Life or Something Like It

AWOL, Intolerances & Future Learn

I’ve been a little AWOL in terms of keeping up with what had to that point settled into a regular weekly rhythm of posts.  My apologies to all readers, it is something which should really be high up on any list of 101 Blogging sins.  I shall endeavour to be a little more prepared in future.  I won’t say my absence was due to life getting in the way because writing is my life but it was due perhaps to a couple of bumps in the road which I should have been better prepared for.

I used to consider this was just me being me and procrastinating but it isn’t, it is way, way more debilitating than that.  The last time it happened I pretty much abandoned this blog for nearly a year. I won’t and can’t let that happen again. Happily life is seeming a little less bleak this week and the words and ideas are starting to flow again.

It has taken me more than half a lifetime to come to terms with the fact that I suffer from depression, mild and thankfully unmedicated. I am closer now to recognising when it is happening and what it will try and do in terms of shutting down rational thought processes and cause me to hit my own weird form of self-destruction button and encourage me to walk away from everything that is important to me.  At its worst, I can do nothing other than vegetate, sleep or occupy myself with completely unproductive activities; I can’t pick up a book, watch a play or write a single meaningful word; I can’t follow any activity which I enjoy or find any form of enthusiasm for anything. I normally hit the junk food which in normal times I abhor and actually makes me feel physically worse.

At this time I have little idea of what triggers it and what makes it go away, all I can say is I’m very happy when it does, however I strongly suspect there are some dietary related factors which contribute to it.  I recently underwent extensive food sensitivity testing as I have been racking up allergies including anaphylaxis and intolerances at an alarming rate; the results have given me some insight into what is an isn’t doing me any good – the usual suspects are right at the top of the list – lactose, gluten, cheese, coffee but there were some surprises – watermelon, raspberries, canola oil, kidney beans, to name a few.

Sorting our my diet is definitely a work in progress but the research that has gone into it has indeed convinced me of the brain fogging properties of with certain types of carbs. Alternatives are likely to be few and it seems I am heading towards a form of paleo-type diet which is going to be tricky since I can’t eat any fish and have limited appetite for red meat. I will let you know how I get on – on the plus side I have bought an exercise bike which is definitely long overdue in helping me address the perennial problem of the writer’s posterior!

Although I have been in writerly doldrums, I have completed my first MOOC with University of Nottingham on Cognitive Poetics which although short was nonetheless very well put together and informative for me as a writer when thinking about characterisation and how to get into the head of those characters.  I have moved straight into a new MOOC on Criminal Justice and Forensics, this time with University of Leicester, recently in the news through their work on the fascinating Blazing Car murder, more than 80 years old. I am really enjoying it and would highly recommend everybody to hop over to Future Learn and find out what’s on offer with coming MOOCs.

Well that’s just about it for me right now.  I hope wherever you are, whatever your endeavours,  that life is treating you well and inspiration with you.

I will be back very soon but before I go here’s something else which is overdue,  my review of Maddaddam by Margaret Atwood.  As you’ll read in that review, given recent dietary issues one of my guilty pleasures is likely to have to go :(( The next review may take a while, I’m about halfway through Eleanor Catton’s epic The Luminaries which I am enjoying but at 800+ pages it is indeed a good read!

MaddAddam (MaddAddam Trilogy, #3)MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I took comfort from the fact that even a waterless flood could not destroy ‘Milk’s Favorite Cookie”. Quite fitting really since 62 billion Oreo cookies have been sold since they were first introduced in 1912. Of course non Oreo fans may draw interesting comparisons perhaps with the indestructability of a certain order of insects and fruit flies but given that on my list of guilty secrets Oreo Double Stuff cookies rank reasonably highly, I was somewhat reassured that all would ultimately be well in future dystopia-ville.

The first ever Atwood book I read was her Booker Prize winner, The Blind Assassin and one of the things that turned me into a worshiper at the feet to this great and gifted writer, was her ability to create stories within stories and that’s exactly what she did here as this is essentially the story of the story, told in flashbacks that actually served the purpose of moving the story forward producing a masterclass in pacing.

This third and final installment of the trilogy which started with Orxy & Crake brings all the loose ends together in a finale that is at once fast-paced, laugh out loud funny in a sardonic, bang on target Atwood kind of way and also surprisingly sad in parts. I think it was only about two-thirds of the way through this final part that I began to see how much planning must have gone into what had often seemed like relatively disparate parts. The message of corporate greed and corruption resonates strongly throughout and is frankly not all that far fetched and so while this trilogy was highly entertaining, as I write this review against the backdrop of the UK shrouded in a combination of Saharan dust and record levels of air pollution, with children being kept indoors and emergency services overwhelmed with calls from people suffering breathing difficulties, one leaves the story with a sense of impending doom that perhaps fiction is not necessarily all that removed from fact.


The intriguing Zeb is finally given centre stage; initially on the edge of shady in Year of the Flood, he turns out to be much more of a good guy despite emulsifying a parent, the Rev – who it transpired was actually not a parent at all.

Pilar was explained much more and Toby I think, became a more rounded character, forced as she was to continue the story-telling tradition which Jimmy the Snowman had used to continue the work of Orxy in teaching the Crakers the mythology of their origins. Toby’s witty story of Fuck had tears streaming down my face.

Big Pharma and Big Oil are quite fittingly the true villains in a world already well in decline before the waterless flood which manifested itself as a pharmaceutically induced plaque.

The timeline of the whole story arc was much clearer to me in this book and was much more compact than I had realized.

The Pigoons were truly the stars for me of this book having shifted from a position of fearsome and wily foes, to working in concert with the human survivors using their ability to communicate through the Craker child, Blackbeard to bring an end to the remaining Painballers and which proved them to be perhaps a lot smarter than the humans and indeed an higher order of mammal.

The Crakers finally interbreed with the younger human women who I have to say were thankfully relegated to relative bit parts in this book, even then I found Ren, Amanda and Swift Fox were still a little irritating.

Adam One was perhaps the only character that I felt was still underdeveloped by the time the story ended and I found myself wanting more answers of him.

Although I reached the end with sadness as one often does with the final parting from characters who have become so resonant, in fact I don’t think this really was the end, because it seemed to me there’s a whole new set of stories waiting to be told:

• Who or what is responsible for the smoke rising in the thin column?

• Where did Adam One go before the Painballers caught him? What was he doing? Who with?

• What really happened to Zeb and the others?

• Where did Toby go to die – or did she?

• How will the Craker-Human hybrids develop?