Category Archives: Social

Bored With Board Games…?

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The imposed lockdown that most of us have had to endure has been a curious part of 2020. It has encouraged people (and sometimes forced them) to leave their comfort zones and to think outside the box for a while. I mentioned before that I have sat down in front of many a jigsaw over the last few months, but as a family we have also been playing more games during our extended time at home.

Recently I have been playing a lot of the strategy board game Ticket to Ride (although the version I am playing is on the Playstation 4). It’s a game I didn’t even know about until The Fianceé© introduced me to it earlier this year. It’s all about trains and connecting destinations across the country (or, in some cases, continent)… but it’s really much more fun and involving than I have made it sound there.

The original version uses the USA template, but the guys over at Days of Wonder soon realised the potential and have since spewed out a bunch of different expansions and stand-alone sets – from France to Japan and a lot of places in between. There’s a UK edition, but there’s no Scotland specific map…

…so I got it into my head that I should make my own.

And just because I was in that frame of mind, a couple of days ago I decided that I could reinvigorate the classic game of Monopoly a little by renaming the properties on the board, and writing my own (better) ‘Chance’ and ‘Community Chest’ cards, so that the whole experience feels more personal.

Both of these are currently works-in-progress, so I’d better get back to it before my furlough finishes.

Skeleton Crew #4 – Cain Rose Up…

13440Word count – 1,900

Cain Rose Up is a very brief story about a school shooting, written in the late sixties – before school shootings, unfortunately, became far too commonplace in the real world. This would likely be a controversial story in these sensitive times, and King (who has mellowed somewhat in recent years) probably wouldn’t write this in 2020.

Curt is a troubled college student who decides to snipe his way out of his funk from his dorm room… and that’s all there is to it. As short as this piece is, I certainly can’t say that that it outstays its welcome.

Cain Rose Up is very brutal in its stripped-down nature. It doesn’t pull any punches, and it wouldn’t be any better if it did. You don’t get a happy ending here, and that is why it works.

Recommended ⇑

Perhaps I ought to chalk it…

Willie-Thorne-dead-How-did-Willie-Thorne-die-1296963Today would have been my grandad’s 91st birthday. Like a lot of guys of his generation, he didn’t like to celebrate it, but now that he is gone it’s a day I always recognise, and I try to take the time to remember the good times that we shared.

Today is also the day that snooker legend Willie Thorne died. He was 66 years old.

It’s not a name that will mean anything to a lot of people but as a long-time snooker fan, I found myself very saddened by his departure this morning. I am old enough to have watched him while he was still an active player, but too young to have seen him in his heyday. Coincidentally, snooker was a sport that I always enjoyed watching with my grandad. In fact, Willie Thorne was one of his favourites.

Willie Thorne honed his craft in the eighties – in an era when snooker was exploding in the mainstream, and there were a lot of larger-than-life personalities in the game, from Jimmy White to Dennis Taylor to Alex Higgins, and many others. Chas & Dave even reached the UK Top Ten with their song, Snooker Loopy in 1986 – that’s how big the game was in those days.

Although he would not be in the conversation as one of the sport’s all-time greats, with his polished head and thick moustache Willie Thorne was certainly one of snooker’s biggest and most recognisable characters, and he will surely be missed.

Now old Willie Thorne, his hair’s all gone, and his mates all take the rise
His opponent said, “cover up his head cos it’s shining in my eyes”
When the light shines down, on his bare crown
It’s a cert he’s gonna walk it
It’s just not fair, giving off that glare
“Perhaps I ought to chalk it”

What I’ve Done This Month #May…

I finished an 1,800 word dark short story this month that I have titled The Cave. It took longer than it should have (this was one of the pieces I had challenged myself to write by Christmas 2019), but as it turned out, a few days of attention and concentration was all that it really needed.

I also started and completed three jigsaws during May, to add to the two others I did in April, which makes five furlough puzzles… probably more than I’ve done since I was a child. I know, it’s nerdy, but lockdown brings out the geek in all of us. The most surprising thing of all is that every one of those 4,500 pieces was right where they should have been.

Over the last week or so I have bought a shitload of paper, poly pockets, ink, and binders, so that I can finally finish printing and storing all of my writing since I started keeping (proper) records twenty-five years ago. It’s a very long process, but it will be worth it. It’s just another safeguard in case my laptop decides to go belly up… which is surely just around the corner.

I have finished Stephen King’s novel, Joyland. Very good, and yet another example (if one was needed) that the guy can write more than just monsters and spooky things that go bump in the night. To be honest, it’s been a while since he hung out in the darkness and tried to scare us. I’ve started a sci-fi novel by Gregory Benford called Cosm, which for one reason or another I have owned for the best part of two decades. It’s proving to be very hard going, but all I’ve got right now is time, right?

Guys – remember your social distancing…

Good Golly…

ca-times.brightspotcdn.comThis morning, while listening to an entirely unrelated podcast, I found out that Little Richard was dead. I went to Google and sure enough, he died on the 9th of May at the age of 87. The coronavirus has been such a distraction that the death of one of rock ‘n’ roll’s biggest attractions completely passed me by for two weeks.

Along with Elvis, Chuck Berry, and a little later on, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard was one of the founding fathers of what really was – in some capacity – the beginning of modern music. I grew up on that music. Those guys influenced everyone and everything, and without them the landscape woud be a whole lot different. You don’t have to like it, but you have to respect the reach those guys had.

It’s a sad loss for the musical world, and unfortunately one that took me a while to realise.

Rest in peace, Richard. You will be sadly missed.

Skeleton Crew #1 – The Mist…

13440Word count – 50,500

All right, let’s get this out of the way up front: The Mist is not a short story. In fact, it strays into novel length, albeit a thin one with a singular thread. But I have included it here because it is the first story in Skeleton Crew.

A dense and strange mist creeps towards a small town and strands a group of people in a supermarket, after which it soon becomes clear that there are creatures in the gloom waiting to strike. For a long time we don’t know why they are there, but towards the end of the story King does throw us a bone. It’s a satisfactory reason, even if it is not really required to enjoy what’s here.

The Mist is a wholly enjoyable tale, and a good ol’ proper horror story from King as well. It’s a very good start for this second collection of stories, and a high bar is set early.

Recommended ⇑

Concert For Two…

I bought The Fiancée© a couple of tickets to see Bryan Adams for her birthday in February. He was due to play here last night but the performance has been pushed back until next year because, well, you know…

Not to be disheartened we sat down to a private concert, courtesy of YouTube… which was pretty good, apart from all the buffering we had to endure. We clapped after each song and used the torch on our phones during the slow ones (in lieu of a lighter).

I’ll be honest, our sofa is much more comfortable than those flimsy chairs you often have to deal with at arenas, and we had refreshments brought to our seats as well. We didn’t have to strain to see past anyone standing in front of us, nor did we have to squeeze by people if we needed the toilet. Pause comes in handy there too.

Parking was simple, there was no overpriced merchandise to steal our money during the interval, and there was no traffic when we left the venue afterwards either.

We just pressed stop and went to bed.

What I’ve Done This Month #April…

April zipped by, and the only creative writing I have to show for it is carrying on with one of those challenge stories I had intended to finish for Christmas last year. It’s nearly there, and I can probably cross the finish line in a few days.

What I have done though is spent more time staring at a jigsaw than at any other time in my life. It’s relaxing and takes my mind off all the other shit that’s going on in the world… I just wish there wasn’t so much damn sky in every one I do!

I’ve also written a hell of a lot of quizzes for the house. For a while I was presenting one a day, and finding out a lot of things that I thought were common sense were really not all that common at all. Bats are mammals, guys. That’s stuff they teach you when you’re six.

I’m back into my reading as well, which is nice. I am currently in the midst of two books – the Jimmy Connors autobiography called The Outsider, and the Stephen King novel, Joyland. Both are very good for quite different reasons, and they are reminders that I should have been doing more of it these last few months.

Wash your hands, folks.

Lockdown Ain’t So Bad…

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Confirmed global cases are now over 2.6 million, and over 186,000 people have died. The people who think they know are saying that we are starting to see light at the end of the tunnel, but I’m not so sure. We are certainly not out of the woods yet by any means.

I have now been off work for almost four weeks and the time is certainly zipping by very quickly. While I do miss work in as much as it gives a pattern to my day, I don’t mind the down time, and I can’t relate at all to those people who can’t seem to find a way to deal with the confinement. It’s all fuss and bluster for no reason that I can see: a lot of people looking for some attention.

Just find something to do – it’s really not that difficult. Mow the lawn, paint a picture, build a birdhouse, take a walk, read a book, write a book, learn how to knit, learn a foreign language, paint the fence, change that lightbulb that you have been meaning to look at for ages, bake a cake, get drunk on all that wine you have been gifted but has just been sitting in the rack gathering dust, wash your car, call your mother, learn to juggle, learn a magic trick, sing along to your favourite songs, catch up with your Netflix queue.

Just wash your hands before and after.

I am filling my days by reading (something I wasn’t doing too much of before), working on those jigsaws that have been sitting in the garage unattended for months, and making quizzes for the family… mostly general knowledge, although the others in my household do not consider them to be general at all. I’m also squeezing in some writing, which is nice.

Stay safe, folks.

It’s What We’re All Talking About…

On 17th of March I posted on here that the number of confirmed global cases of Covid-19 was over 180,000, and that the number of deaths had passed 7,000. Thirteen days later and those numbers are now over 740,000 and more than 35,000 respectively. These are frighteningly large numbers, and they will get a lot bigger.

I am now off work for twelve weeks as a result of the furlough plan that the UK government has put in place. It wasn’t my idea, but once it was presented to me it quickly became apparent that it was the most sensible move to make. Nobody quite know how it works – least of all, my manager – but effectively I will be paid 80% of my wage to sit at home and ride this thing out… well, that is certainly the plan. Watch this space.

It’s a difficult time for everyone, not least of all the families and friends of those who have sadly died, or are currently suffering, as a result of the coronavirus. Everyone who reads this will have been touched by the restrictions that the virus has forced upon the world, and we all have to do the right thing and get through this together, so the less we all jump on the bandwagon and bitch about cabin fever or how we are becoming a nation of depressed zombies because we can’t go out, when we all stay inside on our tablets and mobiles anyway, the better we will all be.

There is no need to panic or raid the supermarkets for all that they have, but we do have to be careful by interacting with as few people as possible, and washing our hands often. You don’t have to agree with the politics of those who are telling you to do so, but – come on, folks – a little common sense is not beyond you.