You may have noticed I have been largely off social media for about four months. Basically, I’ve been ill.

Well, not ill as such. Y’see, back in January, I noticed I was getting a bit itchy. By the time I realised that a change in my laundry detergent was causing an allergic reaction, I had eczma over about 20% of my torso. That was in early February. Naturally, I changed my laundry detergent and washed everything in the new stuff, which helped. I also started applying calamine lotion to the affected areas, and taking anti-histamines.

However, it didn’t clear the eczma up. With me, eczma has always been exacerbated by stress. Having the almost-irresistible urge to scratch everywhere is stressful. Having to bandage 40% of my body is stressful. Having to lie, sit and move carefully so as not to break the scabs is stressful.

Did you know Boots do not sell or allow you to order large rolls of lint? Because people complained that bits were sticking to them. I had to go to Superdrug to order the stuff.

As I have mentioned before, there is a lot of shit going on in the world. Being on social media, where the discussions bring the worst bits of it into sharp focus, is stressful. (I can certainly do without being called a Tory sympathiser, a secret Brexiteer, and a naively idealistic socialist, all by the same person in the same sentence, simply for expressing the view that the government is not a very good one and there should be an election.) So, in order to minimise the amount of stress I was subjecting myself to, I withdrew from social media and stopped following the news.

The results were not immediate nor obvious. It took a few more weeks before the eczma disappeared from my body and migrated to the entirety of my right arm. Better, but not ideal. Whether it was on my body or just my arm, I was still scratching. I would have a new bandage ready, the calamine lotion and cotton wool ready, cold water running and a flannel and towel ready to clean the wounds. Off came the bandage, and before I could even pick up the flannel – scratchscratchscratchscratchscratch! Urgh. There were days when I would stand there nearly weeping as fresh blood ran down my arm, to join the newly-shed pile of dead skin on the floor.

I’ve had a lot of problems. I’ve been unable to cut my hair, in case bits of it fall down inside the bandage. I’ve been unable to shave or wash myself properly, because I can’t really bend my right arm. I’ve been unable to do some housework, because an arm locked at full extension is not conducive to either fine control or applying leverage.

I told myself I needed to stay as stress-free as possible until I could at least change the bandage without scratching. I managed to achieve that last night. If I can change two bandages in a row without scratching, I will know the eczma is finally and definitely going.

I know my absence will have caused problems. I have missed meetups because I wasn’t online to find out about them. I have probably caused serious difficulties in the group I RPG with. People have been concerned about my safety/wellbeing/continued existence. Well, I’m very nearly back. My return to social media in full, will occur shortly after when I can change the bandage twice in a row without scratching – which is unlikely to be today, as I can already feel the itch under my bandage.

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Please take special note of the numbered points at the end of the article.

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NaNoWriMo 2016

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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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