My 2012 Review of the Year

So, Ecko we pretty much know about. What else has happened during 2012?

Rain. It started when we got back from EasterCon and it fucking rained until the end of July. Between all the water, and London being awash with the Jubilee and the Olympics, perhaps this was the right summer to be fingers welded to keyboard, frantically trying to edit one book and hand in a second on time. In amidst the frenzy, there was one wonderful weekend at MidFest – a weekend in the best company, where I found family I’d not seen in far too long, and remembered a part of myself I’ve never really left behind.

MidFest

Cats. In January, while during Jury Service, my poor bonkers Lilith finally went to sleep – and I missed her more than I thought possible. Fifteen years, one of my last links with my simpler life in Norwich, she left a cat-shaped vacuum that had me roaming the house, lost without her company. This vacuum led to new cat company in April – which has been something of an adventure. I still miss my Lilith, but can’t bear a house empty of creatures.

Lilith

Bikes. Facing a maniacal summer of book deadlines (and rain), finding the time to pedal was not an easy thing. Once Ecko was sorted, though, I got back in the saddle – only to have my bike written off by a tosser in a Range Rover, speeding through a red light at a major junction. He would have killed me had I been a few inches further forwards.

photo(15)

Which brings me to the big thing, the thing I don’t really have words for.

My Mum has had cancer this year – had it, beaten it, come out healthier than she went in (takes more than the Big C to defeat my Mum). For a moment, there though, that was a terrifying thing – losing one’s Mum doesn’t even bear thinking about. And it hasn’t only been Mum – I’ve had a slew of friends this year who’ve had a cancer scare of one form or other, one at least staring his own mortality in the face.

Books are cool. Rain and deadlines are all very well.

But 2012 has been about mortality. Facing a scrape with my own, seeing Mum in a hospital bed after having several yards of intestine removed, knowing close friends have hospital appointments that tread a tight line between life and death…

Lilith left a vacuum. I feel very, very lucky that my Mum didn’t leave one too.

Mum

 

 

Bike Vs. Range Rover – This Morning’s Story

So, I started this morning with a bike accident. There’s a nasty crossroads outside Southwark Tube – I came to the junction, paused to turn right and let the stream of traffic come past. As I pull out, a black Range Rover comes hell-for-leather, belting across the junction.

I braked, but went into his side, and I came off. Driver of the Range Rover was young suit, early 30s – he had the decency to stop, but insisted that he had been doing ‘no more then twenty’ and that there had not actually been a collision. Apparently, the damage to the front wheel, front axle and front forks of my bike has been done by the notorious and well-known Traffic Pixies that loiter on Blackfriars Road at eight in the morning.

I’m unhurt, no more than scraped and shaken; the bike’s a write off. Though saying that, I’ve been lucky – if I’d been a half-jump further forward, or a less able rider, I’d be a smear of gore and metal.

We’ve had witnesses and statements and police and all sorts this morning… as well as the comedy of showing up at work carrying a broken bike.

The thing that amazes me (though Gods know why) is not the reactionary lies of suit, but that in among the gasps of horror, ONE person actually stopped to offer witness and give me his card.

That man is a hero. Certainly more of a hero than the wazzock in the Tractor.

Impact

Launch of a new site? Needs one thing.

Impact.

Well, it got it. At 8:30 last Tuesday morning I went flying over the handlebars of someone else’s bicycle and the next thing I saw was the tarmac. Hard.

The thing I saw after that was blood. Lots.

The irony of being run down by a cyclist is deliciously wicked – but there’s a much darker and more savage irony to it being on the morning after the first of the London riots.

As the city was picking herself up and asking herself what the fuck just happened, people were looking at me like I’d stashed my hoodie and my brand new flatscreen just out of view. It was a chilling thing – and had an impact all of its own.

Even up at Guy’s hospital – and I can’t sing their praises enough, they were amazing – they were making jokes at my expense. I think it’s their way of coping. And since then, the askance glances have been very peculiar, almost ostracising things.

The rioting caused horror and fear – and out of this spun a powerful sense of community. The really striking thing about this injury has been finding myself, even the faintest whisper of a hint of a suggestion, on the outside of that community.

Now that has impact.

This blog post was going to be about my contract, and my forthcoming novels, and how it feels to have achieved one of my biggest ambitions and welcome to my new blog and yadda yadda… but I’m sure I’ll get to that.

Sometimes, impact is all about exclusion – you need to be on the outside of something to realise just how damned powerful it really is.

 

 

Focus

Last weekend, I returned to a place of haven and refuge – Holland’s Wood, Brockenhurst, New Forest.

The forest is glorious, an easy place to abandon yourself in air and trees and sky and sunlight. It makes a tranquil resting point from which to venture outwards.

The tourist-friendly gravel paths are all very well – but I’ve done those. This time, my weekend’s biking was a shimmering, superheated cross-country fight that had me facing pathless, treacherous heathland; mud and mosquito, slope and shingle, rut and ridge – and one apparently spontaneous river.

Rattling loud protest at the pounding it was taking, my bike showed me something I haven’t seen in a long time.

Focus.

Somewhere outside Ringwood, the sun blistering my shoulders, my entire attention sharpened down to a perfect, searchlight-like beacon illuminating the forward motion of my front wheel.
My knees still absorbed the shocks, my feet still pushed, my hands still gripped the handlebars like they were a white-knuckle ride… but all I could see, feel, think, the only thing in my head, was the next metre of upcoming ground. Everything else had just… ceased.

One thought.

Created by apprehension, it came with confidence and complete control. It was timeless, intense, white-hot – and unbelievably freeing.

As the ground levelled out and my concentration receded, I found myself laughing – relief or release, I don’t know – but its sheer force brought an insight.

Our lives are increasingly about multi-tasking – in the home, on the web. How many Social Media sites do we maintain; how many tasks do we complete while we schedule more, while we write, draft, chat, code, listen to Last FM? On Twitter, we continue multiple conversations; on FriendFeed, we flick from tab to tab. We group our friends into sets just to keep track of ourselves and we jump dementedly from URL to URL like we jump between the brightly-manic stepping stones of Plurk.

Every day, our minds range outwards along so many lines – our attention is scattered and we rarely bring the full force of our concentration to bear on a single thing. When extremity pulls all those lines, hard, in the one direction – it’s astounding what you can achieve.

Sometimes, it’s good to take your head out of the screen. It reminds you what else you can do!