I always wanted to be one of those people who just jumps off things or bounces around on a rope or swings in the trees or generally throws themselves around and hopes for the best.
However, that’s just not me.
I did ride some pretty big roller coasters when I was younger but then I watched a movie about a killer who went round sabotaging them so they would come off the rails and kill everyone, so that was the end of that.
Bungee stuff doesn’t appeal. I don’t have that much faith in ropes, cords, knots or people. Statistics say I’ll be fine but then statistics have a way of biting you in the arse when you least expect it and my luck has never been that good.
I can’t ski. I went to a lesson once with the school. Or maybe the church youth group. Who knows! I just remember we were all in our teens and I spent 99% of the time sliding down slopes on my bum. And I couldn’t stand the ‘whiffwhiff’ noise the trousers make.
I’ve been to nature parks and theme parks and many ‘fun-filled’ places where the air is heavy with screaming and people line up for hours to feel as if they got stuck in the tumble dryer at home.
But one of the good things about getting older is that I don’t have to do actual extreme sports now, it just happens.
Walking from the shower to the bedroom is dangerous. More than once I’ve slipped and splatted myself into a wall or a door. Once I almost did the splits and whacked my foot so hard against the step that I had a divot in it for the next few days. It’s like ice skating or skiing but without having dress up like the Michelin man and get on a plane first.
In South Africa we had a flight of stairs in our first house that tripped me up many a time. I wasn’t even drunk, honest! I managed to traverse said stairs from top to bottom on my own bottom and got a bruise as big as my hand and as black as licorice. If I could have justified dropping my trousers in public to show people, I would have. It was epic and I was very proud of it.
I climb on a chair to get something down from the top of the wardrobe and I end up in the wardrobe itself.
I managed to chip a tooth while eating museli the other day.
Just putting down the kickstand on my bike took off a layer of skin from my calf.
Life is just one long extreme sport for me!
You can keep your high ropes course and your death slide…I’ll stick to riding Joe through Friday traffic in Penang or bending down to pick up a shell from the beach.
Knowing me I’ll end up washed out to sea or stuck on the front of a big Malaysian truck like a hood ornament.
Life on the edge…and no safety net.
(because if I did have a safety net I’d probably just trip over it anyway)
I have been reading lots of books about how to plan your writing career and how to take your writing seriously and how to market yourself and how to just generally adult the bejesus out of this writing lark.
It’s not easy. I am, by my very nature, disinclined to follow directions. That’s a polite way of saying that if someone tells me to do something a certain way I will do my darndest to not do it that way…or just not do it at all. Mature of me, right?
So if every book and article is telling me to take time to work out a marketing plan and have some faith in my writing and get it out there in the world I will automatically do the opposite.
Except this time I haven’t. This time I have actually taken some of the advice to heart and even implemented some of it.
One of the things suggested was that I take my books off Amazon KDP. Now, this was a simple thing to do when I was first publishing. Just tick the box and then you can have people borrow your books or read an excerpt and you can run promotions etc. All good – tick the box and feel like I’ve done some marketing. Well, yes and no. I have now unticked the box and will continue to untick as the year goes on until I can finally upload my books to other places and not just Amazon. A step in the right direction. A start.
Then the other thing suggested was to run a promotion. For instance, I have written the fourth book in my First Person Singular Series and will begin editing it tomorrow – straight after my walk, my cereal and maybe a quick look at online videos of cute cats falling off stuff…
My aim is to get it uploaded to Amazon in August so, according to people who know more than I do about these things (which is everybody) I should run a promotion on the existing books. Running up to the publishing of the latest one I should be shouting about the previous ones so that people will read them, get addicted, buy the new one, love it, but the series, pay me millions and allow me to retire in style.
Not quite but something like that…
I will admit that KDP makes it easy to do those sort of things and with just some peering at the screen and a couple of false starts I have managed to set up a promotion for the first three books.
So…the first book up for promo is:
If you like your books with added zombies then you’ll love this.
Also contains references to bar snacks, pick ‘n’ mix and a confetti cannon
because when you’re stuck in an abandoned nightclub in the middle of a zombie apocalypse
you might as well have a good time.
If you go to Amazon on 15th or 16th June you can get the book for free.
Greater love hath no Scotswoman…
If you read it and enjoy it then please leave a nice review – if you read it and don’t like it then please keep it to yourself.
So there you have it – there’ll be a promotion in July and another in August leading up to the release of the fourth First Person Singular book in the series.
Well, I think that’s more than enough adulting from me – I’m off to shirk responsibilities and generally be a menace to society.
I have read that people who are successful bloggers need to ‘monetize’ their blogs.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I would love to earn money from blogging but I’m not sure I’m comfortable with selling things. I mean, I don’t want to lose readers because they can’t stand the fact that an advert for chewing gum keeps popping up everywhere they look on my blog.
And what would people who read my blog buy anyway?
It’s not exactly going to earn me millions, is it!
Perhaps I’ve got the wrong end of the stick though. Perhaps I should start small and work my way up…
I’ve got a bike helmet to sell.
Bought it in Tesco and don’t like it.
Looks like pretty much every other bike helmet in the world.
Just let me know…
And until the money comes rolling in, here’s a photo of a monkey getting jiggy with an abandoned snowman Christmas decoration.
(I’m sure I could have made some money off that image in the right circles but never mind – I spoil you guys, I really do!)
I have kept my diary from 2020. This is so I can open it up, flick through the pages and laugh hysterically.
I wrote things like ‘give chocolates to hairdresser and guards’ and ‘last guitar lesson’ and ‘book UK eye appointment’ and best of all ‘graduation’.
Who was I kidding?!
This time last year we were waking up on the floor of Heathrow terminal. I wonder, is that kind of anniversary paper or glass? Should I send Terminal 5 a little card saying ‘it was only one night but I’ll never forget you’…? Too much?
We had got on a plane, then another plane, then slept on the floor and we were tired, emotional and just plain pissed off. I remember folding myself into the half back seat of our hire car and sleeping pretzel-like some of the way from Heathrow to Fife, Scotland. I had to make up for the fact I’d stayed awake all night in Heathrow pacing the floors and talking to myself like the looney everyone always assumes I am.
I didn’t feel I could go to sleep for fear that someone would steal our bags or our passports or my son. I decided I would stay awake and protect my exhausted menfolk from all the dangers that lurk in an airport terminal overnight…like other muttering mad people or cleaners with squeaky shoes. I was ready for anything. I was channeling all my primal protection instincts into staying awake and not drooling on the Kindle screen.
I was also convinced that if I lay down on the floor I would never be able to get up again without a team of operatives and a small crane.
We made our way up the country that day, still trying to come to terms with the fact we’d left Africa for good after about 4 years of calling it home and were now playing the waiting game to see when we could move on to our next country/job/home/school.
Despite the circumstances it was actually a pleasant journey. We were glad to have made it to the UK, and gladder still to be heading home to Scotland. The sun shone and the traffic was light. The fact that my pretzel position was slowly turning my spine to jelly and laying the foundation for some amazingly painful sciatica was beside the point.
We would spend the next two weeks in self-imposed quarantine surrounded by beautiful Scottish countryside and wonder where all the masks, hand sanitizer and temperature controls had disappeared to.
Our time would fly by as we did jigsaws and tried to avoid emailing various South African institutions and telling them to shove their bureaucratic paperwork demands up their buttholes.
Such fun times!
So, this year is a little different.
We have decided not to even try to fly back to the UK because:
a) paying to quarantine in a hotel room at a UK airport for two weeks is only slightly better than kipping one night on the floor for free.
b) we haven’t been vaccinated and all that ringing of a little bell everywhere we go is just going to set off my carpal tunnel.
c) there’s no guarantee we’d get a flight back to Penang and attending school/going to work at 3 am is probably not as much fun as it sounds
d) I have seen enough hazmat Oompa-Loompas to last me a lifetime.
e) much as I intend to go back to Kuala Lumpur I’d like it not to be under a police escort if possible
and f) we really do value our sanity and bank balance too much to put either one through all that shit again…
So we will wimp out and stay here.
I have made the mistake of writing some things in the diary but at least this year I’ve learnt to only ever write them in pencil.
We will see more of Penang, travel to the mainland, go up hills and along rivers, visit temples, eat noodles, walk on the beach and stay in a nice hotel.
If all else fails (and it often does) then we will order greasy food, play board games and watch far too much Netflix.
Maybe we’ll even camp out on the floor one night, just for old times sake….?
A good question…just what the scallop is this blog?
Somebody said to me ‘oh, so you do a travel blog?’ and I said nope.
They said ‘so, it’s a food thing then?”…nope.
‘Is it lifestyle??” they asked, while subtly eyeing up my grubby black t-shirt and shorts ensemble…obvs nope.
And that got me thinking – what kind of blog is this and does it have to be a certain type and who, what, where, when and why…?
The ‘who’ is me. I am a grumpy Scottish woman of a certain age who can’t stop writing. I would love to take a whole day off from either blogging or writing plays or books or stories or whatever – but the voices in my head won’t shut up. I also love a good moan and want everyone to know that no matter how badly they think they are adulting there is someone out there (me) doing it way worse. I wear black most of the time, bake cakes but don’t cook meals, enjoy ironing, watch serial killer documentaries or Muppet movies, talk to myself and laugh too much at my own jokes.
The ‘what’ is a blog…but it only came about because my friend Alex said my Facebook posts were far too long and I should blog instead.
‘Where’ is Ghana first of all, thanks to the help of Ryan who showed me literally what to press to make it go…then kindly showed me again when I forgot. Then the ‘where’ was South Africa, and now Penang.
‘When’ is more tricky. As I’ve previously admitted, this was very hit and miss for the longest time and has only just begun to be a regular thing. I reached 200 posts and realised I have a notebook full of ideas still to write so…
‘Why’ is the big one. As I say, Alex got fed up reading my Facebook posts and nagged me into it but I’ve kept writing it because it appeals to me.
Blogging means I can sit down and chat to my friend. I can relax with them and take my time so I end up sounding a lot funnier and more interesting than I do in person…always a bonus. They also don’t get to tell me I’m wrong and I never have to leave the house.
That friend is you, by the way.
But should I be aiming in a certain direction? If I stuck to just posting about travels or about nice food would that attract more people; more friends? And do I even want that? Since I really don’t give a hoot about having tons of friends in the real world, should I care in the virtual one?
I mean, I am not current.
I have nothing startling or especially relevant to say.
I am out of touch and out of my depth most of the time.
I am to blogging what Eddie the Eagle was to ski jumping. I try, but at the end of the day I’m probably going to come last…and look a bit of a prat doing it.
But then, that’s never stopped me before.
So, it’s just a blog about this and that, getting old, falling over, hating fellow humans, forgetting what you were saying, eating too much, exercising too little, laughing too loud and being an expat.
It is written by a blogger who is old enough to know better but rarely does. A blogger who has only just worked out how to do the basics and fails at that sometimes too. She’s not fat, she’s not thin, she’s not clever, she’s not stupid.
And she…I…will swear quite a lot.
But as long as you don’t mind all that then neither do I…
Oh, and someone told me all blogs should have a photo because that looks better so here’s a nice beach.
My jokes are not the only thing going downhill as I get older.
I know I’ve regaled (which in this context means ‘bored shitless’) you all with my tales of the joys of growing old because I am obviously the only person this has ever happened to and therefore I need to tell everyone else all about it…but there are some new developments.
I can’t click. No, not as in ‘click with people’ I mean I can’t click my fingers. Now, this probably rates up there with the old ‘will I ever play the piano again?’ joke but it’s a thing nevertheless. I don’t mean that I am spending my days wailing with grief at the loss of what was, at best, a mediocre skill but…everyone likes to click their fingers, right? I mean, what will I do if I’m in a restaurant and I need a waiter to come over? Oh, well, I’ll just have to ask them nicely I suppose. Bor-ring!
I also can’t fold socks. The whole act of turning them right way round and folding them over so they stay paired is just beyond me now. I can do it only if I have a spare half hour and don’t mind wincing every time. And I do; I do mind.
I have started to repeat myself. I mean, I’ve always been forgetful but this is a new level. I will say something to Hubby, leave the room, brush my hair, go back in to Hubby and say the same thing again. I have to check back my WhatsApp and email to make sure I’m not doing it too much when I message people. And most of my sentences start with ‘I might have already told yo this but…’
My jokes are getting really bad. They are obvious, they are short and I am finding them waaay more funny than they actually are. It’s like a whole section of my brain entitled ‘Dad Jokes’ has been activated and I hear myself and yet can’t stop myself.
I dance like your dad. Presumably it’s linked to the joke telling but I have lost the ability to move my body in anything resembling fluid movement. I do not know what to do with my hands and my feet refuse to do anything other than shuffle back and forth. And yet, in my head I am rocking the dance floor.
I can’t explain anything to anyone quickly. I know the bit of information they want and I used to be able to access it and hand it over but no more. I hear myself starting to tell them things that are only vaguely relevant and adding more and more information that they could literally not give a fuck about. Their eyes may glaze over but I care not…
Everything hurts all the time.
I find myself being concerned whether other people can cope with things. Perhaps they need my help or advice? I should check. This person is usually a fully-functioning adult with far more brain cells than me and at least 25 years on this planet but for some reason my brain says – ‘you’d better help them out or they’ll do it all wrong’…
And I can’t fold socks…oh, wait, I did that one.
(yes, I told a bad joke to highlight that fact I forget what I’ve told people and repeat myself…)
In fact, I am known for the opposite and usually spend my time advising people to not do the things they are planning to do.
It’s just a by-product of my natural pessimism.
I also don’t tend to endorse things because no-one pays me to do so and I’m Scottish and therefore not inclined to do anything without some form of recompense.
(chocolate, cider, or cold, hard cash in case anyone’s asking)
Since I am a grumpy and slightly lumpy woman of a certain age and not a young and trendy social media influencer, I prefer to just blog about old age, forgetfulness and other things that I can’t remember right now…ah yes, bad jokes!
But in this case, allow me to influence you. And for those of you who don’t live in Penang, perhaps to inspire you.
Before we moved to Penang, I looked online and on Facebook for any and every bit of advice I could find and one of the ones that actually proved useful was called a company called ‘Spiral Synergy’. And no, I can’t remember how I found them…that was months ago! I can barely even remember what I had for tea last night…please!
After signing up for their newsletter I would glance at it and read about events happening and items for sale, but it took me until just the other week before I finally thought ‘let’s give that a go’.
Hubby and I decided it was time to test whether Teen could be left on his own at home for a few hours without electrocuting himself or setting something on fire. I hasten to add that he’s never done either of those things but we don’t like to count our chickens. We decided to book the tour of Seven Terraces hotel in Georgetown with lunch included.
What fun, what japes, how very adulting of us!
For those of you who don’t like to be kept in suspense, we got home to find Teen slumped in front of the telly and the apartment was still in one piece.
We also had a great time – so it was a very win/win kind of day.
We started off with a talk from the owner of the hotel about how it all came about and what the place looked like before he renovated it.
It’s always amazing when you’re sitting inside somewhere luxurious to see a slideshow proving that it once looked like a pile of rubble that’s been set fire to.
The justifiable pride that the owner has in his renovation comes across during the course of the tour and the hotel itself is the epitome of charm and good taste.
Seriously, I felt as if I had wandered onto a set for one of those Sunday night BBC dramas; perhaps Hercule Poirot would come bustling round the corner at any moment?
When you walk into a hotel room, everyone gasps and the owner says ‘this is one of the basic suites’ then you know you’re somewhere pretty special.
Seven Terraces has room after room full of the most amazingly carved beds and cabinets along with sofas and daybeds that I would be hard-pressed to ever get up from.
Everywhere you turn there are quaint doorways, embroidered wall hangings and porcelain, porcelain and more porcelain.
And I’ve certainly never been to a hotel that had a wrought-iron spiral staircase in one of the rooms…have you?
Stop showing off…that was rhetorical!
My favourite piece was down in the courtyard – what I like to call the giraphant. It’s a metal piece of art that, from one side of the courtyard looks like two giraffes and then as you walk past it to the other side it transforms into two elephants.
I won’t spoil the surprise by posting a photo of both sides.
We all spent a good five minutes just walking back and forth across the courtyard going ‘oooh…yes…ooooh!’ before we moved on to the dining room for lunch.
I’ve had some delicious meals in Penang. Some of them in small, roadside places with plastic chairs and tables. Some of them in quite fancy restaurants. None of them quite like this.
If it’s not too much trouble, I would like to eat in this very restaurant every day please. And I think all my meals should come in a beautiful lacquered box too. Even Subway sandwiches…
Our lunch was a taster menu that looked as good as it tasted.
What was it all? No idea, I can’t remember for the life of me; I just know it was delicious.
And did I mention the workshop?
I’m fairly sure this was the first time I’ve ever visited a hotel with its own full-time carpenter on staff. He has his own workshop out the back and uses only the very latest, cutting edge (pun intended) tools of the trade…
His workshop is full of pieces that he is making for the hotel or restoring, because restoration is a big part of why Seven Terraces exists.
As you know by now, I’m Scottish and we tend to inform anyone we meet that we are Scottish and proud of it; Penangites are the same. Seven Terraces is part of an initiative to collect and restore as much Penang heritage as possible, whether by employing craftsmen to work on the restoration or supporting them by other means such as pensions.
All in all, Seven Terraces feels very much like a living museum, but one that makes you so welcome that you’d never want to leave. And where else can you say that you’ve seen giraffes and elephants in the middle of Georgetown?
As a famous funny man once said…’I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member’.
This was my mantra until recently but now I’ve added ‘except for the Ironclad Creative Hub, that is’.
I am a Cladder and proud of it!
I’d love to say that I remember vividly everything about how I first heard about Ironclad Hub and those first days of joining but I can’t. This is partly because I’ve hit the stage in life where if I don’t write something down then I immediately forget it but also because it felt like just another thing to tick off my to-do list.
It was for creatives, it looked and sounded interesting, it was free and I had nothing to lose.
On looking into it, the Hub seemed to be about creating a community of creatives to help and support each other with events, training and mentoring. I was already signed up for a couple of writing opportunity sites and assumed this would work along the same lines. I saw it as something I could check in with once a week or so and perhaps even make some contacts or get to hear about opportunities.
It turns out I couldn’t have been more wrong – but in a good way.
Ironclad Creative is an actual community. Not just in the blurb on the site but in reality. I have become part of a group of people who are genuinely welcoming and lovely.
Now, bear in mind that I am a grumpy Scottish woman who loves nothing better than a good moan and an eye-roll to start the day so when I say it’s an inclusive and safe space to be then you know it must be true.
With well over 150 members already I was worried about it all getting a little impersonal but that’s not the case. With so many different disciplines catered for it’s more like being part of an online theatre company; we’ve even got a noticeboard and a water cooler to ‘stand’ and chat around.
I’ll admit that my other worry was the amount of notifications I’d get pinging around in my email. There’s nothing worse than signing up for something and then finding your inbox is overflowing with a message every time somebody sneezes! Well, between you and me, a quick trip to your personal settings and you can choose who, what, where, when and why you get notified, which makes life much more bearable.
Within a short space of time, I now have regular events that I take part in and look forward to the Monday Check-in, the Friday Celebration and the Sunday Writing Sprint. And it’s not just writing that the Hub caters for because, lets face it, very few creatives are just one thing or the other.
For instance, I started out as an actress, then became a stage manager and am now a writer. If you are a director, producer, dancer, technician, writer, actor, or youth leader – or any combination – then there’s something for you on the Hub. There’s cultural news from the UK and worldwide, workshops, events, Zoom meetings and everything in between. Want to learn 75 improvisation games in 600 minutes? Yes, there’s an event for that. And the best news? Most of it is completely free. You can donate if you want to but there’s no pressure and although some of the larger workshops have a small cost the emphasis is very much on the performing arts as a career being available to everyone.
To have a space to come and meet up, swap ideas, chat and get or give support is priceless.
It was started, not because of Covid but because something of this sort needed to exist, and although they’re based in Brighton, I’ve found that, as the group grows, there are more members from beyond the UK.
As you know, I’m in Malaysia and this fact used to make me a novelty but not any longer. Every day there are more people joining from all over the world and it makes this cynical old woman’s heart glad to see the Ironclad community grow and flourish like this.
But before you start rolling your eyes like me, come and take the plunge.
Just don’t let the fact that I’m a member put you off…I didn’t!
It may look like a moped, it may sound like a moped, and it may even taste like a moped…but it is a jet ski.
Well, it was the other day anyway.
I am from Scotland and I know rain.
I know the big, fat, sploshy kind that actually hurts your head when it lands on you.
I know the horizontal kind that drives straight into your eyeballs.
I know the thin, drifting kind that looks like mist but manages to get you drenched in no time and just hangs around in the air all day and seeps into your socks.
I also know the normal kind that has just enough cold wind behind it to send shivers up and down your spine.
Penang manages to go through the whole cycle in about 30 minutes.
You can see it coming over the hill like some sort of ominous, grey, blancmange. Penang rain is not subtle. It doesn’t suddenly appear. It comes at you with grumbles and groans and loud booms. It announces itself and looms in the sky looking magnificent until you think it just might change it’s mind and bugger off.
Then it tips seven shades of watery hell on you.
The big, fat kind comes in horizontally and seeps down your collar and into your pants.
Then it changes it up a bit and becomes the thin kind that drives straight into your face and ears but with the added bonus of being sharp as knives so you get a free exfoliation at the same time.
For a hot country it only takes a little bit of rain for you to suddenly be shivering where you were sweating like a bastard only a moment ago.
The sweat that has dripped into your eyes all morning is washed away by the oodles of rain water that cascade over your face like a waterfall and your clothes, shoes, entire body and soul are drenched in approx 0.2 seconds.
So imagine my unending joy at being caught in all that while riding Joe home from the shops. Along the winding coastal road with intermittent roadworks and drivers who don’t know their indicators from their elbow.
I would have sworn out loud a lot more but I was afraid I’d drown…
It was equal parts scary as all get out and exhilarating.
A case of ‘never again!’ and ‘again! again!’ all in one.
I suppose my baptism into island life had to happen some time…although this felt less like a baptism and more like a disaster movie.