Ancestor Worship

Wow, this is short... but I think it does everything I want it too. I could easily go into a lot more detail but it doesn't need it, I don't think. I actually wrote this a very long time ago... which is testament to the fact my writing hasn't improved much *sigh*

Anyway, it was for a challenge in a writing circle, inspired by this image;

No, I don't know if it has a CC licence or even where it's from.
This is the original size I was given it in. If you know it, poke  me.

Mika and Tori sat in their little boat mile from the shore, staring in awe at the Life Lights in the sky, the souls of all the deceased Mirandi who returned once a year to ensure their descendants were safe.

"To think," said Mika in a hushed tone, rolling up the sleeves of her shirt. "They always come back, every year. They never give up on their children."

Tori sent her a warm smile. "And so many different colours. Do you think different Mirandi souls have different colours depending on how powerful they were?"

Mika shook her head at him, standing slowly with her Nogri Staff in one hand. She put the base on the floor of the boat to keep herself steady.

"No, I think the colours represent what they were good at." The face Tori pulled as he dragged himself up beside her made her rephrase. "I mean, a Mirandi who was kind and gentle could be blue. And one who was fierce in battle might be red."

Tori smiled, picking up his own staff from the floor. He nodded with understanding as he threaded the thick twine through the loop at the base.

"You always make things sound so miraculous or magical Mika," there was a touch of tenderness in his voice that only occurred when he was decorating Mika with compliments. He knew it embarrassed her, even when they were alone.

Mika giggled at him and would have pushed him over if they were standing on solid ground.

"Hush now!" She picked up another piece of thick twine and began to thread it onto her staff.

"Only if you give me a good reason."

"If you're not quiet you'll scare away all the Mirandi," it was a mock scold, and he gave her a mock pout in return.

Mika threw her staff into the deep blue ocean.

"Now, now," she said to him, pulling on the twine to retrieve her staff, and anything she may have hit. "We only get one chance to hunt this way. You know the Mirandi only come to the bay when their ancestors are watching over them. Even if they never do a good job of it…"

Feeding The Fad

A new weight-loss wonder food turns out to be not all it seems...

Character Concept: Kondroch

Sometimes I dream up a character that has no place in anything I'm writing (or, you know... currently not writing) but I still want to play with them. If I could draw then I would draw them. Just to get them out of my head and into the world. The only way I know how to get them onto paper though is to write. So this is what I've done and will continue to do (hopefully). Maybe I'll use these guys in something at some point. Maybe they'll just stay forever trapped in a written tableau. Either way; here they are... or here's the first of them.

Stuck Between A Rock And A Hard Place - Also Known As A Crazy Person And The Mental Health Service

(Any and all mistakes are down to me being a wreck throughout most of that night and me then not re-reading this. I've put it down 'on paper' and I am not going over it again, thank you very much. Though feel free to ask questions.)

Let me just set up the backstory for this. Last year, while working home on my own one night I saw a girl sitting in one of the shop doors on George Street in Edinburgh city centre, begging for change. It was absolutely chucking it down with rain. I mean the stuff that soaks through to your bones.

I stopped to pull out the food I had in my bag for her (I had freebies from work) an gave her enough money to at least get a bed for a couple of nights in one of the hostels. I sat down and we started talking. She (we'll call her Michelle) had a little boy, who lived with her mother and she was hoping to get married to his father (let's call him Jason) soon, and he was close to getting a flat of his own. She was working her way out of the hole she had dug herself into (depression, drugs, abuse) so that she could get her son back.

Over the next couple of months we met for drinks now and then, and occasionally she'd come back to stay in our spare room, though she only did this when she was desperate.

Finally Michelle and Jason got their papers sorted and got married and he got a flat. Awesome, yes? Their lives should have started getting better and better, yes?

Jason's an abusive moron. Unfortunately, like so many women in Michelle's situation, she thought marriage might change him, that it was just the stress of being homeless that made him a dick. Not so (and it never is). Life actually got worse for her. She started spending every waking moment taking care of him while he got himself into more trouble and actually started growing weed in their council flat, after being caught once already.

Michelle started staying with us more and more, turning up at 4am after being thrown out of the flat. She ended up in hospital twice with illnesses brought on by stress, abuse and alcohol. Yet she kept going back to Jason.

Last Friday she turned up on my doorstep after having been kicked out of the house for refusing to return a packet of crisps for Jason, because they were the wrong flavour. She got horrifyingly drunk Saturday morning, 21st May and left. I did not realise she was so drunk until I noticed, at 2pm, after she had gone out, that my vodka bottle was empty. She had drank about 500ml of Smirnoff while I made breakfast (I had noticed how much I had drank the night before when I got up... suitably hung over).

That night she overdosed on heroin, something she has been working to stay clean from since she got pregnant almost five years ago (with the occasional slip). She was technically dead for a few moments. She refused hospitalisation and the medics and police let her walk away after reviving her. She turned up on my doorstep some time Sunday morning and over the next 36 hours continued in what I can only describe as a complete mental meltdown.

Monday evening, after a very long day at work, I spoke to her for a good hour trying to persuade her to call one of the many numbers for counselling and mental health support that are available in Edinburgh. A whole hour of talking to an almost incoherent and close to suicidal person during a massive withdrawal who is refusing to even take her prescribed Buprenorphine.

At one point I told her that if she didn't call someone then I would, and that would be so much harder for both of us. She said that was fine, and a night in the cells would do her straight. Every step of the conversation was spent either persuading her that she WAS sick, that she was NOT going to go to prison, that I was NOT going to let her leave the house to kill herself with more heroin. She kept asking me why I cared so much. Seriously, a girl who was lying practically dying from mental illness on my couch was asking me why I cared about her.

Finally, FINALLY, I got Michelle to call the Emergency Mental Health Assessment Service. This was a massive step for her and I knew it was only a matter of time before she changed her mind. It was like dealing with a manic-depressive on fast-forward. Every twenty or so minutes she was "fine" and then she'd be wanting to kill herself. We got through to the EMHA and guess what; they put her on hold AFTER she told them she was having suicidal thoughts.

Well, that was a bust. The TWO nurses were already dealing with other mental health crises so could we call back later or try one of the other numbers they gave me. What followed is a bit hazy. I was already physically exhausted when I got home, and now was pretty damn mentally fatigued on top of it. I tried the Edinburgh Crisis Centre number, but that went to an answering machine that wanted my number so they could call me back. I don't know my number so that was no good.

I think I then tried the out-of-hours Edinburgh Social Care number but they wouldn't do anything with Michelle's date of birth and home address, which I don't know and she, being paranoid on top of everything else, refused to give them (after a fight to get her to even take the phone from me) and they would do NOTHING, not even recommend another service to me or offer any advice. Epic fail, posh old lady on the other end. Epic. Fail.

I went back to EMHA again, hoping their nurses might have finished with the other crises. This time I got through to a nurse and he was VERY helpful. I had to fight with Michelle again t get her on the phone, but eventually she opened up to the nurse. Unfortunately they could not do much unless she went to see them at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. Well, that set Michelle's paranoia off again. There was no WAY she was going to the Royal because they'd lock her in a room and she was deathly afraid of being alone. This is where she went to get off heroin and they essentially did lock her in a room until her initial withdrawals were over (think the opening credits for House MD, Season 6 Broken, and no a clean cut of it is not on YouTube).

I asked if they could send someone out to talk to her and he said no, but if I called NHS 24, they would. So I called yet another number. This was 10pm. I had been doing this for three hours... but hope of help was on the horizon.

Now remember, every time I spoke to a new person, I first of all had to explain to them what was going on and exactly why I couldn't give them Michelle's exact details. Every. Single. Time. And of course, with each call made I had been transferred at least once. Then I had to fight with Michelle to get her on the phone, which could and did take up to ten minutes. THEN she had to explain herself all over again. Explaining how she felt, and why she felt like that. Many tears were had. No yelling though, I managed to keep her calm enough for there to be no yelling.

There was a very lovely, sympathetic lady who answered the NHS phone, but she was obviously in way over her head and had to keep putting us on hold. Michelle kept her straight though. We kept passing the phone back and forth between us, whenever Michelle could no longer talk I took over and between us we got the message across that help was needed, of the psychiatric variety. Eventually she transferred us to her supervisor who, despite having been told everything by the first lady, wanted to hear it all again!

We persevered though and she finally transferred the call to a doctor... a man I did not enjoy talking to at all. He sounded as though he thought this was all just a couple of idiot girls having hysterics, but hey, he did his job... sort of. After explaining everything AGAIN to him, and how Michelle was becoming less and less responsive and willing to talk as time went on he booked an appointment with, what I thought at the time would be a psychiatric professional.

Now, I was not privy to his side of the details, but was expecting him to talk to me after arranging everything with Michelle. This is what the others (the helpful ones, anyway) had been doing; deferring back to me as I was clearly the sane and mostly coherent one who was in control of the situation (well, more than Michelle, anyway). However, the idiot put the phone down as Michelle dutifully passed it back to me so I couldn't ask him for the appointment details.

I had, however, been following Michelle's side carefully as I kept expecting HER to put the phone down. I got taxi, 11:15, Edinburgh Western General. Of course, Michelle, not realising I had been listening that hard, lied to me as she fell into one of her "I'm fine" moments but I was having none of that.

When the taxi did arrive it took me another half an hour to get her dressed and into the taxi. She kept insisting she wasn't going and that I was not going with her. Well she was and I did. Then it took me ANOTHER half an hour to get her to go inside the hospital. Fortunately, we met a few nice ladies outside who were in for various treatments, having a fag. They had, as they said, been there, done that and SOLD the T-shirt.

They really helped. They calmed Michelle down and persuaded her that no one was going to lock her up and throw away the key. When we did get into the hospital I was informed were there to see a normal GP. This was more of a waiting game and Michelle was a hair's breadth from a panic attack by the time he showed up.

The doctor was very nice, very calm and calming. Unfortunately, he didn't know why we were there. If I EVER find the guy who booked the appointment for us I will head-butt him. Twice. So, we went through the same conversation for the umpteenth time only this time we had the added benefit of Michelle insisting all she needed was more medication.

Of course, she'd recently taken drugs and a lot of alcohol, so the General's psychiatric specialists would not see her until she had sobered up. Michelle could have stayed in A&E, and honestly, if I had had the fortitude and energy to do it, I would have insisted on it and stayed with her.

I didn't and I feel quite guilty about it, but I have other people in my life to consider and I honestly thought the doctor might have put up more of an argument for her to stay in A&E than he did. The General's A&E is rather nice, for an A&E... and I've been quite a few. I think they send all the nasty, late night drunks to the Royal.

Michelle refused to come back to ours, after kicking me out of the GP's office so she could tell him I didn't want her there, which to be quite frank was true; I do NOT want a suicidal alcoholic in a house I share with three other people. My own personal house? I might have been okay with that, but I share and it would not have been fair on the others.

The upshot of all this; Michelle had to find somewhere else to stay. My housemate picked us up and drove ALL OVER Gorgie while Michelle knocked on doors and windows to find a friend who would let her stay. I think it was the fifth person who said she could stay.

Who needs enemies, huh?

At 2:30am I FINALLY got into bed. 6:30pm, to 2:30am I was dealing with someone having an absolute mental meltdown on top of a heroin withdrawal. No, the meltdown was not a symptom of the withdrawal. The heroin overdose was a symptom of the meltdown.

Since then Michelle has not answered my messages and her phone has mostly been off. I don't know if she returned to the hospital or went to get any help. Someone met her in Gorgie on Thursday and she seemed happy enough, but for how long?

So there you have it (with a couple of omissions you don't even want to know about); why even the massive number of excellent services and all the wonderful, helpful people available to talk to in Edinburgh about mental health are worth nothing if one or two lazy incompetents and a few bastard rules can prevent someone getting help.

And why I need another vodka.

You Put Your Left Leg In...

I've seen a lot of hatred spewed at 'the Left' and the 'liberals' in the last six months, but it's not being spewed at the people I consider to be 'the Left' and the 'liberals'. My idea of leftwing seems to be somewhat different to everyone else's. Admittedly, this will be because I'm an idiot and missing some important point.

I've always thought that those on the left of society, the liberals, were the forward thinking ones, that care not only about their own tribe but about everyone who is in need. Then Labour, who are traditionally leftwing because they fought against the Right in the name of the working classes, came along as New Labour in 1997 and all of that went out of the window. Everything that 'the Right' want and believe in seems to have been adopted by New Labour; tradition is best, supporting only your tribe, dictating life choices. New Labour and their supporters are still claiming to be left of centre though, because they're not the Tories. If you're not the Tories then you're not on the Right so you must be on the Left.

Then the actual leftwing party, who were always considered to be in the centre, the looking to our future, live-and-let-live, help everyone in need party got crushed under the Right's foot and are now considered right of centre. Both the old Left and the Right are making out that the LibDems are rightwing and everyone has just gone along with it.

So now the Left are in agreement with the policies of the Right, the Centre are the Right and the Right are still the Right. What the Hell?

Meanwhile the 'grassroots' Left are squabbling amongst themselves to claim who is the most left... and siding with Labour who are, in fact, the Right in disguise.

So, which side of the line do I stand again? I can't work it out.

Autosarcophagy Or Self Cannibalism; A Mental Meandering

Last week, as I was taking a tray of potatoes out of the oven I missed the tea towel I was using to protect my hand and instead grabbed the tray. This resulted in two things; baked potatoes strewn across the floor and a chunk of freshly seared crackling on my finger.

This got me thinking, and I've been thinking out loud on Twitter about it; could I physically and legally eat my own cooked flesh. Does this really count as cannibalism? Would I get locked up for merely being curious enough to actually try it?

Self cannibalism is mostly reported as a form of torture or as a version of Pica or other form of psychosis. It's not useful to your own existence to eat your own flesh, usually. There's a story of a German soldier trapped in trenches during the First World War who was reduced to cutting off and eating his own leg to survive, but I'm not sure of how true this is. The TV said it was true...

There is one paper on an American woman who is heavily into body modification and did try to eat a piece of skin taken from her back. She didn't cook it though... what's up with that? The paper states that she is, as far as the researcher can tell, a perfectly rational, non-psychotic and productive member of society.

Generally though, autosarcophagy is non-consensual (Spaniards forced Cuban natives to eat their own testicles in the 16th century, for example) or as a result of a mental disorder. Probably the most well known and recent case is that of Bernd J├╝rgen Brandes and Armin Meiwes. Bernd was a willing participant, as far as anyone can tell and although was unable to eat his own penis, he did try to give it a good go. Willing... but in a right state of mind?

The precedent then, is a little lacking in terms of legal, not crazy consumption of one's own DNA.

The small chunk of crackling (and it really is crackling... it's gross) on my finger would hardly qualify as even a morsel. There'd be no taste to it at all. I wouldn't really want to remove a larger chunk though; I need that flesh. I'm not a crazy person.

Modern technology to the rescue! What if I were to cut off a small chunk and freeze it? I could then repeat the process until I had enough for a meal. Would this then be considered psychotic behaviour? I mean, it'd be pretty extreme but it would be out of pure curiosity and not some desire to inflict pain on myself to 'feel something'. It would not even be out of a desire to eat human flesh, just curiosity and as it's illegal and wrong to try to eat other unwilling people, autosarcophagy seems to be the way to go.

Don't worry... I really am just thinking out loud about the possibilities. I'll probably never be curious enough to try it out, my imagination just got carried away with itself upon seeing the crackling on my finger.



Hmmm, what about organ cloning? Does it count as cannibalism if the organ is grown in a pig?

BBC Tie Watch 30/03/2011

Ah, Paxman, you god among political interrogators. Seriously, only a man with a deity's invulnerabilities would wear that tie... with that suit!

Anyone with a better grasp of Japanese than my own able to work out what his tie says? I can make out only the odd hiragana. I don't know them well enough to work them out from that image, or while he's moving about on screen.

Anyway; this Japanese inspired tie would probably look quite good if it was either slightly more subdued or as part of a more flamboyant ensemble. I see a full red silk tuxedo style cut with a dark blue shirt, and obviously a gold silk handkerchief folded stylishly into the breast pocket. Although that would probably look ridiculous on Paxman... on Newsnight.

Paxman's tie pales completely in comparison to Dimbleby's piece this week. Every week I think; "how can he find anything to top that?" The next week he always surprises me.

Last week it was ladybirds;

This week? Moths! But no ordinary moths on no ordinary tie. This week, while his outfit is otherwise quite basic (black jacket, white shirt... probably trousers) his tie clashes with life itself;

There is a man who is completely secure in everything he feels, thinks and does.

While Boris Johnson, appearing on this weeks BBCQT panel, isn't a BBC political presenter and thus not part of this bizarre plot/bet, I would have thought he'd be wearing something a little more "out there" than he is. Come on Boris, you can do better than that!



Every week I tune in for two minutes to see if Andrew Neil is even wearing a tie on This Week. He never is. Letting the side down, man, letting the side down.

BBC Tie Watch 03/03/2011

Back in 2007 I noticed a BBC News reader wearing a dark indigo tie that was splattered with white, sharp pointed stars or perhaps snowflakes. It was hideous. Absolutely hideous. The image of a BBC News reader wearing such a shockingly garish tie has stuck with me. Since then, whenever I have been watching a current affairs show on the Beeb, with a man behind a desk, I have taken note of his tie.

Without fail, the hosts of BBC current affairs shows have worn monstrous neck attire. Every time (or at least every time I've watched the news or question time). I originally concluded that it was a bet or dare between some of the young, new and hip reporters. Now I'm not so sure because they ALL do it.

So, in honour of this madness, I will attempt to record all the ties I notice. Thanks to Prt Scr and BBC iPlayer, this should be a reasonably easy task.

Up first then (and probably in many more posts to come; I'm sure he's winning whatever competition is going on) is that staple of BBC political reporting; David Dimbleby.

What is that, David? Who let you wear that? Who the Hell sold it to you? No one else on the panel of tonight's BBC Question Time is wearing anything that's remotely as eye bleedingly horrible... in fact Liam Halligan has decided to be all cool and not only NOT wear a tie but barely do up his shirt;

Margaret Beckett and Lord Malloch-Brown (Malloch? What kind of name is Malloch?) also in that picture. While Malloch-Brown's tie isn't exactly tastefully subtle, it's not a fluorescent beast that's crawled its way out of Lovecraft's fevered brain.

The thing is, this only happens on BBC shows. I'm currently watching Channel 4's 10 O'Clock Live (at 11 o'clock, not live) and the adorable David Mitchell is not only wearing a nice, plain tie but it matches his ensemble!

I don't have an image yet because latest show hasn't hit 4oD... bleh.

Now, the female presenters... they don't tend to wear ties (which they totally should do, everyone knows ties are sexy on women) and I have yet to notice any similar patterns in their clothing. I will though, if it's there I will find it!

You're Not The One Buying It So STFU

Why do some people get so annoyed when someone mentions that they'd like such-and-such piece of tech? I don't mean poking a bit of fun, say for example at the naming of the "Wii" by someone who prefers Microsoft's consoles. They get down right irate.

Last night, down the pub, someone (a musician... we'll call her Joan, 'cause that's so rock and roll) mentioned they'd like to get an iPad, if they had the money. Another person (Fred) who, before that night, had not met Joan before leant across the table and demanded to know what exactly she would do with it because, apparently, they don't DO anything. It's rare to see Joan flabbergasted (although apparently midgets freak her out) but she was completely taken aback by this attack on her desired toy.

What business was it of Fred's what Joan would be doing with it? What trauma had he gone through with an iPad to leave him so embittered as to get angry at the very THOUGHT of someone wanting one? If he actually cared about her finding the right product for her purposes he could have easily said "What would you be using it for, I might be able to recommend a better product."

But no, he was too damn angry to do anything but rant about how no one should buy an iPad because they are rubbish and any practical purpose they might have is ruined by Apple wanting to have a monopoly on the apps... or something. Honestly, I stopped listening, got very pissed off at him and told him to shut up in no uncertain terms; "Who cares? Can we not have this boring old discussion about Android, Apple and Symbian?!"

THEN he starts going on about Symbian being shit.


Seriously guys; if you're not the one buying it and not offering HELPFUL consumer advice then Shut. The. Fuck. Up. It's not your money, you're not the one who is going to be using it. There is absolutely no reason to get so angry at someone else's purchase of a tech product (unless you happen to know they're produced by the forced labour of orphans).

The Entire Human Race Is On Drugs

One the arguments against any form of recreational drug use (is drug use to aid art considered recreational if you intend to make money from said art?) is that we shouldn't be putting chemicals into our system. Well, that pretty much gets smashed apart with a variety of single words; Starbucks, Marlboro, Budweisser, McDonalds, Nestle...

The recourse of the clean living advocate is then this one; we shouldn't be putting those into our bodies either (I'd agree with them on everything but Nestle... there are far better ways to consume caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and fatty proteins, but you get the point). Instead we should be doing exercise and eat well and... blah, blah, blah.

Yeah, yeah... our bodies are temples and we should treat them accordingly. That's all well and good, but it overlooks one fundamental part of human existence. It is a part that, without, we wouldn't be what we define as 'human'; our minds.

Not just our brains. Not the physical, squishy pink bit but the other bit, the... indescribable bit. The bit that gazes at the stars and contemplates the future. Our conciousness, subconsciousness, imagination... all of that rolled into one bizarre and unfathomable ball; the human psyche.

This psyche needs tending to perhaps even more than the body does. Mental illness very often leads to physical decline. Stress, depression, anxiety all lead to a running down of a body, at the very least. To stave off mental illness, the needs of the mind must be met.

For one reason or another, the human mind hopes for more than it has. It hopes for a bigger house, for someone to love and love it in return, it hopes for chocolate cake and peace, for adventure and discovery, it hopes for something more than it currently has in so many strange ways. In a word; it fantasises.

The mind wants and needs an escape from what it and its body currently have. Is this a left over from the evolutionary drive to survive? If you want something better than what you have you'll strive to get it and this will help you, your family and (all importantly) your genes stay in existence. Is it a hiccough in our design? Could a combination of two things that have worked themselves into our design have created a third, superfluous thing?


Who cares? It's there and we have to deal with it. Whether we like it or not; escapism (the mental fulfilment of absurd fantasies) is essential to our mental well-being. If intellectual stimulation is food for the mind, then escapism is its water. Both are needed to stay fit and well.

Everyone has at least one escape route. I've got a bucket of them; reading, watching, listening, climbing, cycling (in better weather), writing... sometimes I can't even be bothered writing anything down and I just day dream. I can day dream for hours. Then of course, there's the chemicals; some less legal than others.

Whether its a long running soap opera, another Wheel of Time book, long distance running or pot; they're all forms of escapism (as well as other things; social lubricant, exercise, intellectual stimulation, a cure for insomnia... which is which). They're all a way to have a momentary respite from your life. From the doubts, the difficulties, the mundanities. They're a way to switch off and look at or be a part of something else, not necessarily something bigger and better, just something different.

Show me a person who doesn't use a form of escapism and I'll show you a corpse. We all indulge in escapism now and then (though I'd wager that it's at least daily). As long as it is not over used, any form of escapism is viable. It's having too much (as always) of anything that is the problem; after all, drinking too much water will quite literally drown your brain.

And now the quibble; what makes vegging in front of Pirates of the Caribbean (a fine, fine film but not exactly thought provoking stuff) to exercise escapism any different from switching your mind off during a session of  aerobics or jogging (tell me your brain doesn't wander when doing such mindless activities)? That yoga and jogging are also good for the body? So what? You're coming back to the body being more important once again. Sometimes, ney quite often the mind must come first and foremost.

Oh, but of course jogging makes you feel really good and helps you clear your mind so everyone should do it. Uhuh? One man's meat is another man's poison. The best form of escapism for one person might not be what the next person needs. And who is anyone to tell another what their meat is and what their poison is? What makes your release button any better than mine? Surely, you wouldn't tell a person they should prefer vanilla to strawberry, just because you do? Or that they should enjoy Fable more than Deus Ex? Star Wars over Star Trek (it may shock you, but you can enjoy both equally)?

Whichever route you take doesn't matter though, they all essentially do the same thing; all help you t go to another world, another place or time, all within the confines of your own mind.. Just like drugs. And just like drugs; moderation must be practised, whether it's reading, playing computer games, taking to the treadmill or mushrooms. Over do it and you'll make yourself ill. Yes, even reading too much, and neglecting other parts of your existence, is bad for you... though admittedly it's a lot harder to read yourself sick than it is to run yourself sick.