Pools of Blue


Waves, the sea, the water Waves

Sea, every time. I live less than five miles from the coast now, but it’s the furthest away I’ve ever been. For nine years or thereabouts I lived so close to the shore I could sometimes fall asleep to the sound of the water, if it was particularly rough or choppy, or an especially quiet night.

I’ll never stop being calmed by the sea spray and the smell of salt water. The air itself is different around the sea, and I relish it.

The sky might be the most beautiful, but in my heart of hearts I’m sat on the end of the old Ferryside pier, just listening.

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Reasons


Having been off work for such a long time with (what I think is) a pathetic reason, I’ve become quite self loathing. I’ve never particularly had much love for myself, I’ve never given myself any sort of reason to, but I’ve recently come to consider myself a really loathesome little creature. Too scared to even choose a place to eat with Chris, anxiety attacks at the thought of inviting a friend to do something and so little faith in my abilities that I can’t even get beyond the very preliminary thoughts of doing anything worthwhile. On top of that is the overwhelming sense that even if I were to somehow come out on top, there wouldn’t be a place in the job market for a girl with no useful qualifications and a nearly two year gap on her CV. What motivation do I have to make the extra effort required?

My Mother's wedding day

My Dadcu, before he walked my mum slowly down the aisle.

Well, I might have found something. My granddad, my Dadcu, my mother’s father. I’ve never known him a healthy man, but he’s approaching his eighties now and it’s really been showing lately. Not so many months ago gout caused by diabeties meant he had a leg amputated at the knee. Some years before he was rushed to hospital  for reasons that I can’t remember, but I know it was a close thing. Last night, the 29th of March, he had a heart attack. Today, he’s in a medically induced coma, fighting for his life.

In his own gruff way, he has always wanted the best for my brother and me. He bought me my first computer when I had to start writing essays for school. He was always generous with things he thought served a worthwhile purpose and I’ve spent my life drowning in myriad worlds of books and stories brought to me in part through his encouragement and generosity. He would give me the occassional £10 and whisper to me ‘Don’t tell your Grandmother’. He taught me pretty much everything I know about sports but always refused to teach me to cheat at cards.

I’ve seen him overcome so much, and I know he will overcome this latest threat. He wouldn’t leave my gran on her own like that; he promised me he’d look after her. He has to get better. I can’t let him go to the grave knowing his only granddaughter to be a failure. I have to show him I’m worth something, that all his encouragement wasn’t for naught, that the failure I’ve been so far isn’t all I’m ever going to be.

I don’t know what I’m going to do yet but it needs to be something that will make him proud to be my granddad. My Dadcu.

More than 30 years ago.

Henry Ronald Rees, late 70’s

How many games must a man walk down?


Or something like that, anyway. If you have any sort of interest in video gaming or like to keep up with new releases in the industry, you’ll know that this week and the coming week are long anticipated for a lot of people.

For a start, we had Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 released on the 9th. Midnight launches and record-breaking sales suggest that November has had its biggest release already. However, Activision will certainly be facing some still competition tomorrow when the release of two games with huge and dedicated fan bases could challenge its new king of the gaming charts.

Diablo 3 Image

Eleven years ago, we saw the release of Diablo 2 for the PC. This game was one of the biggest names in the early 2000’s and continues to be popular with fans today. However, online multiplayer of Diablo 2 could see a decline soon as Blizzard releases Diablo 3, taking advantage of the 11/11/11 to release a game 11 years after its prequel. Some fans are upset at the online-only game play that Blizzard seems to favour (their other major title being MMO giant World of Warcraft). For some reason, Blizzard are surprised that not everyone’s happy with this.

However, even more startling about Diablo 3 is the ban Blizzard have placed on modding. For many people, myself included, part of the PC gaming experience is focused around mods. It’s quite possible that I would be a console gamer if not for The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind. I played everything in that game to death and when I was about to shelve it away as ‘done’, I discovered the modding community, and a true PC gamer was born. Mods more than tripled the play time available to me in Morrowind.

When you look a little deeper, though, you start to work out why modding is prohibited. Blizzard, in their infinite wisdom, have implemented an Auction House in the game, from which players will be able to buy items for their characters. Normal enough right? Nope, Blizzard have decided that they are going to be the pot and call the kettle black by making stuff for sale for real life money. In the past, Blizzard have spent huge amounts of resources trying to stop people on World of Warcraft exchanging real money (and other things) for in-game money, but it’s something they are implementing themselves in Diablo 3! Maybe they found out how lucrative the market was and decided they wanted their finger in that pie, too.

November the 18th sees the official release of Minecraft, though whether an official release date for a game which has already sold more than four million copies is necessary, I’m not sure. Minecraft started off at a very low price and was £7.99 when I bought my own copy, while it was still in its alpha stages. As time has gone on, the price of Minecraft has increased – now it’s £13.95, and it will be around twenty pounds on full release. So if you’re going to get it, do so now to avoid the price hike.

For me though, November has something else. As if those three huge-name titles weren’t already enough, November the 11th sees the release of a game that I have been anticipating for a very long time.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

Go on, guess the game.

My whole computer gaming career was cemented in place as I said previously, by The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind. I would spend hours shut in my bedroom, using the computer that my grandparents bought me for schoolwork, exploring the vast expanse of the island of Vvardenfall, wearing the faces of many different people, from noble knights to cunning thieves to maniacal magic-users and back again. Morrowind satisfied me for three years, until Bethesda released the PC-testing The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.

As soon as I caught a whif of the system requirements, I knew that my tired HP machine just wouldn’t cut it. I made my own machine, designed to play Oblivion on it’s most hardcore graphics settings. I finished the machine after Oblivion had been out for about two weeks, The wait was agonising but worth it. At that point, it was more worth it than anything I’d ever experienced before, and that included sex.

Now, it’s five years later. My baby, the looming black and silver machine whirring away in the corner of my bedroom has served me well, a true testament to the phrase ‘you get what you pay for’. However, five years of heavy use will tire out even the best computer, and with the latest installment of a series that has defined my life since I was a teenager on the horizon, I knew what needed to be done. One of the last jobs of the Oblivion Machine was to order its own replacement. Now it’s cold and silent and sad, as I cavort with the younger, sexier model, the Skyrim Machine, delivered to me a couple of weeks ago.

I am restless with excitement. The fact that many people have been able to already pre-download Skyrim on Steam has served only to agitate me further. As much of a Steam fan as I am (I really do believe that it’s the ‘future of gaming’), I have pre-ordered my copy of Skyrim from Game for one simple reason. The versions of TES III & IV I got (the GotY edition and the Limited Edition) both came with posters showing the world map, as did the Shivering Isles expansion to Oblivion. There are two ways to get the Skyrim version of the poster map – getting the Limited Edition, which is sadly way out of my budget, being £129, or pre-ordering the game from either Game or Gamestation stores. So, in exchange for a small delay (I will have to wait until Game opens, and then walk home and install the game before I can play it instead of playing as soon as I wake up) I will get to continue my much-loved map collection. It’s not Elder Scrolls without a map blu-tacced to the wall.

He's watching you.

This wallpaper release had me all a-quiver earlier this year.

However, I’m not fifteen anymore. I’ve lived and loved since then and played a lot more video games too. My tastes have developed and changed and I’ve discovered that actually, maybe video games aren’t better than sex, after all.

The build up to Skyrim might have given me the same thrills and excitement as I experienced when Oblivion’s release date was creeping nearer, but will that first ‘New Game’ give me the same absolute astonishment? All PC games these days can acheive a level of graphic detail and scope that Oblivion had, so maybe Skyrim’s graphics won’t make me want to pinch myself, but will the rest of the game blow my socks off in the same way? Watch this space.

Sadly though, Skyrim has already become a part of the PC vs Consoles war. Bethesda has been lifted to power by fans of the Elder Scrolls series, and carried along by the PC modding community. However, there has already been the announcement that the first two pieces of extra content for Skyrim will be exclusive to the X-box for a month before us PC gamers or PS3 owners get our versions. the deal with Microsoft had better have been worth annoying such a huge portion of your customers, Bethesda! This is twice as infuriating when you learn that they have promised the DLC packs will be infrequent and substantial – there will be big parts of the internet that I will have to stay away from in order to avoid spoilers for the DLC for 30 days each time, if they are going to be big story-additions and extra content instead of things like the infamous horse armour add-on for Oblivion.

You might never find out just how much I enjoy Skyrim, though – I’ve already given Chris a warning that he shouldn’t expect me to be particularly sociable while I’m playing it. The chances of me finding the time to write about it are slim to none. I should have known I’d never manage NaNoWriMo.

With Friends Like These…


I’ve never been the most popular person around. For my whole life, I’ve had to get used to being the person from an odd-numbered group who has to sit on their own on the bus, or the one people forget to invite to places. I’m the one who gets edged out when someone new and more interesting comes along. The one who’s only part of the group because they just won’t stop turning up places.

In the few years I’ve been living in Lancaster, there have been a few occasions where I’ve mistakenly assumed that this effect has worn off and that I have settled into a group. With the people at Archery, it became obvious very quickly when I was no longer welcome around, though the only thing I’d done was fallen in love with the president of the society and the captain’s best friend.

Possibly one of the most hostile and difficult situations I’ve ever been in; the overnight stay in Chester will remain vividly etched in my mind as one of the worst weekends of my life. When the aforementioned man and myself ended our relationship, there was no longer any question of me being able to shoot – my bow proved to quickly become a three hundred pound paperweight.

Luckily for me, not all of my forays into pre-established friendship groups proved so harmful to my mental health; my attendance at RocSoc was simply not high enough to become firmly established in that social group. I know the people, and they know me, but aside for a couple of exceptions we’re never going to be bosom-buddies. Less intimacy and attachment; less eventual pain.

The place I really did think I’d stick, however, was LURPS. Lancaster university role-playing society. Full of people who were teased in school and consider themselves to be socially ‘different from the norm’. Even I couldn’t be considered annoying or weird compared to some of these guys, right?

For a while, I was so enamoured by everyone in LURPS that I found it hard to settle into a particular group. Before too long though, I gathered a few people I was particularly interested and amused by, people I thought I could trust and enjoy the company of, and we became a group, a brigade even. A core group of six with some peripheral people, and I felt like I’d found my own version of the Friends cast, people who I’d continue to be friends with through my twenties and beyond.

Despite some hiccups, such as Dan leaving Lancaster (if you’re reading this, Dan, we miss you!), we’re still here three years on. Three years of trying and testing each other, laughing, crying, and loving together, and I thought that I’d finally be able to tick ‘lifetime friends’ off my list of things I need for a satisfactory life.

It seems though, that life thought I needed another false start, another lesson learned. To offset the balance of a social group is a very easy thing, especially when the group contains someone such as me, who is so easily displaced from their comfort zone. I fill a particular role in the group – I am the only girl, the main ear that gets confided in, the funny, cute girl who messes about and kicks butt in Team Fortress 2. I also take a lot of maintenance as a friend, something I know and am trying hard to work on. I am almost obsessively sociable; even when I’m feeling anti-social or ill I want there to be people around me, so I can listen to them talk and know that I’m not alone when I’m feeling at my worst.

For three years, I have been able to have all the support that I need from this group of friends, and from Sam more than most. He and I are ‘best’ friends, and despite several ups and downs between us, I thought that wasn’t going to change, at least not while we continue to house share.

Now though, there’s someone else. A girl I can’t even bring myself to have any hostile feelings towards; she and I have always been towards the ‘friends’ end of the acquaintance scale, and from what I can tell she is a lovely, interesting, funny, pretty, gamer girl.

For almost the whole time he’s known her, Sam has been interested in her, and I can’t blame him. Nothing ever came of it though, because she has had a boyfriend since before Sam ever met her. Nevertheless, his interest never waned; he just supressed it. Until recently. I don’t want to air out exactly what’s happening between them, so what it comes down to is that she has very quickly become a close friend to Sam.

I had no worry when Sam was pursuing her as a romantic interest; in fact I was all for it – Sam is a great guy and deserves to find a girl who’ll make him happy and put up with how stubborn he is. Now that it has emerged that they aren’t going to be entering into a romantic relationship, I am fighting a losing battle for the position of Sam’s best friend. Why would he want to keep me when he could have someone who is just a vastly improved version of me? The signs are already beginning to show; Sam and I have spent very little time together just hanging out recently. He’s been busy, or there have been other more interesting people around. Sam’s always had the time for her though.

Most of my group of friends already consider her to be a friend, too, so it’s only a matter of time before I’m left at the starting post without them all, because again, who’d keep me around when she’s a prettier, funnier, more interesting and intelligent version of me with less neuroses for them to worry about? From there, it’s only a short step before they stop inviting me along to the race at all.

 

PS. I know that you’re all entitled to freedom of speech and can say whatever you want about it, but before you post about how selfish and whinghy I sound in this post, please have a little bit of sympathy for the girl who’s missing her best friend and scared of being replaced by someone far superior.

 

PPS. The main body of this post (that is, not counting the two post-scripts) totals 1000 words exactly. Random round numbers like that give me a little bit of a thrill.

The thought that counts.


I’ve always thought of myself as a ‘good daughter’ without ever exploring what a good daughter is. However, I realised a couple of weeks ago, around my twenty-first birthday, what it takes to be a good daughter. I’ll tell you that later.

In a lot of ways, despite being considered weird by many of my peers, I was a fairly normal teenage girl. I fought with my younger brother, sneaked out of the house to get drunk with friends, played truant from school and fed table scraps to the dog. The living room was always full of my clutter, I kept secrets from my parents, I hated doing chores and I nagged and whined to get bought sweets, clothes and other things.

Nothing particular there that makes me a good daughter, right? In fact, when I look back on my teen years, I can see that I really wasn’t very helpful at all. There are so many small things I could have done and should have done – the smallest things really would have made a huge difference to my mother. The only way she got through the last eleven years is by being a secret superhero.

About a year (at an estimate – the timeframe is very skewed in my head and I can’t be certain) after we moved to Ferryside as a family of four, we became a family of three when my mum ended her relationship with my dad. I remember walking the dog with mum along the cliff in the summer, and she asked me what I thought of the possibility. I was eleven, but understood one small thing about adult-types. They needed to be happy just as much as us kids did. I told mum that if she wasn’t happy then she needed to make moves towards becoming happy. Nonetheless, when I got home from school on a Wednesday afternoon and my dad was gone, I was shocked – I couldn’t fathom why he’d left so suddenly, without waiting to say ‘bye to my brother and me.

After that, my Mum had to take care of two preteens, a happy-grumpy old dog, a small business that often needed her to be in several places at once, and herself, without any support aside from what her parents could provide (which was a lot, don’t get me wrong, but mum needed more than a lot). Over the next ten years, my mum would face many challenges. The business that she worked so hard to bring back from the ashes started to flutter out, her children hit their teens, she had relationships with men ranging from a bit flakey to full-blown violent alcoholic (the guy in question was eventually removed from our lives when my mum discovered his profiles on some very questionable dating sites). As well as the business, the house started to fall apart, too – holes in the kitchen roof, leaky plumbing, decrepid chimney and all kinds of other things. In the winter, we were always cold and there was never enough money. Eventually, our happy-grumpy dog died – he was fourteen, and too arthritic to get out of the way of the vehicle that hit him.

Despite all those problems – despite everything that could go wrong doing just that, we never went hungry. None of the men that my mum was trying to make a life for herself with ever laid a finger on my brother or me, and I’m sure that if one had tried, they’d have been out the door (or window, I don’t think mum would have been too picky) quicker than blinking. Our clothes were always clean. I doubt either of us triggered any warning signs in the eyes of our teachers as kids coming from anything other than standard home lives.

Things have settled down considerably in the years since I turned sixteen. My mum met and fell for Julian and before long he moved in with us. They’ve been married two years now, and while being far from perfect, Julian does seem to make my mum happy. Both my brother and I have moved away from home now and they live together with little dog and the cats (of which there are three), making the house my mum bought with my dad into their own place. My mum even has a regular 9-5 day job.

The thing that made it all bearable was my mum’s ability to hold it all together. Through every scrap of chaos she has had one eye on me and one eye on my brother. Even now, living hundreds of miles away, I can feel it when I’m at my worst – I want my mum to give me a hug and pick up the pieces I’ve dropped along the way, because she has that look in her eye that tells me that there’s no path I could take so far from the right one that will lead me away from her. Even when I leave the path to walk in the trees, she’s never far away.

Obviously I can’t say for sure yet, but I think I learned from my mum that the three most important things to give your kids are love, trust and time. Even though I did plenty of teenaged things to make the first two things hard for mum to provide (did I mention sneaking out the window?), the third thing has always been available, even when it hasn’t. Being in a hurry to get the shopping done never stopped my mum from taking me to lunch when possible. The cost of a phone call from landline to mobile never stopped us talking for hours. The delay between sending and receiving never stopped us writing letter to each other.

The crux of this post is meant to be what being a ‘good daughter’ entails, and the most astute among you might have noticed that I’ve said nothing on the subject at hand. That’s because the day-to-day stuff really matters very little in the end. The important thing in the mother-daughter relationship is that the daughter learns to see and appreciate every inch the mother gives. Every time she carries your jumper, every time she gives you an extra piece of chocolate, every time she drives you to college, every tissue she gives you when you cry.

When I was sixteen, I was selfish and really did focus on myself more than my family (as sixteen year olds often do). Now I’m twenty-one and the thought of spending any prolonged period of time thinking of myself is abhorrent due to my anxiety and depression, I find myself thinking for hours at a time about the other people who play a part in my life. Through this I realised everything that it takes to raise children and really did genuinely puzzle over how my mum managed it all.She is superhuman.

What it all comes down to in the end is that there are no good daughters. There are good mothers, with daughters who will eventually look back and want to apply their own lessons to their daughters.

Then sometimes, there are great mothers.