Blessing Counter.

I am not one for counting my blessings.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that I thrive on having less blessings.

The less blessings I have, the more opportunities I have for being a grumpy bitch.

And lets face it – grumpy bitch is my comfort zone. It’s my happy place. It’s my wheelhouse. It’s all those other crappy phrases that mean it is what makes me, me.

So, in many ways the apocalypse has been a godsend. It has certainly provided enough blog-fodder to keep me ‘happy’ for a long time and by happy I mean pissed off and annoyed. I’ve been able to profess my indignation and general hatred of life, the universe and people at regular intervals for ages now.

Bliss!

Being stuck in the house with my nearest and dearest has meant that I can witter on about how they won’t stop interrupting me, how they invade my personal space and how they just don’t care about how much I’m struggling to think of another word for ‘shit’.

The last couple of years have seen one thing after another come along to thwart what few good intentions I once had and restore my lack of faith in people’s ability to not be total knobs to each other.

I have been allowed to wallow in a pit of despair and wail at the injustice of it all.

I’m far from the only person to feel this way but I have probably enjoyed it more than most…and certainly more than is healthy for a so-called ‘adult’.

Happily, just when it seemed as if things might be looking up, the rug was pulled out from under me again and I had the perfect excuse for another year of epic moaning. The world might have been busy rejoicing as it took the first, tentative steps towards freedom but I was busy re-writing the old “luxury! In my day” sketch as I sat in my apartment and made lists of things I was unable, once again, to do.

For someone who likes a good moan it has been one long Christmas and birthday. Even if I had wanted to turn over a new leaf and become some kind of tree-hugging optimist…nah! I am Team Grinch…except not just for Christmas.

But now it looks as if all my fun and games might be coming to an end.

Despite that fact that I could happily continue to tell everyone that ‘we’re all doomed’ (in a Scottish accent of course…) recent events might just prove me wrong.

Things in Penang are opening up again. Once we’re vaccinated we can go out to eat, stay overnight in a hotel and generally become part of society again.

So, there’ll be no excuse for me to continue to sit inside, staring out the window, mouthing obscenities.

Doesn’t mean I’ll stop doing it…just means I’ll have less excuse to do so.

And I’ll have to go out sometimes and see things like this…

Or this…

(buggerit)

Bad madam.

This is what my housekeeper calls me.

Yes, I’m aware that I’m very fortunate to be able to have a housekeeper in the first place, and believe me when I say I do not take what she does for granted. She’s very good at her job.

I, apparently, am not.

The first time I was called ‘madam’ by someone without it being said sarcastically or as an insult was in Ghana. Most people would call me that (or ‘obruni’) which was just their way of referring to pretty much any ex-pat woman. In South Africa, I was usually called ‘mummy’ by the gardeners who came to mow and rake the leaves.

But, until I came to Penang I had never been called – or thought of myself as – a ‘bad’ obruni/mummy/madam.

Luckily my housekeeper (a lovely little lady called Wati) doesn’t mean it in a bad way; it’s not that I’m abusing her or anything. Don’t start trying to work out how to report me to the Batu Ferringhi rozzers.

When Wati calls me ‘bad’ it’s usually said with a smile and a shake of her head. It means that I have failed to understand my part in this transaction of ours. You see, according to her, I am supposed to leave the house in a total mess so that she can clean it up. I am meant to be unrepentant in my squalor and not even notice it. I should be sitting in the corner, gin in one hand, fanning myself and ignoring her very existence.

Or something like that.

Instead, I run around tidying stuff up before she arrives, pay her for the days she is off sick and make sure to stay out of her way as she cleans and hoovers the apartment for me.

This just makes her laugh at my ineptitude. She smiles at me indulgently and calls me a ‘bad madam’ while shaking her head.

I’ve never been all that comfortable with having someone else clean my living space for me, not even in Ghana when I regularly worked in the library. Here in Penang I finally gave in to my arthritic joints and agreed that dropping the hoover because you can’t feel your fingers wasn’t the best use of my time. Let’s face it, I’d much rather be staring into space and not doing any writing because I can’t feel my fingers.

Wati can tut and smile all she likes but I’m unable to stop myself from tidying up before she gets here and I can’t help but make sure that the Teen has a floor you can actually see and not just a carpet made of wall-to-wall dirty clothes.

I also don’t intend to stop our ongoing game of Pac-Man any time soon. I just can’t sit and type away while someone cleans around me without feeling like a complete jerk so I get up and hide. Wati comes into the living room and I scoot along the hallway and into the spare room…she comes into the spare room and I scuttle off again into the living room…and so it goes on.

Every time she comes into whichever room I’m in she apologises for bothering me and I tell her that she has priority. Then I grab my laptop and hustle out of there while she smiles, shakes her head, and tells me that I am bad at being a madam.

I probably am…and thank goodness for that.

Plus, I was really good at Pac-Man as a kid so I like to keep my hand in…catch me if you can, Wati!

Behind the times.

Living outside the UK we’re often behind when it comes to the latest thing. And, when I say thing, I mean ‘Thing’. As in the latest fad or fashion or whatever it is that people are going bonkers about.

We only found out that ‘Frozen’ was top of every little girl’s wish list months after we’d seen it. Coming out of the cinema in Accra Mall in Ghana we agreed it was a fun movie with an annoyingly catchy song or two. Then we got home to Scotland in the summer to find that the world had gone more than slightly gaga about it and we struggled to work out why.

Same thing with fidget spinners. The Teen was much younger when they became the craze and only rich expat kids with parents who travelled had them at our Ghana school. So in the summer, while we jumped through the fiery hoops of South African visa, he bought them all. Obviously, not literally all but it seemed that way at the time.

Every day another fidget spinner. I think they’re all collecting dust in the attic now…

Sometimes it works on our favour though. Here in Malaysia we have got Netflix for the first time and it’s only the Malaysian version which means the programmes on offer are old compared to what all our friends are able to watch. But since we’re late to the party it means that we’ve enjoyed catching up with things like ‘Bird Box’ or ‘Stranger Things’ and can now understand all the cultural references and memes that previously went over our heads.

I have also bought myself a new-fangled gadget that I think might be handy for all you tech geeks out there.

It’s called a ‘selfie stick’ and it’s going to be the next big thing.

You see, it comes in lots of different colours and sizes.

All you have to do is clip your phone into it, extend the pole bit and voila! You can now take photos of yourself from more-than-arms-length away.

Cool and groovy baby!

I bought one that didn’t work and then got another one later because hello senility. I then did all the same things again but this time it worked because modern technology is really just voodoo magic crossed with pixie dust.

I have taken photos of myself in the spare room and the study so far and both have come out lovely. There I am…standing next to a wall and frowning at the camera with a slight squint…it really is a marvel of modern technology.

If I could just remember to take it out of the drawer and down to the beach with me then that might help. I’m fairly sure I could take some great photos with it. I mean, that’s what every single lovely photo of a beach in Malaysia has been missing so far; me and my frown…

Come to think of it, maybe it’s not so much that we’re behind the times because we live abroad. Maybe it’s just me.

Well, I am prepared to embrace that and own it and all that lingo. My next selfie will be of me sitting on the sofa watching ‘The Crown’ with a fidget spinner in my hand.

Have you seen ‘The Crown’ by the way….?

Shouting In The Evening

https://www.buzzsprout.com/1854669/9204423

https://www.buzzsprout.com/1854669/9204423-distance-learning.mp3?download=true

The first ever play for my new podcast theatre company went live today.

I turned 51 years old and celebrated by binge-watching ‘The Good Doctor’ and eating my own bodyweight in crisps and cake.

I ate macaroni cheese on the beach and watched a sunset so beautiful it almost literally took my breath away.

I got gifts or messages from friends and family all over the world.

I found out that online school will go on here in Penang for at least another month.

To say it’s been an up and down sort of day would be an understatement.

Here’s to another year of getting older – may it be filled with more sunsets, cake and macaroni cheese. And may the only shite be the podcast kind.

Happy birthday to me and happy birthday to ShITE.

Starting something?

I may have finally bitten off more than I can chew – only time will tell.

For years people have been telling me that I should listen to podcasts but I’ve never really followed up on their advice.

Then I saw that David Tennant had one and thought I’d give it a listen.

I like Mr Tennant; he seems like a thoroughly nice person with a good sense of humour and I thought he’d probably get some interesting people to talk to so it would be a good place to start.

I listened to his little intro/explanation episode and then started on the Olivia Coleman interview because she’s another person who seems to be thoroughly nice, GSOH and likes a bit of a swear which I can totally relate to.

And, as I listened, it was like a revelation. I had thought that all podcasts were slick and highly produced affairs that would be polished to within an inch and never put a foot wrong. In the nicest possible way David Tennant’s podcast cured me of this misconception.

I found myself listening to two friends chatting, they got interrupted by the dog a couple of times and they tripped over their words, laughed and made silly jokes.

That was the point at which something in the back of my tiny brain whispered…’you could do that’…

So, I am.

After much sitting and thinking and just sitting and getting distracted and forgetting and generally falling over my own feet it looks like it might just be about to happen.

For years I’ve had various sketches, short stories and silly rhymes sitting in notebooks in a drawer doing nothing. I always felt a bit sorry for them as it seemed as if they’d never see the light of day and would be forever left in the dark. With the podcast idea in mind I went back over them and found that with some adjustments here and there they could work as ‘radio plays’.

After that all I needed to do was find some fellow writers and voice actors to get involved, work out which podcast host to use, learn how to record audio tracks, organise readings using actors in the UK, Ghana, America and Malaysia, and finally keep the plates spinning and the cats herded.

There were moments when I thought that the whole thing was never going to work but somehow I’ve arrived at the stage of having about 20 new pieces of writing recorded and ready to go…and a tentative launch date of 22 September.

(because if you can’t launch your shiny new podcast on your birthday then when can you…?)

Of course, I’ve arrived at this stage with huge amounts of help –

from Hubby, who very patiently removes all technical jobs from my to-do list because it’s just not worth the tears that will ensue when I cock it up…

from some really talented voice actors who donated their time and what’s left of their sanity to make sure that the plays, stories and poems really come to life…

from fellow writers who bravely submitted their work so it’s less of a ‘me-me-me’-fest…

even from the Teen who searched out some possible theme tunes and didn’t roll his eyes too much when I asked him to play them all again because I’d forgotten what the first one sounded like…!

Now we have an image, we have episodes and once we get things up and running we will have an international podcast theatre company.

And the icing on the cake…?

It’s called ‘Shouting In The Evening’ because that way I can shorten it to ShITE and call the members ‘shite’ and refer to everything as ‘shite’ and, well, any excuse to swear makes me grin like a lunatic.

And there you have it.

Or rather, there you will have it from September 22nd onwards.

We’ve got something for everyone; to make you think, to make you smile, to make you laugh…to make you forget your worries for a bit.

And I can safely say that it is a load of ShITE…(teehee!)

Rain, rain go away…the ceiling might fall in today!

There are some positives to living in a country with a lot of rainfall.

In Scotland we love to moan about the weather and the rain especially. There’s the drizzle and the mizzle and the hail and the windy rain and the slushy rain and the big rain; so many rains and so little time to moan about one before another sort comes along. The first thing I always did whenever we moved into a new house in Scotland was check for any leaks just to make sure that the previous owner or current landlord hadn’t painted over the mould and left us to literally rot.

We’ve had some ‘fun’ times with indoor rain since we’ve lived abroad – in Ghana all our flats leaked to differing degrees with the first place being an little puddle by the windows, the second being water pouring through the tops of the windows as if they were an indoor water feature and then the last place where the patio doors might as well have been made of mesh rather than glass.

Fun times!

Even in South Africa we had a house that combined the luxury of 3 bathrooms with the migraine of 2 leaking showers which resulted in a flow of water down the corridor that we could have played Pooh-sticks in.

Fun, fun times!

So now that we live in Malaysia I suppose it should come as no surprise that the water around us is, once again, attempting to infiltrate our accommodation.

To put it simply…we’re on the top floor of an apartment block built by someone who thought that sloping the roof inwards was a good idea.

News flash – it’s not.

As I said, there are a lot of positives to living in a country with a high rainfall; for instance, everything is lush and green. I’m not a huge fan of vast expanses of sand and dirt so being able to wake up and see jungle and trees from my bedroom window is a joy.

Getting waterboarded by my own face mask while riding on the motorbike back from the shops is not such a joy.

And watching my ceiling slowly but surely turn brown while it blows interesting paint bubbles to itself is also far from being a joy.

Hopefully the ceiling can outlast the monsoon season.

Hopefully it will at some point get fixed by people who don’t have to wonder every day whether they’ll wake up to Chicken Little in their living room saying ‘told ya so’.

Hopefully…

…however, past experience leads me to believe it may be time to break out the umbrellas and the pool float.

And yes, the irony of calling my blog ‘Love the Sky UR Under’ and writing about my ceiling possibly collapsing is not lost on me, thanks.

Bringer of Rain.

I’m a rain bringer…twisted rain bringer…

But then, I’m Scottish so it comes with the territory. We are famous for our ability to burn at the first sight of any sun, being tight with our money, drinking copious amounts of Irn Bru and being able to make it rain just by thinking about going outside without an umbrella.

I’m only half Scottish though, so I don’t drink Bru and I don’t burn in the sun (thank you Italian gene pool) but the rest…?

I will admit to being frugal with my money. If you lend me some money I will pursue you to the ends of the earth to pay it back and if I lend you money then expect to see me looming behind every lamp post until I’ve got it back. I also like a bargain and see haggling as an Olympic-level pastime. I also delight in going for the cheapest option because I live for having a good moan when it inevitably then goes wrong.

And I do indeed bring the rain.

Which, since we live in Malaysia, is usually big rain. Sheets of rain falling so fast and hard that it feels like hail but it’s not. Rain that falls in drops so big that you feel like a tiny mouse in a cartoon. Like you could just turn a leaf inside out and sail away on it like a boat…that type of rain.

Rain that turns up, dunks you like a digestive in a cup of tea and then pisses off again.

Those of you who have read my blog before will be familiar with the fact that my moped turns into a jet ski on a regular basis. The magic words to create this transformation are usually ‘I’m just popping to Tesco’

Even when I think I have Malaysia worked out and can predict the rain, it still creeps up on me. I can stand at the window and watch huge, black clouds roll towards me and think “I’m not falling for that!’.

But 9 times out of 10 those clouds will roll right past – you can almost hear them whistling out loud as if they were just passing by and are minding their own business.

“Us? Rain on you? Oh no, we’re just going over the hill and into Georgetown. Honest. Nothing to see here…”

So I fall for it and get onto the moped and set off. The sky will now be blue, or maybe just a bit grey. The wind will be warm and the sea will be calm.

I get to Tesco and congratulate myself on not dying because #drivinginasia.

While shopping I will hear noises in the background but not think anything of it. We’ve been in lockdown since dinosaurs roamed the earth so shopping is a fascinating and luxurious activity to me now. No time to listen out for rain. The clouds have passed by. I am safe.

I’ll be 51 next month and you think I’d know better by now.

As I go to leave the dry and air conditioned world of Tesco mall I might hear more noises…but just dismiss them as fans or faulty a/c units.

Then I get to the door and realise that the clouds have returned and brought every bit of water they could find with them. They have been to the sea, to the lakes, rivers and ponds. They have sucked up enough moisture to turn the Sahara into a water park and are currently tipping the whole damn lot over my moped and the coastal road home.

‘Nothing to see here’ my arse!

I should be used to it. I should know better.

It’s happened everywhere we’ve ever lived and I really ought to be able to make some money out of it. I could stand out in farmers fields and charge them by the hour. Time and a half if you want me to walk around saying things like “Nice day for a picnic” or “Time to wash the car”.

Maybe next time we could move to the International School of the Atacama Desert…

(I looked it up, it’s the driest place on Earth apparently. Until I get there and host a BBQ, that is)

Well, I may be nearly 51 but never let it be said I can’t learn. Eventually.

I have a c-thru sun visor and a large rain poncho stored under the seat of the moped. I am prepared. I am ready. Bring it on rain clouds.

The fact that it makes me look like a Kinder Egg is beside the point…

…just be aware that the prize inside this Kinder Egg is usually a bunch of fives…!

You know you’ve lived in Penang for a year when…

Just lately all the memories on my FB page have been to do with quarantine. Actually, to be fair it’s been that way for quite a while now because we had more than our fair share of quarantine shenanigans last year. Out of all of them, I think Scotland was the favourite. We had some lovely, sunny days and with a large balcony and amazing views we were pretty smug. Then the rain and the fog settled in and we got to moan about it…always a win/win scenario for a Scottish person.

Our Malaysian hotel quarantine was by far the all-round loser. Our hotel room had seen better days, the food was repetitive and unfamiliar while the view was distinctly unexciting. This year things seem to have improved and most of the people going through the same process have spoken about upgrades and meal choices and even balcony access. Good to know but we’re still in no rush to repeat it.

Now it’s a year later and we have been living in Batu Ferringhi, Penang Island, Malaysia for all this time…and certain things are second nature or our ‘new normal’.

We see signs everywhere that remind us Durian is a well-loved and incredibly smelly addition to our lives. There are literally signs on all the buses and in hotels reminding you to leave your Durian at home and not share the stench with others. We tried it for the first time just the other day and I was underwhelmed. After all the ‘Marmite – love it or hate it’ vibes I can safely say it was just okay. The fruit itself was a bit slimy for my taste and the smell made even my eyes water but apart from that it wasn’t the life-changing experience I had been led to believe it would be. Would I try it again? Maybe, but I’m not willing to stand outside in a well-ventilated area just to eat something that looks like camel poo and tastes like custard mixed with silly putty.

We are also immune to the signs that say we should not fart on the bus. We still fart on the bus.

Our favourite dishes have proper names now and not just ‘that noodley stuff you got me last night’. We can ask the hawker for what we want without pointing at the picture on the stall. Or we would, if the stalls were open but that’s another blog…

I can ask for dry hor fun without sniggering like an imbecile…mostly.

When there is a rustle in the bushes as I walk along I know it is either a stray dog, a stray cat or a lizard the size of a skateboard.

We know what this track means on the beach…

When there is a rustle in the trees it is probably just a squirrel. Or a monkey. Or a dozen monkeys. Or monkeys having sex. Or all of these things.

I know how to use the word ‘lah’ in a sentence, but choose not to because I can’t carry it off and I sound like a twit.

I watch the other bikers at the traffic lights and when they start to creep forward I get ready for the lights to change to green. Or I ignore the red lights completely because, lah.

Hubby goes out to get the food and the staff in the food court bring him a beer as soon as they see him. If I’m with him, they bring a small and tip him a wink.

I wake in the morning and luxuriate in the lack of sweat, knowing that as soon as I get up and move around I will then be in a constant state of ick for the rest of the day.

We know that this…

…is not just a short-term solution. It is THE solution.

Driving your scooter in the rain is like driving a jet ski except that you get less wet on a jet ski.

We have named all the local stray dogs and if we’re out on the bikes we treat them as we would a roundabout.

The shacks at the side of the road could be abandoned, they could be toilets, or they could be someone’s house…or all three.

All of this is second nature but I think it will take a while longer before I’m comfortable carrying my drink around in a plastic bag or able to ride the bike, roll a cigarette and text on my phone at the same time but I’m getting there.

There have been so many highs and lows since we arrived a year ago. We have made some friends and seen some lovely parts of our island home.

We have eaten amazing food, seen beautiful works of art and sunsets to die for.

But the beach that keeps us sane is empty of the tourist lifeblood that Batu needs to keep it alive and the market streets and hawker stalls are like a ghost town.

Even after a year there’s so much still to see – because most of it has been in lockdown since we arrived.

Malaysia has welcomed us, vaccinated us and fed us. It has also frustrated us and kept us far from our loved ones.

Like the Durian…it’s not the best, some might say it stinks…but it’s far from the worst.

For now I shall keep the faith and break out the patriotic swim ring. Which I can only wear in the shower because of Lockdown Hokey Cokey…and that’s the stinky part.

Perhaps it will indeed serve to inflate my happiness, lah…?!

Nae bother.

I was brought up to never be a bother to anyone. Don’t annoy people, don’t argue with people and whatever you do don’t bother them.

Obviously as I’ve grown I’ve adapted these rules to suit myself and now delight in being a bother to most people most of the time.

It depends on the situation and I’ve grown better at reading the signs over the years and governing myself accordingly.

I recently set up a separate blog for my writing. I realised that while some of the people who read this blog might be interested to hear about my experiences as an indie writer and how I go about writing in general with a lack of purpose and enthusiam…some might not give a toot.

Fair enough.

If you read this blog on a regular basis then the chances are that:

you know me

you pity me

you like a good moan

you need a way to remind yourself that there are people out there failing at adulting even more than you are

or all of the above…

In which case this is a service I can continue to provide. I have been blogging since January 27th 2015 and written over 200 posts about my aching joints, my lack of hand/eye coordination and my general inability to play well with others.

169 people get a ping every week to say that there is another installment of my tirade against life, the universe and inanimate objects in their inbox.

Poor, misguided buggers that you are.

Well, the good news is that my joints will only get more creaky and I seriously doubt if I’m going to master the social graces any time soon so there should be a few more years of this blog to go. As long as people continue to cut in front of me in queues and animals insist on having sex next to where I park my bike then I’ll have every reason to share it with you all.

Lucky, lucky buggers that you are.

My other blog will be about the ups and downs of my writing and it’s there that I’ll share any new books coming out or freebies on offer or dates of plays being performed. I’ll also do a fair bit of moaning but it will all (mainly) be writer-based rather than real-life based.

The Reluctant Writer https://thereluctantwriter2021.wordpress.com/2021/06/27/example-post-3/

Feel free to move over to that blog if writing is your thing or to stay put here if moaning is your thing. Or to bog off entirely and follow much more organised blogs about travel or food or interior decorating…you do you.

Either way, I hope that by having the two blogs I can make sure that I don’t bother anyone with stuff they don’t want to read about, because that’s the last thing I want to do.

(and if you believe that…you’ll believe anything)

Thinking ahead – three’s a charm

Well, as promised if you go to Amazon on 14th or 15th of August you’ll find another deal on one of my books and this time it is:

A collection of short stories covering everything from

the invention of football to what Death does on his holidays.

Again…yes, I know you know but I can’t help myself…if you like it then please leave a nice review and if you don’t like it them keep it to yourself, ssshhhh, it will be our little secret, okay?

The very latest First Person Singular book is raring to go and I’ll let you all know once I’ve pushed the right buttons in the right order and got it ready to present to the world.

In the meantime, I’m off to venture out into the world and see what things/people annoy me so I can come back and blog to you about it.

Fun times!