Being an Introverted Actor

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I am a mess. Really quite badly fucked up.

I’ve just come back from the 2016 DiscWorld Convention. It’s one of the biggest and friendliest fan conventions in the country, and is held in DW-fandom to be a wonderful and awesome place to be. And it is – the people there are friendly, enthusiastic, inclusive, intelligent, and we all share a love of the late Sir Terry Pratchett’s work, which I have been reading avidly since I was about 15.

So why do I feel like shit?

It’s not the normal post-convention blues: You go to the Con, you have fun, you meet loads of old friends, you do enjoyable things, go to interesting programme items, and for four days you’re in a tight-knit friendly community where pretty much everyone is practically guaranteed to share your interests; so when you go home, you feel sad that it’s over, you miss the people you met and probably won’t meet again for another two years, you miss the place.

Me? I want to bury myself underground and never come out again until people forget about ever meeting me.

Did I do anything that didn’t piss someone off? Did I insult everyone there, or just the people I talked to? How is it anyone still likes me after they met me? I don’t fit in – I really don’t fit in. I don’t talk to people, I certainly don’t start conversations (and if I do I get out of them ASAP). I need alcohol to be even vaguely sociable, but I don’t like the taste and it gets me depressed way too quickly to be any use with assisting confidence. I look back over the weekend, and whatever springs to mind only screams a checklist of how to be a douchebag. I’m annoying, arrogant, crass, emotionally and socially ignorant, insensitive, jealous, lazy, lecherous, manipulative, oblivious, selfish, uncouth, whiny…  Did I really think I could rock up and sweep in with a few lame ideas and make things even more awesome? I’m a hanger-on, a follower, a third-stringer, and not a particularly original one either.

I came home on Tuesday. I’ve been feeling like this since Wednesday afternoon. Yesterday, I had to go shopping, and it was so bad I nearly broke down in tears when someone else got in the lift on the way back.

Someone got in the same lift as me, and I nearly had a nervous breakdown. Clearly, something is wrong. And it’s probably more than just four days-worth of social anxiety backlog.

Now, this isn’t the first time I’ve freaked out somewhat over being at a convention (Friday night of the ’06 Con, for instance), or felt depressed during one (Monday, ’12), or even afterwards (IDWCon ’09 or Eastercon ’10). And, intellectually, I know it can’t be as bad as I’ve been making it out to be. I mean, I enjoyed the Hedgehog Party, and so did a lot of other people. That’s not an assumption, that’s a verifiable fact, because nearly a dozen people told me they did. There was the Dead Monkey Party (most of it), the various combat-y items, the singing bits, and, hey, I even managed to hang out with a couple of friends for a couple of hours.

Friends. My closest friends are all DiscWorld fans. I know almost all of them through online contact rather than personal. There are people I know and spend time with and take an interest in in Real Life™, but it’s incredibly rare that I feel anything like the same sort of connection I do with them as with the people I hang around with at conventions, particularly DiscWorld conventions. And then we go home, some to different countries, most to different parts of this country, and we barely speak until the next convention. There’ll be online contact with a few of them, but unless you’re one of the double-handful that live in London, there’ll be no face-to-face stuff for two years.

I’m lonely. And after four days of feeling alone in the middle of a crowd of people, it really hits hard just how lonely I am.

Maybe I should just cut my losses and not go to any more.


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An American doctor experiences the NHS. Again.

The view of an outsider. And not just any outsider, one who knows how other systems work and how crap they are compared to ours.

Dr. Jen Gunter

WIth my cousin WIth my cousin

Two years ago I wrote about my experience in a London emergency department with my son, Victor. That post has since been viewed > 450,000 times. There are over 800 comments with no trolls (a feat unto itself) and almost all of them express love for the NHS.

I was in England again this week. And yes, I was back in an emergency department, but this time with my cousin (who is English).

This is what happened.

My cousin loves high heels. As a former model she makes walking in the highest of heels look easy. However, cobblestone streets have challenges not found on catwalks and so she twisted her ankle very badly. Despite ice and elevation there was significant swelling and bruising and she couldn’t put any weight on her foot. I suggested we call her doctor and explain the situation. I was worried about a…

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There’s a lot of shit going on. I wish I could comment on it, but I have neither the mental nor emotional fortitude to keep up with it all and argue with conviction for the points that need to be made. I will therefore be taking a break from this blog for the foreseeable future.

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The Result

So, things did not go As Planned. For anybody, judging by the resignations and frantic back-pedalling. And you know what? Some people are quite upset about that – with good reason.

Ian Hislop gets applauded

Many people have given their opinion on this, and they are broadly split into three camps: Those who voted Remain are reminding people that the referendum was not legally binding, that the margin of victory was far from decisive, that two months ago one of the key figures of the Leave campaign said that if the result was this close in favour of Remain it would be “unfinished business”, that with a turnout of 72% just under two-fifths of the country voted for Brexit, that about a million Leave voters have said they would vote the other way if they had the chance again, that all the predictions of economic disaster are coming true, that within 24 hours of the result senior figures of the Leave campaign had admitted they were lying about their campaign promises or that they couldn’t actually do anything towards keeping their promises, that hate crime incidences have sky-rocketed since the result, and that all the senior figures of the Leave campaign raced to wash their hands of their involvement in the whole thing. The second camp consists of those who voted Leave for considered reasons, who made an informed choice, and are maybe not entirely happy with the outcome but in their opinion it is better than Remaining, who are mainly trying to broker peace and get things back to what passes for normal. And then there’s the third camp, which consists of the ignorant, the xenophobic, the nostalgic and the just plain stupid. These people are the ones who are saying, “put up and shut up,” or, “that’s democracy, live with it,” and are completely ignoring the political and economic clusterfuck because it can’t be summed up in a tabloid headline or a soundbite from Sky News. And there is a significant hard-core minority of them who seem to believe that half the country agree completely with their extremist views.

To the second camp, I have this to say: Fair enough. You considered the facts, you made you choice, and you’re being practical. I do not agree with your choice and I do not like it, but since it’s your choice that you made after hearing arguments from both sides and engaging your brain, there’s not a lot I can do except work with you to try and make sure the future of this country isn’t entirely doom-laden. Of course, if I find out that you didn’t engage your brain, then what I have to say to you will change to: Fuckwit.

To the first and third camps, I have this to say: Democracy doesn’t end with a vote – it starts with one.

Even if there were a general election tomorrow and the winner was a coalition of a de-Blairited Labour, the Greens, Plaid Cymru and the SNP, I would not stop my political activism. There’s quite a few things I disagree with from all those parties, some of which affect me personally. Despite being a lot more engaged with normal people than the Tories, there are just some issues that have to take priority for the good of the country, and that means that some of the things I care about will have to go on the back burner for a while. It will be my (and everybody else who feels the same way) job – duty even – to make sure that those issues are brought forward and acted upon.

I will keep on doing what I can to remind people (especially the political class) that leaving the EU is not what the country wants – it might be what a loud and obnoxious proportion of the population wants, but it is nowhere near what a majority of people want, nor what the country as a whole needs. Just because a handful of tax-dodging right-wing sociopaths control the majority of the mainstream media, and there’s enough people who believe everything they read without thinking about it because thinking is too much effort, doesn’t mean that we should capitulate to their demands, especially if the results of those demands will cripple the country’s economy (GBP shot to all-time low and stockmarkets plummeted after the result), workforce (26% of NHS medical staff are not UK-born, and 60% of immigrants already have a job lined up when they arrive), scientific endeavour (most scientific funding in this country comes from the EU), infrastructure (most of the money for road repairs and natural disaster response comes from the EU, especially in regions like Yorkshire, Wales, Cornwall, etc), and equality (the two remaining contenders for the Tory leadership race have both stated their intentions to shit all over human rights and social mobility).

In the past, it was the domain of Tory MPs to say that, “we know best,” and that the public have elected them for the next five years so we don’t need to bother our empty heads about how the country is run. That may have been true 150 years ago when most people couldn’t read and information was handed down on a need-to-know basis from on-high, but it certainly isn’t true today. Nowadays everyone can read, and information is freely available to everyone – and the channels where it actually is free are a whole lot more reputable and less biased than the channels where you have to pay. Protests, petitions, strikes, artworks of all kinds – these things exist and they do help change politicians’ minds. They need to be used, here and now and on this subject. Because since the referendum, the troglodytes who voted out of prejudice and ignorance have been saying, “we know best,” and that no-one else needs to bother about how the country is doing because the Decision Has Been Made.

No. Not in my name. That is not my country. My country is not one of ignorance, prejudice and hatred. My country is not one where everyone mindlessly does what those with more perceived authority tell them to do, or thinks what those with the loudest voices tell them to think.

My country is a country where people think and act for themselves; a country where people are accepted for their talents and abilities, not their birth or their money; a country where our elected representatives work with us and for us, not where they assume they are untouchable and all-knowing simply because they won a popularity contest; a country where people take responsibility for themselves, for their actions, and for the environment in which they live, not where people can get away with fucking things up then taking the money and running.

Democracy starts with a vote.

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The EU Referendum

I am seeing a lot of very stupid people out there, almost all of them on the Leave side. No matter how reasoned the argument, no matter how reputable the sources, most people on the Leave side simply do not want to believe the facts they are being presented with. It doesn’t matter to them that nine out of ten experts/sources in pretty much every field agree, if it happens to disagree with them then it must be a lie and/or part of a conspiracy by Authority to hoodwink the rest of the population (not them, of course, they are among the few people to be able to see through it all) into blindly following The Powers That Be like mindless sheep.

The irony is staggering.

Here’s all this evidence – we went and researched it, we took information from multiple sources, we have actively analysed it and presented our interpretation of it – and now someone is saying that it’s all lies by the Remain campaign to try and get you to vote In, and you’re going to fall for it because you’re such a mindless sheep.

Okay then, you say, where’s the evidence to back up your position?

Oh, they say, I don’t need evidence, I just know, you have to trust me. Or they point you towards the official Leave propaganda, or a conspiracy theory site, or a rag of a newspaper with a known and obvious bias. You’re citing the Daily Mail as proof that Argument-X is false? Jesus fucking H Christ! The job of a Daily Mail journalist is to stir up hate and xenophobia so they can sell newspapers!

There’s a rumour going around that the EU is intending to build its’ own army, so therefore we should leave. What? What the actual fuck? If the EU is building its’ own army (for which I have not seen one single shred of reputable evidence), how is leaving going to make us safer? As part of the EU, our armed forces would be part of this hypothetical EU army, and we would not be subject to attack by it if someone in Brussels goes all Napoleon and decides that now’s a good time to declare war. On the other hand, if we leave the EU then the UK’s armed forces would be separate from the hypothetical EU army, vastly outnumbered by it, and we would probably be the first target of an attack if someone decides they need a convenient war to unify the continent. After all, the UK has just pissed off pretty much everybody else in Europe by leaving the EU after calling them all unfair control freaks, so that puts us at the top of the list for revenge and forcible inclusion in a new European Superstate. Did it never cross the tiny minds of the Leave supporters that out of the EU we would have no influence on how the EU develops, but as part of it we can influence and change it?

By now, someone will probably be saying that the current UK government has done fuck all to curb the excesses and corruption of the EU. That’s true. What is also true is that we can get a new government in four years, but if we leave the EU it is forever. We won’t be able to go back to them in five years and say, “sorry we changed out minds, we’d like to re-join the club.” They’ll tell us to sod off; why do you think, that after laying so much of the groundwork for the EEC in the immediate post-WW2 years that the UK didn’t join? Because France kept vetoing our membership until DeGaulle died and we were allowed to join in the early 70s. Leaving will piss everyone off and France and Germany will say, “we managed without you before the 70s, we can manage without you again.” The EEC that we joined evolved into the EC, then into the EU. The world changed, and we changed with it. If we leave, we’ll be going back to how the world was in the late 1960s, but the rest of the world will be in the 2010s.

Perhaps one of the most important reasons to stay in the EU is that access to the EU’s court system provides another layer of checks on the government’s power, particularly in the area of Human Rights. And that’s the cue for Brexiters to say something like, “oh yeah, since the EU’s done such a bang-up job of protecting British Citizens’ human rights for the last six years, what with the government trying to kill all the poor people and the disabled through sanctions.” And to that, the response is, “have you told them?” The Human Rights Act, which allows the European Courts of Justice to intervene in UK legal matters concerning the humane and ethical treatment of people, is not a magical document that automatically brings down the wrath of international judges on the heads of government ministers who try and pass illegal laws. There has to be a process, where those affected by said laws first appeal against them through the legal system of this country, and only when all possible avenues of appeal in the UK have been exhausted, only then does the EU get involved. Now here’s the thing – in this category, somewhere above 80% of court decisions go against the government at the first tier; There have been at least a dozen studies, some of them commissioned by the DWP themselves, that state that government policy is doing more harm than good; Hundreds of thousands of petition signatures have been made, calling on the government to scrap their unfair and illegal policies. The court system of this country is working, and sooner or later the government will change their policies. Intervention by the ECoJ citing the ECHR will merely tip the balance heavily towards “sooner”, but the most important piece of information here is to note that the ECoJ cannot take action until a case comes to their attention and/or they are officially notified that there is a problem. Unfortunately, the mechanism for doing so is costly, complicated, and needs government intervention.

Then there are the people who want to take us out of the EU in an attempt to get the current government out of power. Well, that ain’t gonna happen. The most likely thing would be for David Cameron to resign, Boris Johnson to be elected leader of the Tory party (and hence PM), and he builds a cabinet around the core members of the Leave campaign. Now, I will be among the first to accuse Cameron, May, Osborne, Hunt, Javid and so on of doing their absolute best to cripple and/or destroy the NHS, the education system, British industry, the welfare state, and civil liberties. However, despite their ideology-based destruction of everything that doesn’t make them personally richer, I trust them with all those things a lot more than I would trust Johnson, Gove, Duncan-Smith, Farage and Patel with them. While Cameron and co are compulsive liars with no relevant qualifications or understanding of the things they are in charge of, and they are borderline sociopathic ideologues following a corrupt and broken system, Johnson et al are even more so. Farage in particular is rabidly hard right, Johnson doesn’t have two braincells to rub together, and Duncan-Smith and Gove have proved during their time in the cabinet that they have no understanding of the portfolios they were managing, nor sympathy for the people affected by their insane, unfair, sociopathic and illegal policies.

Please, stop thinking only in the short term and about your own selfish, uneducated and prejudiced desires. Think about the long-term, and what’s good for the whole country. The key figures of the Leave campaign couldn’t care less about the average citizen, beyond the fact that they might be gullible enough to vote for their side – every senior person on the Leave campaign, and their bank-rollers, are rich enough to not be affected in any way whatsoever by the economic hit the country will take if we leave the EU. Not so the vast majority of the population of this country. On multiple occasions, senior figures on the Leave campaign have said they cannot guarantee peoples’ jobs, that job losses and a slower economy are an acceptable price to pay for leaving the EU. That’s because they don’t care – they are millionaires, they have lucrative jobs, they are part of the Establishment, and they will not suffer in the slightest upon Britain leaving the EU; almost certainly, they have already arranged matters so that they will be even more enriched in case of Brexit.

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The Sorting Algorithm of Housework

My flat really needs a hoover. But I hate hoovering. What else can I do?

I could clean the bog.

Washing up! Is there any washing up? A tiny amount, there’d be no point until after I’ve cooked dinner this evening. What else is there to do?

I could clean the bog.

Place is getting a bit messy, could do with tidying up. Meh, I can still see over 90% of the floor. Anything else?

I could clean the bog.

Laundry? No, the basket’s not full, there’s not enough for a full load. Give it a few more days. Owt else?

I could clean the bog.

I’m out of bread. But it’s a ten minute walk to the shops, and it’s just one loaf of bread. There must be something else?

I could clean the bog.

I could sew up the holes in my jacket pocket and sleeve. Or I could fix the door. Or I could assemble that bookcase I got from Ikea over a year ago. The jacket can wait until it’s warm enough to wear the lighter one, and the door still works, and it’s not like there are books lying on the floor. Is there anything else that needs doing?

I could clean the bog.

I should probably clean the bog, yeah.

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