Archive for the ‘ageing’ Tag
Today’s guest on the blog is fellow KGHH author Christopher Long. Welcome, Chris!
But Once a Year
By Christopher Long
We spend a lot of time talking about time. It’s a very human thing to do. For a start, we’ve made up a lot of sayings about it and we’ve set them down in stone. We’ve decided it waits for no man. It flies whilst we’re having fun. A wise man even once said it flies like an arrow, while fruit flies like a banana. For me, recently, time hasn’t tormented me by refusing to wait, flying or comparing itself to the aerodynamic properties of fruit. Instead, it has become a backseat driver. It’s been leaning over the driver’s seat and whispering in my ear. It keeps mentioning something about the date.
You see, we’re only a few days away from my birthday and, up until now, I’ve always liked my birthday. There are presents, cake, some attention. What’s not to like there? Only, this year, I turn 37. Which has led to me realising that 37 is pretty damn close to 40.
Not that 40 matters, right? Age ain’t nothing but a number. Except, of course, the numbers do run out. For us, anyway. There is a high score I’m playing towards and I’m not allowed to know what the final tally will be. No one ever tells you which particular level or boss will use up the last of my credits. Which is probably for the best. I dread to think what it would be like to live with me if I knew the exact date when I reached my own, personal GAME OVER.
I know, I know. It’s shocking, isn’t it? The guy who writes ghost stories has an issue when it comes to death. Well, clichés become what they are for a reason. I’ve been morbid since I was small. Although, don’t get me wrong; I didn’t turn 7 and start worrying about The Big 1 0. I’ve just always had a moderately unhealthy awareness of my own impending death. I can handle it most days by, spiritually speaking, sticking my fingers in my ears and shouting very loudly. It works to a certain extent.
The impending threat of 40 is more to do with the stories locked in my head. When I started writing, I was driven by a dream of being really successful by 18. That slipped to 20 and 25 quite easily, as I began to understand the work that’s really involved in most people’s formative writing years. Then, the target went to 30 and I was fine with at as well. 35 raised an eyebrow, but 40…oh man, 40.
I’m starting to look around at the older members of my family and do the maths. It’s not fun maths either. 40 means I might be approaching a halfway point. If I’m lucky. The point of positively no return and I’ve got so many stories left to tell. I’ve got some stories in my head that I’ve not even got around to tackling yet. Big stories that I’ve been gestating for decades. Stories that feel like they require my full attention and possibly a paid advance so I can really settle down and put them on paper. Stories that have grown with me, become important little parts of myself that I want to share with the world one day, when I’m ready.
Please don’t think this means I’ve got problems with the stories I’ve had published. I love the stories I’ve had published. I really do. They’ve made people laugh or feel worried about what might be just outside their window. That’s brilliant. That’s what they’re for. It’s just that they’ve not been evolving in my head for 30 odd years.
There’s that whispering from the back seat again.
So, where do I go from here? Well, I keep writing for start. I blow out as many candles as I can out of the ones that get put in front of me. Also, I guess never stop dreaming. As tacky as it sounds, it’s the key here. As much as we talk about time, we pray for our hopes. Writing is just like any another creative or artistic endeavour. You hope for success, for notice. You want people to see it. You want people to enjoy it. Ideally, you want to become known for it. Sure, that is a sentiment dripping with ego, but it’s also true. That hope of success is ours to keep safe. It’s the one candle we never want to blow out. We never want to let anyone else blow it out either. We light it ourselves at some important moment in our life and then we watch it. We tend to it. It might flicker or dwindle, if we take our eye off it. It might occasionally look a little low, but it’s our light. Our flame. Our hope. We hold it close and safe.
Some of us lit that candle back when we were kids. Some only realised we had it waiting in us later on. Some people didn’t find it until they passed 40 and moved further on around the board. Which really makes me sound like I’m a whinging idiot.
All of which really says one thing. I’m having a little panic. Nothing more. We all have them. This is just my first birthday related one, that’s all. I’ll get past it. The presents will be unwrapped, enjoyed and put up on a shelf. The months will move on and I’ll keep writing.
Here’s one thing I’ve decided I’m going to do. A little present to myself. At some point, after the party and the presents, I’m going to cut myself a slice of cake and slip away. I’ll find a quiet corner somewhere, get a blank sheet and paper and start to write one of those stories I’ve never dared try yet. I probably won’t write it all. I’ll get just a few pages down and then I’ll keep them safe. At least then I’ll know I’ve started something, ready for the future.
Christopher Long is somewhere in his mid-thirties and he’s not coming out of them until he’s good and ready. He has been writing stories ever since he found out such practices weren’t frowned on in polite society. He has tried his hand at children’s stories, science fiction, fantasy and occasional poetry. Most recently, Chris has been writing ghost stories. Originally, he self-published them onto the Kindle; until he was signed by Kensington Gore Publishing. With them, he has released six novellas, three collections and one novel. He has also had stories featured on the “Shadows at the Door” website and in their first anthology.
Chris currently lives in Rugby with his wife, Sam. They are very happy together, although Sam has warned him about setting any more of his horrific and terrifying tales close to or in any part of their home. As of yet, she hasn’t noticed one of them is set primarily in their back garden.
Learn more about Chris and his writing from his website.
Thomas Singer wrote many horror stories in his time. Not all of them were popular, but some of them made waves. Some of them gained notoriety where it counted. Some of them terrified just enough people to gain Singer a cult status.
For his many prolific years of work and his near ceaseless devotion to storytelling, there have always been rumours about stories he was holding back from his devoted followers. Stories he didn’t want unleashing into the world until he, himself, had left it far behind. Stories too strange or twisted for general consumption. Stories that may well hold a secret or two in their crooked grasp.
Now, after Thomas Singer’s rather unusual and untimely death, Kensington Gore Publishing is proud to release his final five stories. Compiled and edited by Christopher Long, who briefly knew the author, these final stories of Thomas Singer each come with introduction and also an afterword from Singer himself.
Are you ready to see just what Thomas Singer wanted you to read only after he was dead and buried?
A pic of me in new specs, as requested (actually, I think it was only Michelle…).
I think they make me look a bit stern and school marmish. But maybe that’s because I’m not smiling. I was concentrating on trying to take a picture of myself – harder than one might think.
I am still trying to get used to wearing them for driving and watching TV. There’s no doubt I need them for driving – I can now see road signs much further away than I used to be able to. Watching TV in them is rather like when we got our new flat screen recently. I thought the picture was pretty good on the old one, but after five years, when we replaced it, technology had moved on considerably and the picture on the new TV was noticably sharper. It was sharper still when I looked at it through my new specs.
I don’t need them for the computer, though, so I haven’t been wearing them to work. Which is kind of ironic, as they make me look like a steretypical secretary. All I need is the severe bun. I’ve already got the crisp white blouse and the pencil skirt…
Intellectually, we all know we’re going to get old, and there’s nothing that can stop it. With age, comes the fact that our bodies are going to wear out. Few people make it into old age without need of some artificial enhancement – hearing aid, glasses, walking stick (maybe even a plastic joint if one lives long enough).
I have been fortunate enough to reach the age of 40 with excellent eyesight – even considering I spend most of my waking life staring at a computer, and when I’m not doing that I’ve got my nose in a book.
However, these days are no more. My recent sight test has revealed that my vision has now deteriorated to a point where I need glasses to see distant things clearly – so, for driving, watching TV, and so on.
I had suspected this might be the case. There’s no doubt that my sight’s been getting shorter. I have been commuting through Victoria Station for the best part of 20 years. Once upon a time, I could read the train information boards from the back of the concourse. Nowadays, I need to be considerably closer than that to be able to read what platform my train’s leaving from. The only question was at what point would I be short-sighted enough to require specs? And it seems that this has now been answered.
I know glasses are no big deal, and I’m lucky to have not needed them before now. But I can’t help but feel just a little bit old, with the revelation of this first deteriorating body part.
Still, I had quite good fun choosing the frames. Seems there are a lot of cool styles to choose from these days. And I’m quite looking forward to seeing how I look in these new glasses. Maybe they will make me look more “writerly”!
I was given a birthday gift, by some good friends of mine, that is a rather weighty tome entitled “My Life Story”. It is, effectively, a 100-year diary – a place to record all the events of your life.
This seems a particularly appropriate gift for me. I’ve been keeping a diary since I was nine years old. I also have this blog, of course, which in many ways is just an extension of that.
In this book there are two pages for each season, of each year. At the end of each ‘winter’ section there is a space for a photograph of yourself for that year. There are spaces throughout the book to note life ambitions, to write a letter to yourself in 10 years’ time, to note likes and dislikes, jobs held, education received, and such things. In short, it is indeed a book in which to record one’s life.So I have decided to do this properly, and start at the beginning. This is going to be a life long project – literally. Without even going into the parts of my life that haven’t happened yet, I have to compile the last 40 years as well. I have started by going back through my oldest photo album, for childhood pictures. Amongst the ones I have unearthed is the one I have included here, from Christmas 1970. It seems I was always a very serious child, even at a year old.
The only problem is, of course, I can see that compiling this life story might be quite absorbing. And going back through my life can bring up painful memories. It’s the adolescent years that are the most problematic. Between the years of 1983 and 1989 I was nothing more than a stroppy, angsty collection of teenage hormones, and no doubt not very pleasant to be around.
But of course, one of life’s lessons is the ability to accept the past and move on. I suspect I might be doing quite a lot of that as I work on this book.
It is, however, a very appropriate gift for me and I am grateful to my friends for choosing it. I look forward to exploring both my past and my future as I complete it.
I was at my beautician’s earlier today, taking care of some depilation before the party. I was telling her all about my birthday party, and that it’s an 80s theme. When she asked me what I was going to wear, I told her I was going as Joan Jett.
“Who’s that, then?” she asked cheerfully.
I just thought, My God I’m old. It’s one thing to be unable to connect with teenagers – most people over the age of 21 can’t do that. It’s something else to discover there’s a generation of ‘grown ups’ that are so much younger than you are, they are moving in a different world.
My beautician is in her 20s. I suppose she must have been born at the end of the 1980s. She will have no memory of the world I was young in.
I’m starting to realise that this is going to happen to me more and more often, and that’s a sobering thought. It’s not that I’m getting older, to my mind. Just that everyone else is getting younger…
I now have less than three weeks left as a 30-something. On the whole, I feel comfortable with turning 40. When I look back on pictures of me from 20 years ago, I think actually I probably look better now than I did then. Part of that is down to confidence, which affects the way you carry yourself and the way you come across to others. I feel very comfortable with myself now, and as a teenager I had no confidence whatsoever
The other reason I might look better now than then has to do with my dreadful fashion sense in the 80s. If my stylist thinks I don’t have much of a sense of style now, she would have had heart failure if she’d have known me then because there has actually been a great deal of improvement!
I find myself in a philosophical mood as I approach the 40th anniversary of my birth, and have been reflecting on the life lessons I have learned in my years on this planet.
1. The most important lesson is that it doesn’t matter what other people think of you. I have my dad to thank for teaching me this one.
2. Closely related to 1, never be afraid to be yourself.
3. Own up to any mistakes you make and take the consequences for them. Then learn from them.
4. You can’t change the world single-handedly. However, if you can do one small thing to change someone else’s life for the better, in some tiny way, then it’s probably worth doing.
5. Life is too short to waste on reality TV.
6. Reading is never a waste of time.
7. Everyone’s body is beautiful, and no one’s is perfect. Learn to love yourself, including your imperfections.
8. Try not to worry about things you have no control over (I still struggle with this one).
9. Let go of the past. It does no one any good to hold grudges.
I’m sure there are more. These are the things that have been in my mind of late. I find myself more reflective as I get older.
And although I wouldn’t go back to being 20, and am embracing being 40, there are still times when I am reminded that I am getting old. Like the fact it takes me longer to recover from a few glasses of wine these days, for instance. But if age is the price we have to pay for wisdom, then I can accept that. I guess that’s another life lesson right there.
On the news this morning, it was mentioned that new guidelines regarding the use of child seats in cars has been released. It is now recommended that children are strapped into rear-facing car seats until they are at least four years old.
It’s quite a coincidence I heard this today, as my mother sent me this photograph a couple of days ago (I apologise for the quality – it’s a very, very old photo!!).
The bundle of joy being passed by the nurse into the arms of the beaming young mother is me, less than a week old, leaving the hospital I was born in. I rode in my mother’s arms all the way home. Not only was no car seat involved, there was no seat belt either. I can’t imagine how many health and safety laws that would break these days, but forty years ago no one thought any different.
In spite of all that, though, I’m still here. Fancy that.
I was grumbling about newfangled technology at the library last week. This is another grumble about newfangled technology, this time in the retail industry.
There’s a Boots chemist just down the road from my office, and I am a regular customer there. It’s where I buy most of my toiletries, often my tights, and sometimes even my lunch. They have recently overhauled the shop. I have no problem with the new layout, but they have put in those self-serve checkout points, where you scan your items and feed your money/card into a machine.
Call me cynical, but I don’t think this technology is installed for the convenience of the customer, I think it’s so the shop can save money by hiring less staff. There are five auto check outs and three regular checkouts – do the maths. At lunch time, they deign to put one person behind the tills. There is a longer queue at the ‘manned’ checkout than at the auto checkouts. I guess, like me, a lot of people are suspicious of newfangled technology.
If I pop in on my way to work, there’s no one at the tills at all and you have no choice but to use the auto checkout.
I am suspicious of using this gadget and would much rather be served by a human being. It reminds me of those automated telephone systems where you have to press a variety of buttons, including the ones to represent your credit card number, and you complete your transaction without ever speaking to a real person.
Fifteen years ago, I embraced new technology with a degree of enthusiasm. Now I find myself set in my ways and suspicious of anything new that requires me to change my usual habits.
I guess I’m getting old. Maybe it’s time for the cardis and the tartan slippers with zips!
“Hooray for Friday” – the refrain of the office worker. And today is a colleague’s birthday, so we’re off to the pub for lunch.
Not that I can drink anything stronger than soft drinks at lunch time these days and still expect to get any work done in the afternoon. A single glass of wine is enough to have me falling asleep at my desk. I guess I must be getting old!