Sunday, 31 May 2020

Trigger

So I guess it's possible for anyone to have a trigger about anything really, since trauma comes in all shapes and sizes.

Personally I know that crowds, and strangers in general, and also using the phone all give me anxiety and impair my ability to function properly, along with the smell of alcohol and the sound of belching, which I guess stems from unpleasant experiences around drunk people.

But what really surprised me was when I had to walk across a field in the summer months on a weekend to get to work and there'd be multiple groups out playing football, and the SOUND of a FOOTBALL being kicked triggered me. So I would get to work feeling absolutely awful. I would pretty much instantly become painfully tense and get a headache. When I stopped working on weekends, this anxiety vanished and I no longer arrived at work a complete mess.

So what I want to know is just how many times did someone kick a football into my face when I was a kid in order for the sound to freak me out this much?!

Saturday, 30 May 2020

Face Blindness

I had just about finished writing this post when my computer restarted for no reason and turns out autosave hadn’t kicked in since the day before so I lost all of it. This was frustrating and so I have left the rewrite for a little while. But now I will attempt to remember all the points again.

The first time I heard of ‘face-blindness’ was in the disappointing fourth season of Arrested Development. I assumed it was just a joke and applied it to myself since I often struggle to recognise an actor if he has a beard or suchlike. But then something happened that made me think about it a little harder and I found that I really do seem to have face-blindness.

The technical term is ‘prosopagnosia’ and it means that you can’t recognise or remember people’s faces. Now, obviously I haven’t actually been diagnosed with this disorder, because in what circumstance would you be? And so I am being one of those people who says they have a thing with no proof of actually having it, but I really think that I do have some form of face-blindness, although maybe in a mild form. According to Wikipedia, the source of all knowledge, ‘it can also be difficult for people with this condition to keep track of information about people, and socialize normally with others’ which is certainly true of me.

So here is my anecdotal evidence:

I tend to recognise people by their hair. To be honest, I think I have become quite lazy. Since I know that faces don’t mean much to me, I tend not to even bother looking at them, which probably makes me seem more socially awkward than I really am and also means I miss features that I might have been able to use to identify a person. If a person changes their hair, particularly how long it is or how straight it is, this really confuses me. This also includes wearing  a hat. I find recognising bald people extremely difficult.  I also get confused if glasses or facial hair changes. Even makeup makes it difficult for me to recognise someone. All bald men look alike to me and all women with makeup look alike. Filters on photos (and airbrushing) are a freaking nightmare. I also can't recognise people if their face is in a different position. As in sideways or upside down. This really only applies to TV and movies, but the number of times I have watched something and known who a character was from the context of the scene or the sound of their voice, but because they were in bed or the camera was below their face I just could not see that it was them, no matter how many times I have watched it.

So, like I said, I mostly use hair to identify people, sometimes age enters into it too, and occasionally sex but not always. Obviously clothes play a part too. This is difficult at work, because we have a kind of uniform, so some people will be wearing the exact same outfit, and I can get quite close to them and about to start a conversation before I realise that they are not who I thought they were. It’s really startling.

The way I think my brain works is that it has a select number of faces or facial types saved and then it simply fits everyone I meet into one of these categories. Did you know that 5% of the population all look like my oldest brother? And another 5% all look like The Slayer? My brain thinks so anyway.  Because of this, sometimes I will be drawn to a person illogically because they share some physical trait with someone I already like. I can think of numerous occasions when I have thought that someone at college/university/work looks exactly like a famous actor, when in fact they almost certainly looked nothing like them. I can sort of see it if I concentrate on individual features or compare pictures directly, but it kind of hurts. If I haven’t seen someone for a while, my memory basically completely erases what they look like and replaces it with one of the default settings, so when I do see them next, it’s really jarring and confusing. When I worked two jobs at once, and so was meeting a lot of new people, my brain basically just allocated one set of faces to both groups. This made it difficult for me to keep up with what was going on in their lives because I couldn’t remember if this was tall woman in 30s with short black hair from Job A or tall woman in 30s with short black hair from Job B. They became identical to me. And the absolute dumbest version of this categorising or face-merging is that my brain even does this for people who share a name. If they are already in the same basic group of age and body-size, then if they also have the same name, they just become one blob to me and if I happen to know them in the same environment, then I’m kind of screwed because I cannot separate them again (possibly I could if I saw them all the time).

Now for some specific examples:

It used to really baffle and frustrate The Housemate that I couldn’t tell that Captain Hook and Mr Darling were both Jason Isaacs in Peter Pan. 
*
I mean, logically I knew they were, but one of them has long hair and facial hair and the other doesn’t. So, you know, they look like completely different people. 

Working in retail for quite a few years now has been a struggle whenever I’ve had to deal with customers who want something from the stockroom.  Because the second I turn away, my brain wipes what they looked like from my memory. I have to memorise what their shoes look like or their bag or something in order to find them again. If I forget to do this, and they aren’t standing in the same place when I come back (and they never are) I just have to go around asking every customer in the shop who is a similar age group if they are the person I was talking to. When I worked at Waitrose this was an absolute nightmare, because I’d remember ‘the old lady with the grey hair’ and then come back to discover this description matched every customer in the shop.

The worst case of face-blindness I’ve ever had was at work. One day I was talking to one of my colleagues, a young woman with long blond hair, and then she left the room. She came back in a few minutes later in a different outfit. I thought it was weird that she had got changed, but we carried on talking. Then she left again and when she came back, she was in the original outfit. This is when I realised that she was in fact two totally separate people. After this, whenever I saw one of them, I got quite anxious because I just could not tell which was which at all. Once, I was even in the staffroom sharing the same break as both of them and I looked from one face to the other, trying to force my brain to accept that they looked different and remember how, but I just couldn’t do it. Eventually the only way I could tell them apart was because I worked out that one wore bright lipstick and the other didn’t. I dreaded that one day the other one might start wearing a similar lipstick!

Last year when we visited the Upside Down House in Brighton, we paid at the ticket office where there was a young woman and then we went inside where another young woman showed us what to do. She then discreetly left us alone so we wouldn’t feel self-conscious. However, later we needed her to take a photo of the two of us together, so The Housemate went and got her. Only later did I find out that this ‘third’ woman was in fact the first woman. I had just assumed she was the second woman from the context of where I had seen her. The Housemate couldn’t understand this at all. Apparently one of them was wearing glasses. So is this me being lazy and not even trying to recognise people? All I know is that they were both of a similar age, similar hair, similar voice, so identical.

Very recently a facebook friend put up a before and after photo of his beard being shaved off. So I knew that these were both photos of him and he had deliberately taken them so he was in the same position with same expression. The two pictures were side by side. I could not recognise that he was the same person. I really tried. I focused on each bit of his face and compared and logically I could see that it was the same eyes and the same nose etc, but my brain just would not accept that they were pictures of the same person. It was like sitting in the staffroom opposite those two young women. It doesn’t matter if I can compare the differences or similarities in the moment, my brain just rejects the information. It’s like fighting against two repelling magnets or trying to get a grip on a slippery piece of glass and it starts to give me a headache if I try too hard. I just can’t record the information.

And finally, the case that kind of validated it for me that I really did have face-blindness and this was actually a real thing. I decided to watch Broadchurch. I had never seen anything by Chris Chibnall that I liked, and people spoke highly of this series so I wanted to give it a go (turns out it was just as bad as I would have expected but never mind). VAGUE SPOILER AHEAD. We were a couple of episodes in and I had pretty much constantly been telling The Housemate my theories of whodunit when he had to stop me because what I was saying didn’t make any sense. And confused and cautious and unbelieving, he had to ask me if I knew that there were two bald characters in the show. I didn’t know what he was talking about. There was one bald character. But he was adamant that there were two. And he showed me the cast list and the cast photos and… oh my God, he was right. There were two bald characters. 
*
I had watched several episodes and thought they were the same person. This ruined my theories… or did it? Because these two men looked bloody identical. And why would a casting director cast two such similar types? And when someone sees a bald bloke up to no good and blames one of the bald characters… I knew that I wasn’t the only one who couldn’t tell them apart! And thus I cracked the case. Because I recognise people by their hair and if they don’t have hair then they are all the same person as far as I can tell.

So that’s the story of how I realised I had face blindness and the kind of trouble it can get me into. So if I ever get confused about your personal information, or start talking about something as if we were in the middle of a conversation, or just stare at a random part of you that isn’t you face, rest assured, it’s because I have no idea who you are.






* I found the images at the following sites: 
http://smoldering-rose.blogspot.com/2011/03/monday-at-movies-peter-pan-2003.html
https://www.bbcamerica.com/shows/broadchurch/cast-crew/joe-miller
http://www.david-tennant.co.uk/2013/04/broadchurch-suspect-profile-nige-carter.html

Friday, 29 May 2020

Rat Tales #4

A couple of people reacted with surprise when I said my rats all had very different personalities, a surprise that surprised me because have they never met an animal before? Of course individual animals have their own personalities. 

So I thought I'd highlight a random behaviour in which they differ.... kissing.

Vizzini will often reach up towards my face. I don't know what she wants. Maybe I smell like food. I like to think she wants a kiss. So I kiss her. And she always acts with surprise, like she doesn't know what just happened. Even though this happens daily.






Fezzik, if near your face, will bite the nose out of curiosity. Not a dangerous bite, just a how-they-explore-the-world nibble. But... every time. She doesn't know what the human nose is and she is dedicated to continuing her important research.




Inigo also often reaches up towards my face, except that she will do it five or six times in a row, receiving a kiss each time, until she reaches her real aim, of licking. Licking my face, which is kind of cute, but especially licking inside my nose, which is disgusting. Also, if you pull away, she will hold you still with her razor-sharp claws. So basically, kiss and run, or you will be assaulted.




These are pretty good examples of their individual personalities. Inigo likes us and wants our attention, Vizzini wants attention but doesn't know what for, and Fezzik can take or leave you unless you happen to be made of nesting materials.

Thursday, 28 May 2020

Brighton

Last year we went to Brighton. I meant to write a post about it but I never got around to it. I still haven’t written a post about Oxford and that was multiple years ago now. I barely took any photos anyway.

We arrived on a Wednesday. Our first impression of Brighton was positive, because it was such an inclusive place that a homeless man was playing the piano in the train station. This image was shattered minutes later when the homeless man was evicted from the station and started screaming abuse at them.

I also couldn’t figure out how to get to the correct road from where we were because there was a surprise wall in the way. But eventually we managed to loop back around. We explored the shops in the North Laine area, where I bought some shoes from Vegetarian Shoes, despite the fact that they didn’t have my size, so now I have a very nice pair of shoes that are far too big and only fit if I am standing still. We also purchased some random bits (mostly out of sympathy) from The Captain Pig, which is a very small vegan shop, unfortunately placed not very far from a huge vegetarian shop. We also visited some bookshops and stuff.

So easy to browse.

I seem to recall we ate lunch at Wai Kika Moo Kau and neither of us liked our food and it was quite overpriced.

We walked down to our hotel, via CEX, because this is our holiday tradition. If we stay somewhere with a DVD player, then we buy some random thing to watch while we are there. We chose the classic movie… Journey To The Center Of The Earth starring Brendan Fraser.

We stayed at the Oriental, which was nice enough, although twin rooms always feel like an afterthought. Our view was directly on to someone else's balcony covered in cigarettes and what I hope was a container of alcohol but might have been urine. Needless to say, we kept the blind drawn as much as possible.

We went to have dinner at Beelzebab at The Hope and Ruin, but it turns out this is an absolutely dinky pub and half the tables were reserved for the live music. I’m not sure whether we were allowed to sit there or not, but the rest of the place was packed. I didn’t have a backup plan and we just miserably hovered about. In the end, we decided to buy the food and eat it while we walked to our concert. However, it took ages for the food to be ready and by this time, a table had become free, so even though we had ordered ‘to go’ we ate in. We rushed the food and it wasn’t very nice anyway, so that whole experience wasn’t great.

Then we went on to the Brighton Dome Concert Hall where one of the security guards harassed The Housemate. However, the show was really good, because we love The Divine Comedy.

Office Politics Tour


Then we went back to the hotel.

On the Thursday, we had a vegan breakfast at the hotel and then went down to Brighton Beach to admire it in the late autumn weather.


British Airways i360
West Pier



We visited the Upside Down House, which was actually super fun.
















The housemate got a drink at The Flour Pot Bakery, which took forever, and possibly we bought some kind of pasties, I can't recall now, and we bought ice creams from V360, although I was really confused because they were actually closed for the winter and their vegan ice cream machine had been moved into someone else’s bit, which was advertising fish and chips.

We went for a walk on Brighton Palace Pier

It was windy.





and briefly looked around the Lanes but by this point, we were getting kind of bored and I didn’t have any specific shops in mind so then we just went on to the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery.

This is the only photo we took in the entire museum.


This was pretty disappointing and we were so worn out by this point that I don’t think either of us appreciated it.

So we headed back to the station, via Glazed for some vegan doughnuts. The Housemate got a nice vegan sausage roll at the station. And that is my brief tale of Brighton. We got home to our babies, who we had left alone over night for the first time.



I think that I was so stressed during the first part of the trip (The Housemate had no ID and I was afraid they would need it at the hotel) and then when dinner went wrong, and that bouncer got aggy for no reason, that I wasn’t really able to appreciate Brighton very much. Then we were so worn out on the second day and the museum was disappointing, and it’s all bloody uphill, and I missed my babies, that, aside from the show which was great, I didn’t really enjoy Brighton.

Which is a real shame, since it is so open and inclusive towards veganism and the LGBTQIA+ community and just people in general.

The Housemate liked it though.

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Journey To Writer

This is one of those posts that is only really of interest to me.

Annoyingly, The Memory isn’t very clear when it comes to the changing aspirations. As far as I remember it, as a kid I planned on being a veterinary nurse when I grew up but what I really wanted to be was an actor. However, I have no recollection whatsoever of putting any plans into place regarding the vet part, whereas I did try towards acting. And ages ago I found this thing I’d written at school where I had stated that I either wanted to be an actor or a writer. So apparently writing was always an interest of mine. I mean, acting and writing were kind of indistinguishable at school, because when I ‘acted’ it was something that I had improvised in the first place. 

If you've followed the 'Before I Could Write' series you'll have seen that although I loved creative writing at school, I really wasn't any good at it. The main memory of writing in class was never finishing anything because I just couldn't comprehend the idea of a 'short' story. The only praise I can recall getting for writing actually embarrassed me, I think it was in Year 5 and the teacher thought the opening of my story was so good that she made me read the story to the class, but I knew that I totally welched on it almost immediately and the rest of the story was garbage. And hey, you can read it here.

I first started really writing as a hobby in the mid-late teens when I was trying to find scripts online, and I came across a writing site. I used this all the time despite that what I wrote wasn’t very good and the fact that even the writing community on there seemed to completely ignore me. I seem to recall exclusively writing terrible monologues.

I know that when I started looking for universities, at first I was researching drama schools, but after the AS-Level grades weren’t as good as I thought they’d be, I switched to looking at universities that offered writing courses, although even then I still considered doing joint acting and writing courses, and even when I eventually picked a full writing course, I naturally assumed I would become part of the university’s am dram club. Except when I arrived at uni and went to the societies fair, it turned out Glamorgan didn’t have an am dram club. I also discovered that all the tantalising writing modules that had been advertised had been cut and in order to get enough credits to pass the year, I would have to take other modules. I always loved the writing modules but the other ones were a lot more hit and miss.

In the first year, I ended up with two writing modules:
Starting To Write taught by Sheenagh Pugh. I didn't really know anyone in the classes yet and everyone seemed quite shy about handing things in. A couple of times I handed in something so bad (always something I had written before uni rather than the new stuff) that Sheenagh didn't even bother sharing it with the class. The worst part of this module was that we HAD to write poetry, which I neither have appreciation for nor skill to do. I came out with a 2:1. You can see some examples of what I wrote here and here.)
Writing Media taught by Maria Donovan. Maria liked to share a lot of handouts about punctuation and grammar, which I don't think anyone actually read. I also made the first proper uni friends in this class. I basically spent the year writing 'opinion pieces' which were all pretty much garbage. However I got a 1st.

one drama module:
Theatre Scriptwriting. I think the teacher was called Deborah something. This class was a lot of fun – it was taught more like a writing module than drama. I got a 1st.

one media module:
Scriptwriting For The Media. This class was bad. Illogically I got a 1st and my highest overall grade of the year, despite my individual pieces of coursework all being lower than this. The teacher must have added up wrong. I mean, he was totally useless. But in this case, it worked out in my favour so meh.

and two literature modules:
Texts And Contexts. This was the only 'lecture' style module I took, you know like the ones you see in movies, where a huge group of people sit in a lecture hall and some boring person drones at you from the front, with no real interaction. This was mostly very dull, although the stuff we did about The Tempest actually caught The Interest. I got a 2:1.
Reading Fiction: American Story. I actually enjoyed these lessons but completely messed up the essays somehow. I was supposed to discuss this with the tutor, but I couldn’t be bothered since I was only taking the module to get through the year. I actually failed on one of the essays, which was therefore my worst piece of work at university. I got a 3rd overall. This was my lowest grade not just this year, but during the whole of uni.

In the second year, I was able to drop literature like it was hot. Now the grades would actually count for something, it wasn’t just about passing. This is also when I had The Epiphany at the start of 2005, which is when I feel I finally grew into The Self and the writing style.

I took three writing modules:
Writing Fiction, taught by Chris Meredith (weird that Chris was the tutor I got on best with and yet he consistently gave me the lowest grades). All the writing modules were workshops, but Chris's teaching style was basically a lot of chatting and going off on tangents. I got a 2:1.
Writing Non-Fiction, taught by Rob Middlehurst (in which I pretty much continued to write fiction...). Rob's teaching style was basically encouraging us to really bitch about what we were reading, but he had quite polar opinions and only seemed to write down our feedback if it agreed with what he thought. Luckily for me, he liked my writing. I got a 1st.
Writing For Children, taught by Philip Gross. Philip's teaching style was more about exercises and role play. I got a 1st.

Two drama modules:
Radio & TV Scriptwriting. This was the same as the Scriptwriting For The Media class I took the year before. Same awful teacher, same lack of actually teaching us anything. Literally every lesson was the same. He just told us the '8 point structure' of a script and NOTHING else, saying that any more knowledge was for those doing a masters degree. So I have no idea how to write a script. I got a 2:1.
Theatre Scriptwriting. Maybe my most hated lesson. New teacher, did not get on. He was a very stereotypical drama type and was only interested in tragedy, so since I only like comedy in theatre, I really floundered. Got a 2:2.

One media module:
Scriptwriting Film. All I remember was having to watch The Apartment. This happens to be one of the favourite movies, but I still don’t want to study it. I have no recollection of actually writing anything in this class, just studying film. I got a 2:1.

I also got a short story published in the 2005 edition of Daps, the university’s writing anthology.

In the blessed and wonderful third year, I was able to just focus on writing. Technically there were only five modules, but I was able to take an independent study to top up, because I now hated scriptwriting as much as I had hated literature and I didn’t want to spoil the final year with that crap.

Creative Writing Dissertation (double module) taught by Chris Meredith. I wrote a novelette. I got a 1st and my (joint) highest grade throughout uni.
Writing Culture And Society (double module), taught by Rob Middlehurst. This was the same as the Creative Writing Dissertation but he had to give it a different name so that it could exist. I wrote a bunch of pretend-autobiographical short stories.  I got a 1st.
Writing For Children, taught by Philip Gross. I wrote the start of a children's novel. I got a 1st.
Independent Study. I used this exactly the same as Writing For Children, making Writing For Children into an unofficial double module, so it’s weird that I got better grades for this than I did for the actual Writing For Children module, since it was the same project spilt in two. One piece of coursework earned me my highest graded piece of work throughout university, and overall the module was my (joint) highest 1st of the three year course. (Writing For Children and my Independent Study went on to become my MS working title: Evelynland.)

I also got two short stories and a poem published in the 2006 edition of Daps but the whole thing was a bit of a shambles with allegedly the entire team quitting on it leaving one guy to rush it into print, so I don’t think it counts for much.

I earned a First Class Honours overall and also won the Michael Parnell Prize for best piece of creative writing for 2006, although I don’t know which piece that is referring to.

University was great! (Except for the boring modules.) I felt really noticed for the first time. I became a bit of a teacher’s pet. At least it felt like it to me. I know The Writing improved exponentially. Maybe about half of what I wrote has gone on to become something that could be publishable. I never understood scripts or poems at uni. I’m not really interested in short stories any more. I think I was destined to be a novelist.

I write most days, except when I feel weird. But it’s been fourteen years since I graduated and I’m still waiting for that big break, y’know… (Admittedly, I have spent a lot more of that time writing than I have sending stuff off.) It’ll happen though. I might not be a professional author, but I am a writer. I will always be a writer. I couldn’t imagine being any other way. What else do you do with all that imagination inside your head if you don’t use it to create?

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Why I Never Became An Actor #10

Reason Number 10: Was an egomaniac.

I flicked through the script for the final play we ever did in drama club.  I couldn’t believe it.  I thought I did well at the audition, but I could see The Director trying to brush me aside.  Now I was stuck with Moran, who was in one scene at the start.

But then The Director wanted an abstract opening, on the ship that contained the mystery, and we would improvise it. I saw an opportunity. 

Me: I’d be there, wouldn’t I? 

It was a logical suggestion. Someone would have had to orchestrate events, so Moriarty’s most trusted man would be the ideal choice.

So I got to be in the ship scenes.

In fact...


Me: He’s sort of controlling the events.  He’s in charge.

So The Role needed to grow a little more. Have more impact on the scenes we were improvising...


Slowly the opening scenes became longer and more substantial, and a few hints, nudges, suggestions and The Part grew.

But Moran was still caught in what had once been the opening scene, so for over half the play, I’d be absent.

Unless...



After all that set up, building up how important Moran was to the events that happened, we couldn't just drop it, that would be poor structure, so what if Sherlock Holmes got his information from the only person who knew?  Visited him in prison.




Sherlock: Do you realise that you are now in every scene bar two. You started with one speech.



Me: Really?