A Touch of Class…

October 31, 2007 at 5:06 pm (Life gets in the way...) (, , , )

Teeline alphabet

After hounding the Chief for quite some time about the lack of internal training in shorthand, a colleague and I were told that if we looked into going to an evening class, the Council would pay for us to attend. So we did check it out, and discovered that the local college was going to run a nine-month evening class starting 29 October.

So, of course, we signed up, along with two colleagues from the Communications department, and last night we attended our first class.

I was a little nervous. After all, I graduated from college eleven years ago and haven’t taken any courses since (although I considered studying journalism five years ago, but it all fell through*), so I’m out of the habit of purposely learning something and committing myself, long-term, to study.

There are about 25 students all together and although most of the first class was induction and getting settled in, we did go over some of the theory behind how Teeline works and covered the first half of the alphabet. To my surprise, I actually understood the theory behind they shapes, and found I could apply it well from the get-go. Not only that, but my heart sang when the lecturer said that some of Teeline is based on phonetics!**

Before leaving, we were given a small amount of homework, which, in my enthusiasm, I have already completed, so now all I have to do is practice reading and writing the first half of the Teeline alphabet for twenty minutes each day (Dale will help me with this by the cunning use of flash cards) and I’ll be all set for next week’s class.

So, if I’m going to be missing the Posh Club meets for nine months***, at least it looks like I’ll be spending the time doing something both worthwhile and interesting.  In the meantime, I’ve ordered my text books and they will hopefully arrive by next Tuesday…

* Dale was up for promotion and if he’d got it we would have been moving to Edinburgh or St. Andrews, as well as him getting a significant payrise and a very nice relocation package. Unfortunately, the company went bust, fortunately before we moved, and I never did get to go back and study again. Maybe at some point in the future…

** As part of my HND in Theatre Skills and Drama, I studied phonetics. I was particularly good at it (myself and two others equally got the highest marks in the whole class) and enjoyed it immensely. Although I have forgotten almost all of it now,  I hope t will all come back to me again pretty quickly if and when needed. 

*** I’ll actually be able to make it to the March meeting after all, as it falls during the holidays. Hurrah! 

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Shameless Plug for Karma by Holly A. Harvey

October 26, 2007 at 8:32 pm (Books and Authors, Shameless Plugs) (, , , )

Karma by Holly A. Harvey

It’s not often that I find a new author about whom I get really excited. Sure, every now and then I pick up a book by an author I’ve never before read, but the rest of the world already knows about them and I’ve been late in cottoning on, but it’s unusual for me to find a real undiscovered gem whose praises I can sing.

In this case, I was introduced to a novel by my good friend Suzie, who had decided to take a chance and buy a book written by a fellow member on The Book Club Forum. The novel is Karma, the author is Holly A. Harvey, and I was blown away.

Initially, the reasons I agreed to give it a try were that Suzie enjoyed it and the author is from the same area I spent my childhood years, but I wasn’t expecting to almost snort coffee out of my nose whilst reading the first page.

Yes, you read that right – I actually had to fight to keep the coffee in my mouth, where it was supposed to be, as opposed to be forced out my nostrils by my trying to contain my laughter. And once I’d swallowed, I stopped trying to keep it in and laughed out loud.

I’m sure my colleagues thought I was having some kind of hysterical fit, but it’s rare for me to identify with a lead character from the first few sentences and find the prose laugh-out-loud funny.

And on top of the book being an excellent read, the author is a really lovely person too – friendly, funny, sunny and intelligent, with a sparkling wit that shines through. So, I decided she warrants a little plug from someone who enjoyed her book immensely and can barely wait for her next one.

When can we expect another offering to tickle our funny bones, Holly?

If you’d like to read my review of Karma by Holly A. Harvey, you can find it HERE.

For more information on Holly A. Harvey, visit her website HERE.

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Simple Witchery

October 19, 2007 at 6:39 pm (Paganism / Witchcraft) (, )

Simple Witchery

What is Simple Witchery?
As long as I can remember, I’ve always liked to keep things as simple as possible – I never saw the point in taking a complicated route if a simpler one presented itself to me. This isn’t laziness, just common sense, from my point of view. It’s something that has bothered me for a long time, this need people often seem to feel to complicate things which needn’t be so hard, and so I set out to boil things down to their barest components, take out all things unnecessary and just get things done.

This is, essentially, what Simple Witchery is all about; leaving out all the extraneous information and implements, taking advantage of what we have ready to hand, and simply enjoying the flow of things.

Why Simple Witchery?

When you lift out all the superfluous items, you are left with the most important element of the Craft. Which element is that? Earth? Air? Fire or Water? Perhaps Spirit? No, none of these. The most important element is always YOU; the person living it and experiencing all it has to offer. When you learn to rely on yourself and your own abilities, you learn that nothing is impossible, you can do anything you set your mind to. That’s what it’s all about; setting your mind to something and getting it done.

For example, I don’t use a wand in any of my work. Yes, I own one – a very ornate and beautiful one which was given to me by a very close friend – but I see it as purely a decoration for my home and it sits on a cherry wood stand atop my bookcase, where I can see it whenever I look up. It has never and will never be used by me or anyone else. Why? Because it doesn’t need to be. I have no need of a wand when I have myself. Besides, what if at some point I had to cast in an emergency and found myself without my wand, what would I do? Panic? Well, that’s not really very sensible, is it? I’d do whatever needed to be done without my wand and it would work every bit as well as it would while using a wand!

Basically, all you need to get yourself started is focus of will and energy. Once you get the hang of that, there’ll be no holding you back and no end to the things you can accomplish.

Kell Smurthwaite, 2004 ©
First Published in the Lammas/Mabon 2004 issue of Dragonswood Magazine

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How I found my Path…

October 15, 2007 at 9:42 pm (Paganism / Witchcraft) (, )

Path

I must have been about 14 years old when I first stumbled upon the thing that got me interested in Witchcraft. I had an obsession with vampires (bear with me here!) and had been reading Bram Stoker’s classic novel, Dracula. As a laugh, I decided to look up Dracula in an encyclopaedia and was pleasantly surprised to find that he was actually based on a real person; Prince Vlad Tepes (who was known as Vlad Dracul) of Walachia. This got my heart and mind racing! If Dracula was real, what else was real that I had previously thought to be fiction? What about Witches…? I quickly picked up the ‘W’ volume and flicked through the pages till I found what I was looking for. I read that Witches were, essentially, nature revering people who worshipped both a God and Goddess (where they were religious, that is) and that Witchcraft was an offshoot of Paganism… I picked up the ‘P’ volume and it went on from there.

I was, at that time, doing religous studies as part of my school curriculum and had a wonderful teacher in that subject, so I asked him why, if we studied Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Sikhism, et al, we didn’t cover Paganism at all? He smiled at me and said “It’s not on the curriculum… but that doesn’t mean you can’t do some research on your own.” Well, that was that! I studied religiously (hahaha) and ended up writing an exam paper comparing methods of worship between different religions. I included Paganism in my paper and was awarded an ‘A’.

After 2 years of reading about it, I decided I liked a lot of what I’d discovered and decided to try actually living it, rather than just reading about it. Thus started 2 more years of studying, learning, absorbing, questioning and questing. I followed the seasons, became more aware of myself and the world around me and loved all of it. At Imbolc after my 18th birthday, I performed a self-dedication and I’ve never looked back. I chose the name Mabon as it is the festival closest to my birthday (I was born just a few days after it) and just really liked the sound of the word. I felt it suited me and I still do. Even now, many of my oldest friends call me Mab. Some say it suits me better than my ‘real’ name. I reply, “That’s because it IS my ‘real’ name!”

Now, after all this time, I still feel that all this is new to me, that it’s still very much fresh and vital. I love to watch the seasons change, and take delight in the simple things. My interests haven’t changed all that much; I still read all the time (I’m never far from a book, even when I’m out and about!), still love writing, still adore artsy-crafty things like cross-stitch and calligraphy, and I’m always in the kitchen, trying out new recipes on my hubby. I’ve managed to work all this into the Craft I practice. I like to keep things as simple as possible on every level (it saves getting confused – LOL) and love nothing more than relaxing in a hot, lavender-scented bath with a good book, some music, candles glowing and oil in my burner.

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Lament for a lost long lie-in

October 13, 2007 at 12:41 pm (Life gets in the way...) ()

Sleep

It seems I am fated never to get a full night’s sleep as prescribed by those in the know (I’ve heard all kinds of “ideal” lengths of sleep, from six to nine hours a night). I cannot remember the last time I got eight unbroken hours in the Land of Nod. In fact, now that I come to think of it, I can’t even remember the last time I got six undisturbed hours of peaceful slumber.

My most recent bout of disturbances ended in me getting even less time under the duvet than usual, with an element of panic thrown in just to keep things interesting.

I am used to the alarm clock going off at silly-o-clock in the morning, as my husband is a postie, and so I’ve been used to a brief rise to wakefulness at about 3:30am, five mornings from seven, but I eventually doze off again and get another couple of hours kip before my alarm rings and I get up. This week, however, Royal Mail changed the start times of all the postal delivery men and women, so we were getting an extra hour before the usual early-morning wake-up shenanigans.

This morning, the alarm went off at 4:30am and instead of hubby switching it off, moaning and getting up as usual, it kept on ringing. And ringing. And ringing. As a result, I fully regained consciousness and woke to find myself alone in bed. I called out to hubby and received no reply. Feeling uneasy, I threw back the covers and worked my way through the flat, hunting for my other half to no avail. He was nowhere to be seen. I started to worry – had he started sleepwalking and was he outside somewhere, naked and cold? Had he – oh my gods – had he left me? Had he waited till I was asleep, grabbed a bag and vanished into the night? Where on earth could he be?

I took a few deep breaths and thought – he might have his mobile phone with him – I’ll call him! I dialled the number and was dismayed to hear his phone ringing somewhere in the flat. Then I heard a key in the front door and  realised the ringing was coming from outside!

He sheepishly explained that he had woken up, noticed the time and thought he had overslept, quickly got dressed, grabbed his things and run to the pick-up point where he thought he’d missed his ride, then called the office  only to be told he was an entire hour early!

Of course, I was now wide awake and he had left for the second time before I dropped off again.

Only to be disturbed an hour or so later by a couple arguing right outside my bedroom window. Screaming, crying, her slapping him and crying some more, storming off and returning to the same point in the street.

I gave up and got up at 6:42am.

So  much for getting a lie-in on the weekend, eh?

On the plus-side, the man from Scottish Gas has been back and sorted out the problem with the hot water in the bathroom, so at long last I’ll be able to have my soak in the tub tonight!

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Karma? It’s a Gas!

October 12, 2007 at 7:44 pm (Life gets in the way...) (, )

Scottish Gas

Here’s the thing – no matter what can possibly go wrong in any given situation, you can bet it will go wrong to me.

Our gas boiler packed up in May, but seeing as how it was heading into summer, we decided to leave things for a bit – after all, we could use the immersion heater for hot water. Actually, we’d ALWAYS had to use the immersion heater for hot water – all we got from the gas boiler was the central heating as, because it was us, things just couldn’t run smoothly.

So, last week we finally decided, what with the colder weather coming on, it was really time we sorted out the problem with the boiler and we contacted Scottish Gas. A very nice man came round last week and explained all the ins and outs of the new combination condensing boilers that are energy efficient and super-effective. We agreed it sounded like an excellent idea and signed up for a payment plan (as the whole set-up was going to cost close to £4,000) and arranged for an engineer to come the following week.

As luck would have it, I had already managed to take this Thursday and Friday off work as we had made plans to go to the Dream Theater concerts in Glasgow and London on those days, but in the end couldn’t go (I still kept the days off though!), so yesterday morning, our engineer showed up at 8:10am.

He beavered away, and I kept out of his hair watching films in the living room as he worked. I offered many cups of tea or coffee, but he was happy with his Irn Bru, so I let him get on with it. He couldn’t finish the work yesterday, as we were not only moving the new boiler to the opposite side of the kitchen from the old one, but the old boiler and the immersion heater both needed to be removed. It was a big job. As a result, last night’s bath involved me boiling the kettle twenty times (which took an hour) and adding a small amount of cold water, so that the resulting bathwater almost came up to my ankles. I comforted myself with thoughts of a leisurely bath the following night once the work was finished…

This morning, as arranged, the engineer returned at 8:00am (no long lie-ins for me on my days off, no sirree!) and he finished the job around lunch time, demonstrating how quickly hot water came out of the kitchen tap (it was steaming in seconds and there was an unlimited supply, as the water heats as you need it – how cool is that?!). I signed off his paperwork and he left. Ten minutes later, I went for a drive with my sister, Leni, who passed her test on Tuesday this week.

This evening, after dinner and watching a couple of episodes of E-Ring, I decided to run the bath. Imagine my dismay when, on turning the hot water tap in the bath, I found… no water coming out of the faucet at all! Not hot water; not cold water; but no water at all!

Of course, I instantly phoned the contact number in our pack and spoke to a very nice man who put me on hold and accidentally cut me off.

I dialled again and spoke to a very nice lady who went through all the details and then informed me that the department I needed was closed for the day and I would have to call in the morning.

So tonight’s bath will involve me filling various receptacles with hot water from the kitchen tap and carting it through to the bathroom, which isn’t exactly ideal.

Once again, karma turns round and bites us on the bottoms. I’m sure I must have been a mass-murdering Nazi fuck-head in a former life – what else could deserve the universe turning on me every single time?

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Hard-hearted Harry-writer sues religious festival organisers for hogging Hogwarts

October 11, 2007 at 8:21 pm (Books and Authors, News) (, , , )

Hogwarts

I’m all for ownership of intellectual property, but when Britain’s richest writer tries to sue the organisers of a religious event for copyright breach because they’ve built a marquee that looks like Hogwarts, I think it’s a bit much. I could understand it if they were reproducing the books on the cheap to sell on to kids and keep the cash, but they’re not – they’re holding a religious event.

From personal memory, I can remember the books giving a general description of the castle, but I do not recall, at any point, seeing schematics within the pages that gave an exact representation of the now-famous school of young witches and wizards. In fact, the only place I’ve seen that is in the films…

… Which brings me to the point – surely the only people who are eligible to sue are the producers of the box-office hits? Do I hear them crying out for compensation? No, I do not – I only hear about J. k. Rowling and her publisher, Bloomsbury, demanding 2 million rupees ($50,000), which the organisers of the event cannot afford to pay. They say they don’t know what to do.

Here’s a bit of free advice to those organisers – rearrange a couple of towers and battlements and call it Warthogs instead. Next time, ask people if they mind you using their idea well in advance of your jamboree, and make sure they’re someone who might be a bit sympathetic to your cause.

And tell that money-grabbing Rowling to stuff it – she’s not exactly strapped for cash.

(Note – I didn’t use a picture of Hogwarts in case I got sued!)

Read the full story HERE.

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Shameless Plug on behalf of my hubby

October 10, 2007 at 4:40 pm (Shameless Plugs) (, )

My hubby is quite heavily involved in the Football Manager gaming scene, so I thought I’d give a little plug in the form of this teaser trailer…

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Shameless Plug for He Hates Us

October 7, 2007 at 3:58 pm (Music, Film and Television, Shameless Plugs) (, , )

He Hates Us

My old buddy Bryce got in touch again via Bebo after years of silence (not altogether his fault – I’m just as guilty!) and let me know that he’s once again performing musical magic in the band He Hates Us.

I promised a plug (well, if you can’t support a mate when he’s making music, what kind of mate are you?!), so here it is:

He Hate Us in their current line-up are pretty new on the Glasgow music scene and are heavy on the guitars and drums (Bryce is the drummer, but actually is playing the guitar on my favourite track listed on the group Bebo spot, Time To Fight – he’s a talented man!). They have a sort of early-Metallica-ish sound, with a melodic Bon-Jovi-ish touch to the mix, so if you like rock, give them a try.

There are currently four demo tracks listed on their Bebo page, so please do nip along, have a listen, and see what you think.

And in case you’re wondering, yes that’s Bryce behind the drum kit.

 

You can check out their demo tracks at their Bebo Page – HE HATES US.

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Stephen King – not your average horror writer!

October 3, 2007 at 9:25 pm (Books and Authors) (, )

It always makes me laugh to think that Stephen King is pegged as a “horror writer”, because to me he’s one of the great cross-genre authors! Yes, many of his books have an element of horror to them, but so do millions of other books that are NOT pegged as “horror” (take a look at anything about WWII and when you get to some of the atrocities committed by the Nazis – well, that’s pure horror to me!). I find him a very versatile writer – he seems to be able to turn his hand to pretty much anything. Overall, I think he’s mostly a writer who looks at the human condition and studies society as a whole – and he’s a very interesting man to boot!

Take a look at this nice little interview:

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