked out what grits are (basically porridge made with maize rather than oats?) or how it's pronounced (grits, like tiny bits of gravel/stone, as a plural? Like the French for grey?). And what exactly do you eat it with, or is it on its own?
I'm so confused, help me out!